Meat Locker

Your clip-and-save guide to the best specialty butchers in the metro


13545 Grove Drive, Maple Grove

There comes a time in every modern cook's life when you begin to think that every year brings a further diminishment of resources and quality, and that, in the farthest suburbs especially, American food culture is going to a place where, say, it will be Thanksgiving in the year 2089, and families will gather around a special holiday edition 14-pound Quaker Oats Chocolate Dipped Rocky-Road Clusters Hi-Protein Cereal Bar. But then comes something to restore your faith in the future of actual cooking: Here, I speak of Brothers Meat and Seafood, a practically brand-new (opened in 2002) real family-run butcher shop right in a third-tier suburban strip mall, just at the junction of I-94 and I-494. Enter this giant, spic-and-span store and you find all the best parts of a rural butcher shop (the copious freezer and grill-packs, the inventive beef sticks, the so-cheap-you-could-feed-a-whole-Bible-camp burgers, the deer, bear, moose, and elk processing) as well as enough domestically raised top-shelf stuff to keep a real cook interested (lamb, elk, and venison are commonly stocked; they also have a large seafood counter.) Best of all though, the Brothers' butchers are happy to butterfly a leg of lamb, trim a crown roast of pork, grind up dog food to your specifications, double-smoke a turkey, or do any of the labor-intensive, high-skill jobs that butchers are supposed to know how to do, but which are ever more difficult to get done. If you take 94 to your lake cabin and find the resources up there lacking, keep in mind that a stop at Brothers is a far better use of your time than sitting in traffic on the highway--and that they have a dozen varieties of snack-sticks to keep the kids quiet in the car.

These little piggies went to market: Brad Charley of Husnik's with future pork chops
Jana Freiband
These little piggies went to market: Brad Charley of Husnik's with future pork chops

Location Info


Forster's Meats and Catering

11255 Highway 55
Plymouth, MN 55441

Category: Restaurant >

Region: Plymouth


4159 W. Broadway, Robbinsdale

Gordy Lindenfelser estimates that there has been a meat market operating in his Robbinsdale building continuously since 1882--if so, this means that Hackenmueller Meats might just be the longest-operating butcher shop in North America. Lindenfelser himself has been running the place since 1979; he bought it after working his way up in the meat industry, starting in a slaughterhouse and moving from there into a grocery store. What does that kind of deep know-how get you? Thirty different kinds of sausages, smoked onsite in one of Hackenmueller's two smokehouses, including the signature "yard sausage," a Swedish sausage variation that is, literally, a yard long. I brought one to a barbecue this summer, having secured the dinosaur-sized thing crosswise with skewers, and everyone stood around gaping. It tasted great, too--sweet, with a little bit of those Christmas Swedish spices and a beautiful density, not unlike a steamed pudding. Hackenmueller's also smoke their own hams, and make their own liverwurst, head cheese, bacon, and such, and specialize in fresh-ground hamburger. Lindenfelser says that the meat in his case is ground fresh daily, and frozen for the cases every day if it doesn't sell. "We go through the whole case every day, everything's fresh, every day," says Lindenfelser. While they don't get too much call for lamb or the various specialty cuts, they will do their darndest to help with special orders. If you are a recent transplant to the North Side and have wondered where all your neighbors are, stop into Hackenmueller's on a Saturday sometime: They're all there, making it one of the busiest meat markets in the city. Heck, even if you don't live on the North Side, stop in: The bustle before the sparkling cases is enough to bring a tear to the eye of any dedicated scratch cook.


478 W. Main St., Anoka

People talk a lot about giving 110 percent, taking it to the next level, and thinking outside the box, but they rarely pull it off. Which is why I was so impressed with Anoka Meat & Sausage, a butcher shop that looks fairly modest from the outside, but inside takes sausage to the extreme. They've got 20 types of beef sticks, a dozen varieties of jerky, a dozen sorts of bratwurst (including pineapple and pizza), breakfast sausages to surprise the most jaded bruncher (including blueberry and raspberry), and, surprisingly for a butcher shop with Polish roots, some very good Swedish meatball mix. The folks behind the counter are bend-over-backward sweet, and while they don't necessarily have the more esoteric cuts on hand all the time, they are happy to order what you need and will then do the specialty cutting. Any long-haul truckers or beef-stick fanatics should know that the Anoka Meat & Sausage beef sticks might just be the best in the metro: not too fatty, not too dry, not too coarse and not too lean, they strike just the right balance of spice, meat, sweet, and salt.


4307 Upton Ave. S., Minneapolis

I've also written extensively about Clancey's, which works with southeastern Minnesota farmers so that every cut of meat can be traced back to the sustainably run real family farm that produced it. If you know anything about contemporary meat production, with its manure lagoons, watershed degradation, gruesome feeding practices (including this one, which was new to me: chicken feathers pelletized and fed to cows!), subtherapeutic antibiotics to create antibiotic-resistant bugs for people, and hormones to bring on menstruation in children, this will mean everything to you. Beyond that, though, if there is a beyond that, Clancey's is a premier chef's resource, for many reasons. First, they are in daily contact with their producers and are committed to selling the whole animal for their farmers, so they always have access to the icky bits that define Western cuisine--lamb kidneys, raw pork bellies, caul fat, bison hearts, you name it. Second, the butcher at Clancey's is chef Greg Westergreen, who helmed the kitchen at the Nicollet Island Inn for many years, and knows how to do all the fancy kitchen butchery. Butterflying a leg of lamb is just the tip of the iceberg here; Clancey's commonly slices and pounds thin beef for carpaccio, readies a flank steak for stuffing, Frenches lamb racks, and does all that good stuff. Third is everything else: Look in the refrigerator cases and you'll see Westergreen's own actual, real, honest-to-god demi-glace, that chef's trick for thickening and enriching sauces, which he makes from real bones. Clancey's also makes and freezes their own fish fumé, chicken stock, veal stock, and such. They carry the best poultry you'll find outside a farmers' market: Minnesota-raised foie gras (and the ducks the foie came from) as well as the whole line of Wild Acres pheasants, wild turkeys, and the like. Westergreen is also one of the only people I've ever met--chef, butcher, or candlestick maker--who is familiar with the different ways the French have of butchering beef, for bavette steaks, paleron, and such. While most butchers will tell you (off the record) that they dread nothing so much as a customer clutching a volume of Escoffier, Westergreen has generally already made all those things and can coach you through it. If that's not enough, he also likes to play around with fancy sausages: Recently Clancey's has had options like a roasted and raw garlic with shallot and white wine (perfect for cassoulet); lamb with balsamic vinegar and fresh oregano; bison with blue cheese and dried cherries; and pork with preserved lemon, fresh thyme and shallot--yes, you read that right, they are fancy appetizers ready to cook. Because Clancey's is across the street from the Linden Hills Co-Op, with its excellent produce, and only a few blocks from France 44, with its wine shop and deli full of fancy cheeses, imported charcuterie, chocolates, and the like, there's a good argument to be made that if you want to cook something wildly ambitious in the European tradition in the Twin Cities, the most efficient way to do that is with a trip to Linden Hills.

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