Visit these beautifully stocked cases, filled with the finest cuts around. You can count on these area butchers when stocking your deep freeze, and with recommendations from local chef Jeffrey Sills, you’re sure to get your hands on the good stuff.
Bud’s Custom Meats
3027 Highway 22 E, Riverside
Bud’s Custom Meats is situated in a modest white building just as you head into Riverside. Though many places advertise their product as “World’s Best” or “Famous,” Bud’s beef jerky is truly worth the descriptor. Once you have had Bud’s famous jerky, made on premise in a variety of flavors, you will settle for nothing else. And once you have ventured into Bud’s for the jerky, you should stay and explore the hand-cut meats, available fresh or frozen.
Bud’s is truly a “custom” shop: If you are a hunter, they can process your spoils into any number of cuts; they can provide a whole pig for your next luau (as a special order); and they will age your pre-order meat for you to your specifications. All bundles come wrapped in perfect dinner-sized packages, ready for the freezer or for dinner tonight. Besides the beef jerky, be sure to sample the ground beef. Bud’s boasts a coarse grind on their ground beef, which makes for good flavor and a heartier texture that owner Doug Havel is sure will make you a convert. Otherwise, take a walk on the wild side: Bud’s caters to the more adventurous as well, stocking elk, rabbit and even turtle when available.
Nelson’s Meat Market
1140 Old Marion Rd NE, Cedar Rapids
Walking into Nelson’s is like walking into a nice warm hug. All of the staff are on-hand to answer any questions and get you exactly what you’re looking for, whether that’s a freshly butchered roast, something from the extensive frozen section or a hot cup of soup. Nelson’s has been in existence since 1935.
The current owner, Mark Martin, has worked there for over twenty years, and knows just about everyone who walks in the door. Nelson’s purchases choice meats, butchers them in-house and uses a wet-aging method which gives the best flavor and marbling. The variety of things that you will find at Nelson’s include: sausages made in-house, fresh or frozen; ice cream churned on premise and famous for its thick and creamy texture and variety of flavors; smoked turkeys, sold whole and available for pre-order and pick-up for both Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Chef recommends: Nelson’s Famous Miami Roll. The Miami Roll, a Nelson’s original, is a pork fillet, wrapped in flank steak and tied with bacon. Martin suggests a simple preparation, cooking the pork to medium and serving. The fat from the bacon melts into the porous flank steak, and both complement the lean pork as they cook together. You’ll know you’ve done it right when the bacon is crispy.
Village Meat Market & Café
92 16th Ave SW, Cedar Rapids
Right in the heart of the Czech Village in Cedar Rapids, Village Meats has an old-world quality, with plenty of spunk. Owner Lou Oettinger Thompson re-located from Louisiana to Cedar Rapids, her childhood home, after Hurricane Katrina. With an eye on rebuilding the Czech Village after the 2008 flood, she opened Village Meat Market and Café, where she brings a southern spin on the classic Czech butcher shop.
Everything in the butcher case at Village Meat Market is homemade and smoked in-house. The bacon is double-smoked, all the sausage is made at the market and if you time it right, you can walk in to a brisket fresh out of the smoker. The staff prides themselves on having the best quality, sourced from as near as possible, and treated with the utmost care. Don’t leave without Jaternice, a traditional Czech sausage. Village Meat Market makes theirs from scratch. Chef says fry it up in a pan and serve it over sauerkraut or boiled potatoes.
It should also be noted that Lou, an avid dog-lover, also sells pigs ears, which she roasts underneath the bacon in the smoker. If you have a pup at home, this is a mandatory purchase.
La Regia Taqueria & Grocery
436 Highway 1, Iowa City
The market at La Regia has a little bit of everything, but their meat counter is a real stand-out. Specializing in traditional Mexican fare, this is definitely the place to go for any and all at-home taco fixings, as well as for those cuts of meat found in traditional Mexican cooking.
While possibly intimidating for a non-Spanish speaker, the staff at La Regia are helpful and welcoming to anyone and everyone interested in at-home Mexican cooking. They have just about everything you need to re-create your favorite taco from the taqueria next door, and can guide you to just the thing you are looking for.
Chef wants you to try: oxtail. Oxtail is a fancy culinary word for the tail of a cow. It is both bony and fatty, and begs to be braised or slow roasted on a winter weekend. Oxtail is excellent crockpot fare.
Chef says to add the oxtail to your slow cooker or Dutch oven with red wine, potatoes, onions, carrots, garlic, whatever herbs you have on hand and cook low and slow for as long as possible, at least four hours but up to 10.