Once upon a time, most people did their meat purchasing in the style of Alice from the Brady Bunch, where Sam the Butcher knew the family’s taste and budget, and would assist with cuts, expertise and suggestions. These days, butcher shops are seemingly long gone. In the valley, we’re lucky to have a few remnants and old faithfuls, like Hobe Meats and the Meat Shop.
If you’re a fan of fresh seafood, or fish priced beyond what might scare your wallet (and certainly not that fresh), you could perchance find it at AJ’s. And if it couldn’t be found there, you were pretty much out of luck. But not anymore. In less than a year, we’ve been lucky enough to have not one but three butcher shop/fish mongers open around the Valley. Interestingly enough, two are on Indian School Road, less than two miles from each other, and the last is in South Scottsdale in a strip mall next to a live music venue.
Sure, great meat and seafood are never going to be cheap, but a relationship with the right butcher, to assist your family (and your budget), will have you eating the good goods in no time. Please note, quality meat and seafood follow market pricing, which means the prices can change quickly, depending on availability and shipment. It is not uncommon to see slight variations in pricing in between visits, sometimes up and sometimes down. Keep an open mind and a curious palate, and explore! It goes without saying that at each location, the skilled butchers were more than willing to suggest an item and cut it to my exact specifications, even if that meant I was only spending $5.
Located in a bright and cheery mini strip mall, you’ll find Arcadia Meat Market tucked in the back between a hot yoga studio and cheeseburger and beer joint. The whole place is impeccably lit to near blinding levels – I challenge anyone to find a mere speck of dust. With the largest selection of the three shops, Arcadia Meat Market tilts toward local sustainably produced beef, chicken, pork and lamb.
Absolutely stunning osso bucco in near Jurassic sizing can be found alongside dry-aged rib eye. The friendly staff is ready to answer questions and share samples of their excellent jerky and fiscalani cheese. If you ask nicely, Nick might even tear open a bar of Jacobsen chocolate and hand over a sample. Animal-friendly bags o’ bones can be found in the reach-in freezer, below enormous tubs of bone broth.
I was particularly impressed to see that for a mere $5, Arcadia Meat Market will donate a pound of meat to a family in need. Also, rumor has it there will be a smoker, so they can produce their own bacon. In the interim, buy some of their fantastic pork belly by the pound. And speaking of pork, here are some of the most gorgeous pork roasts I’ve seen in a while – the perfectly cut rounds that look like the porcine goodness usually only seen abroad or at an exorbitantly cost-prohibitive price point. Also, pick up some of the aforementioned cheese or a selection of tasty microgreens. Jacobsen Salt Co. provisions round out the offerings.
Open for nearly a year, Chula Seafood is the grandpa of the bunch. But prior to having a brick and mortar, Chula Seafood began bringing its sustainable seafood from San Diego to Phoenix farmers’ markets and restaurants in 2015. Sustainability is their stock in trade, especially tilting toward harpoon-caught fish.
Their shotgun-style building layout now hosts hightop and regular tables, where Chula capitalizes on their fresh seafood offerings by producing killer poke, their famous tuna melt and more. In the front, the smallest case of three holds stunning seafood, like 10-count scallops (10 to a pound, making each enormous), salmon and sea bass. Tucked alongside the fresh goodies, you’ll find impressive treats smoked on site, like a sinfully savory smoked salmon pastrami (seriously, so good I thought I was going to cry).
When dining out, pay attention to your favorite local seafood dish. There is a decent chance it came from Chula’s wholesale arm. Rounding out the selection is a well-curated sideboard of local wunderkind culinary purveyors like Tracey Dempsey Originals desserts, Nonna pasta and Jacob Cutino’s selection of hot sauces, both Homeboy’s and Cutino Select.
Lamb bacon – really? I’m not sure I need to say anything else about this butcher shop than that. Or maybe the fresh duck fat by the pound. Either way, Nelson Meats tilts slightly fancy, and that is a good thing. Wedged into a treacherous and challenging parking lot (on every visit, we parked a couple doors down and walked. Sorry, Circle K), it’s super easy to miss.
Nelson Meats is the only one of the three that offers both meat and seafood. You’ll find stunning salmon and fresh-cracked stone crab claws, and this is quite possibly the only place town with John Dory, uber famous chef Tom Colicchio’s favorite fish. Beef and pork abound, as does the Nueske’s bacon, which is, in this shop’s opinion, the finest bacon in the country right now. I’m not sure I concur, but I’m ready to keep testing, again and again.
You’ll find within reach things like fresh cocktail sauce, frozen bison and the aforementioned duck fat. There’s also a small selection of pantry items, including Hayden Flour Mills products. A word to the wise: Nelson keeps a stash of items in the back, so be sure to ask. It’s an endearing not-so-secret secret for fans of items they might stock in smaller quantities.
Arcadia Meat Market
3950 E. Indian School, Suite 120
8015 E. Roosevelt
Nelson’s Meat and Fish
2415 E. Indian School