Innovation and evolution are bound to happen in any industry. When it comes to food, refrigeration decimated the salt mining industry, distribution companies changed how and where people source food, and the modern grocery store at a quick glance makes a trip to the local butcher obsolete.
Stores offering frozen and prepackaged meat and seafood products in preweighed portions is convenient and affordable. The downside is that it is just one more device driving a wedge between consumers and their food.
There is something special about having a personal relationship with a neighborhood butcher and being able to ask questions and take home a quality, locally sourced product.
Here are three top, independently owned butchers and grocers to explore just in time for barbecue season.
Sonnenberg’s Market & Deli
In 1891, Fritz Miller opened a small grocery store at Sprague Avenue and Helena. Since inception, the building has had many names: Miller Grocery, Klevin’s Meat Market, Judd’s Market, Tom’s East Sprague Foods and finally Sonnenberg’s in 1984.
After knocking down a few walls and expanding into next door neighbor Frisby Jam Co., owner Clyde Sonnenberg, who previously worked as a meat supervisor at Albertsons, developed the meat pack varieties and catering menu that customers still see today.
Sonnenberg’s offer amazing variety, from the best-priced shaved lunch meats to jerky and beef sticks smoked in-house. Shop for basics like chicken and ground beef to more unusual items like frog legs. But get there early, and expect there to be a bit of a line down the iconic glass case. Fresh cuts and spot-on service take time, but some things are worth the wait.
What to buy: A rope of New York-style Italian sausage. A treat for any barbecue, cook it on low with onions and peppers, or boil in beer for the big game.
If you go: 1528 E. Sprague Ave.; (509) 535-4932 and sonnenbergsmarket.com
The 1950s was a decade full of new social adventures: Sock hops, drive-ins and the boom of the backyard barbecue. Families all over America began hosting friends for summertime sustenance, and Spokane resident John J. Egger answered the call opening Egger’s Good Meats.
Today, with four shops (three in Spokane and one in Deer Park), customers can pick up specialty meats, smoked ham and turkey, wild game and more than 18 varieties of bratwurst made in-house. The name of the game for Egger’s is personalization.
Call ahead to have meat freshly ground or as a customized cut. Pick up a whole pig for a luau. Order a turkey for Thanksgiving and a prime grade rib roast for Christmas. Or just walk up to the case and point.
What to buy: Have Egger’s cut a T-bone 2 inches thick and reverse sear it to medium rare with a local Spiceology rub.
If you go: 902 W. Rosewood Ave.; (509) 328-7701 and eggersmeatsnorth.com
The Butcher Block
If there’s anything better than walking into an old butcher shop that has a tenured history, it’s walking into a new one that has taken the basic butcher concept and turned it on its head. Chef Patrick Fechser, after creating Hay J’s Bistro, decided he also wanted to offer a variety of the fresh meat and seafood he cooked in his restaurant directly to the customer.
What better place than right next door. Now people can have the best seafood Cobb salad for lunch and then walk next door and pick up a 28-day, dry-aged ribeye to cook for dinner.
And it doesn’t stop with meat and seafood. The Butcher Block offers seasonings, sauces, a small selection of artisan cheeses and a phenomenal selection of beer and wine.
Stick around long enough, and you might even pick up a few chef secrets.
The amazing staff is always going the extra mile to make sure patrons not only get the best product, but also every little tip and trick needed to make home cooking extraordinary.
What to buy: The Butcher Block is the best place to source seafood in the Inland Northwest. Pick up sushi-grade tuna or a nice filet of halibut for a surf and turf date night.
If you go: 21724 E. Mission Ave., Liberty Lake; (509) 928-4530 and hayjsbutcherblock.com
Kris Kilduff can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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