New Jersey Dispatch: John's Meat Market, The Ultimate Local Butcher

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[Photo: Robyn Lee]

My own neighborhood is a paradise of meat for many reasons—the influx of Asian home cooks, the longevity of traditional small-town butchers, and the proximity to small farmers all come to mind. One store really stands out for me, though; John's Meat Market. If there's one unsung hero of the New Jersey food scene, it's the butcher shop.

What's special about it? Well, John's is in the town of Scotch Plains: a place that's offered a nice shopping zone for almost a century. In fact, it's the sort of town that has a chrome and Formica lunch counter and no fancy coffee bar. And John's isn't alone—there's another butcher, several bakers, and a fresh pasta shop too. When the farmer's market comes to town in summer, it becomes an ingredient paradise.

And the meat? John's is most legendary for its prime beef. Aged for 21 days in the cooler behind the counter, it has a deep maroon color that makes it look almost like venison when you compare it to the stuff from the supermarket. And there's marbling. Those little flecks of fat that are evenly, visibly distributed throughout the meat. Even the fillet has it. The beef is unusual in other ways too; it's both corn fed and antibiotic and hormone free.

4202010Johnsmeat03.jpgIn addition to the beef, there's also pork, lamb, chicken, and turkey of the same standard. If you're used to buying lamb at Halal butchers, you'll be stunned by the excellence of the cutting and trimming; racks properly frenched, legs with a bit of fat cut away so they can cure like beef, and even organs. You can buy lamb kidneys and liver here, too.

John's offers two kinds of sausages—house-made with raw meat, and smoked products from Kocher's in Ridgefield. Kocher's, reputed by many to produce the best hot dogs and bacon in the state, surely makes its case here. Finally, there's also a complete line of D'Artagnan items in the freezer for those times you want duck breast or venison.

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John's is a perfect store in a very real way, but I would like to see more meat sourced from New Jersey. We do have local lamb, beef, and chicken and I've even seen a pig or two at the livestock market in Hackettstown. I'll have to discuss this with John's grandson Vince Jr.

Good meat does not come cheap. Expect to pay double here what you would in the big supermarkets for pork and poultry, and triple for dry aged beef.

John's Meat Market

389 Park Avenue, Scotch Plains NJ 07076 (map)
908-322-7126
johnsmarket.com

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