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Meat

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Loftominiums and art galleries have replaced the city’s stockyards, but it’s not hard to find a beautiful bone-in porterhouse, dry-aged rack of lamb, or a whole suckling pig for roasting on a spit over an open fire at your next luau—you just have to know where to look. Start with these grade-A butchers.

CASEY'S MARKET
For those who live in the western suburbs, Casey’s is the destination worth a special trip for choice cuts of beef, fresh poultry delivered daily, pork, lamb, and veal. Other notable specialties include homemade meat loaf, hamburger patties, kebabs, and a variety of stuffed chicken breasts (we like the asparagus–red pepper–Asiago cheese combo the best). But quality meats are not the only game for owner David Casey and his staff of expert butchers: personal service takes top priority. Don’t just marvel at the lively banter ricocheting between butchers and customers—join right in. 915 Burlington Ave., Western Springs; 708-246-0380, caseysmarketonline.com

CHICAGO GAME & GOURMET
If it has legs, this place will sell it. At least that’s the impression Chicago Game & Gourmet’s owner, Jimmy Florek, gives you as he rattles off the long list of exotic game he has tracked down for customers: llama, kangaroo, turtle, even zebra. Those with less intrepid palates might opt for tamer offerings such as antelope, caribou, buffalo, wild turkey, Muscovy duck, or foie gras. This wholesale operation sells primarily to upscale Chicago restaurants and hotels (Avenues at The Peninsula, The Ritz-Carlton, and Japonais, among them) but it will sell directly to the consumer in large minimum quantities, which vary by product. Visit the Web site for a list; then call to order. 350 N. Odgen Ave.; 312-455-1800

FOX & OBEL
Serious meat connoisseurs know that the meat counter at Chicago’s best gourmet grocer is loaded with hormone- and antibiotic-free specialty products such as American Wagyu, kurobuta pork, Bell & Evans chickens, and Bill Kurtis’s pasture-raised Tallgrass Beef. An in-house meat locker ages strip steaks, rib eyes, and rib roasts for 21 days, but Fox & Obel’s particular claim to fame is its dry-aged lamb and beef tenderloin, which we have yet to find elsewhere. Exotic game such as rabbit, squab, venison, and elk is consistently stocked, but the helpful staff also welcomes special requests like goat, ostrich, and wild boar. 401 E. Illinois St.; 312-379-0111, fox-obel.com

GEPPERTH'S MEAT MARKET
Judging by the thick, marbled prime steaks, ribbons of homemade sausage, and friendly staff, it’s no wonder this Lincoln Park meat institution has been open for 101 years. Owner Otto Demke dry-ages beef himself for 21 to 30 days for intense tangy flavor and wonderful tenderness. A judicious pinch of one of Gepperth’s packaged seasonings or rubs—the Canadian Steak Seasoning in particu-lar is a simple but outstanding blend of cracked pepper, garlic, and salt—amplifies the experience. Dry-aged products
are usually in stock, although customers may special order as well. 1964 N. Halsted St.; 773-549-3883

WHOLESALERS WE LOVE
Buy pork belly—and other cuts—like a sous-chef

Known as Chicago’s meatpacking district, the West Loop houses several commercial meat sellers who also deal directly with the public; chefs we know tipped us off to these three in particular for quality and value. In addition to carrying cuts of choice and prime beef, grade-A poultry, pork, lamb, and veal, Columbus Meat Market (906 W. Randolph St.; 312-829-2480) makes most of the specialty sausages for Hot Doug’s, including rib-eye steak links, the popular “Atomic Bomb” hot sausage, and an outstanding “lokaniko,” a Greek variation loaded with garlic and citrus. Open Saturday mornings, Grant Park Packing Co. (842 W. Lake St.; 312-421-4096) is a line-cook destination for fresh pork at rock-bottom prices, as well as for lamb legs, skirt steak, Italian sausage, and ground beef. Try Olympic Meat Packers (810 W. Randolph; 312-666-2222) for fresh lamb or one of their package deals that feature a mix of items such as baby back ribs, homemade sausage, rib eye, and T-bones, starting at $60.  
–K. C.

HALSTED PACKING HOUSE
The smaller the animal, the more tender the meat, says Kalle Davos; she and her sister, Cookie Davos, are the third-generation owners of their grandfather’s butcher shop on the Near West Side. Specializing in small, high-quality 25- to 30-pound lambs, goats, and pigs for roasting, Halsted Packing House slaughters its animals on-site and sells the meat immediately (the odor is not for the faint of heart). The inventory usually sells out by the weekend, so Kalle recommends preordering by Monday or Tuesday to guarantee your selection. 445 N. Halsted St.; 312-421-5147

HARRISON'S POULTRY FARM, INC.
In business for 120 years, this retail outlet and butcher shop sells hormone-free chicken, duck, and turkey to North Shore customers and more than 100 restaurants and country clubs daily. Regulars swear it’s the freshest fowl in town—that’s because newly slaughtered poultry from Indiana, Minnesota, Alabama, and Georgia is delivered every day at 6 a.m. and, according to owner Jim Zimmerman, is never more than 24 hours old at the time of purchase. Boneless, skinless chicken breasts and (particularly around holiday time) whole turkeys sell briskly. Butter and eggs are also available. 1201 Waukegan Rd., Glenview; 847-724-0132

PAULINA MEAT MARKET
In March of 2006, Bill Begale bought this impressive Lincoln Square meat mainstay from owners Ray and Jerome Lekan, brothers who were itching to retire. Begale, the store’s longtime manager and a butcher, has kept things basically the same: all the top-quality hormone-free meats and poultry are there, as is the mind-boggling selection of house-made sausages including the superb bratwursts—fresh, cooked—and its popular turkey-duck variety. But Begale is rolling with the times by adding some gourmet touches such as two cuts of Bill Kurtis’s Tallgrass Beef (boneless rib eye and strip steaks), more cheeses in the cold case, and a slew of upscale condiments including 90 kinds of mustard and, as he puts it, “fancy, fancy salt.” 3501 N. Lincoln Ave.; 773-248-6272, paulinameatmarket.com

PEORIA PACKING BUTCHER SHOP
The Peoria Packing shopping experience is decidedly unvarnished: don plastic gloves and head into the huge stainless-steel refrigerator at this pork specialist, where every USDA-inspected pig product imaginable—shoulder, ham, ribs, bacon, loin, trotters, ears, feet, and more—is piled high for the choosing. Afterwards, a butcher shop on premises will cut and trim meat to your specifications for free. Peoria’s processing plant is right across the street, which means its product is as fresh as it gets. Poultry, catfish, beef, and homemade Italian sausage are also available. 1300 W. Lake St.; 312-738-1800

WETTSTEIN'S ORGANIC FARM
If the throngs at area farmers’ markets are any indication, buying local is taking off. Meat lovers—including Paul Kahan of Blackbird—have long sought out the hand-raised meats from Dennis and Emily Wettstein of Wettstein’s Organic Farm in Carlock, Illinois (east of Bloomington-Normal). Their certified organic and pasture-grazed beef, pork, lamb, and chicken can be yours, too. On the second and fourth Saturdays during the summer, the Wettsteins make the long trek to the Oak Park Farmers’ Market (at Lake Street and Elmwood Avenue, now through October), where they sell their popular bacon, pork chops, ground beef, chicken breasts, flank steak, and lamb chops. At other times of the year, they’ll take phone orders and deliver via personal rendezvous to the Buzz Cafe in Oak Park at 905 South Lombard Avenue. 2100 U.S. Highway 150, Carlock; 309-376-7291

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