Windsor Terrace has what every neighborhood wants. I am not talking about the safe, quiet streets or the neighborly feel. I am talking about United Meat Market, the butcher shop on Prospect Park West between 16th Street and Windsor Place.
No wonder Park Slopers are always heading over there. The last of the Seventh Avenue meat markets closed years ago. Liberty, which was at 10th Street, closed after the death of the beloved butcher, while Berkeley, at Berkeley Place, closed due to the retirement of the owner. No new shop has opened to replace the old-time institutions. And so Park Slopers pine for fresh meats, cut to order and wrapped in brown paper.
Why is the United Meat Market so hard to replicate? I mean, if everyone in Park Slope wants a butcher shop then why doesn’t someone open one in Park Slope?
“A meat market is not a ‘get rich quick’ scheme” said United owner Joe Gallo. “It is a lot of work, and no one really wants to do it any more.”
Gallo has been doing it for 25 years. He and his brother, Rocky, bought the market in the early 1980s, and he has watched as the other meat markets have closed.
“There used to be a butcher every couple of blocks, but no more,” he said. “Even when we retire, there probably won’t be anyone to take the business from us.”
He has also seen the neighborhood change. “The families all left in the early ’90s,” Gallo said, “but now they are coming back.”
So what does that mean for his business? “We sell a lot of ground meat,” he told me. He pointed out that his ground meat is better than what you can get at a supermarket; because Gallo does the actual butchering of the sides of beef that come in the store, he knows which cuts to use for the best flavor.
Some butcher shops get their meat already cut, but not Gallo. He and his crew go down to the Brooklyn Meat Market at First Avenue and 55th Street five days a week to shop for the best sides, which they then bring back to the store for cutting. That means better quality and better cuts, according to the butcher.
His customers agree. While I stood there talking to Gallo, a half-dozen customers stopped in. Every one of them said versions of the same thing. “This is the best place to buy meat,” said Marika Lugo. “It is clean, everything is always fresh and they are just so friendly.”
I must admit that I do occasionally buy my meat at Costco. I get big “family packs” of cheap-but-tasteless steak, and I buy the extra large bottle of Peter Lugar’s steak sauce to ensure some flavor on the plate. But hearing Gallo talk about his customers and about how he cares that they get the best made me feel more loyal to a shop I have used for over a decade.
Now that it is grilling season, I’ll be making regular runs to United. There is nothing like a good cut of meat on the fire, unless, of course, you’re a vegetarian (in which case you’re invited over for dinner — more meat for me!).
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