Market Tours: Traditional Irish Ingredients at the Butcher's Fancy in Yonkers
Visit the quiet, orderly stretch of McLean Avenue in Yonkers and you might notice something different about the way people here talk. You might ask for directions, and, upon receiving the reply, think to yourself, "What is that accent?" And then you realize: it's a soft Irish brogue, and everyone in the area—except you—has it.
That's because this part of Yonkers, located just over the border from the north Bronx, has been home to a burgeoning Irish immigrant population since the 1980s. Immigrants settled near pockets of their countrymen who had been here even longer, and starting opening businesses that replicated the feel of their beloved pubs, shops and restaurants back home.
That's where Oliver Charles comes in. He came to the area from Leitrim, Ireland in 1976 and opened his small butcher shop and specialty store, the Butcher's Fancy, in 2000. Before Charles took over, the space housed a traditional Italian butcher for over 70 years.
Needless to say, Charles changed up the offerings a bit, swapping out mortadella and mozzarella for homemade Irish sausages, boiling bacon, and imported Irish cheeses. He filled the refrigerator and freezer with Irish must-haves such as root vegetables—and even frozen French fries flown in from the mother country. And he lined the store's shelves with familiar snack foods, teas and crackers.
"85 percent of my customers are Irish," Charles told me. "They're happy that they can get the foods that they remember from home." But more and more, Italian and West Indian neighbors in are coming in to try the house-cured bacon, homemade sausage rolls and daily specials like corned beef and cabbage. "The best part about owning this place is that I control what's sold," Charles said. "We do our best to sell only the finest products."
The Butcher's Fancy
961 McLean Avenue, Yonkers NY 10704 (map)
About the author: Lauren Rothman is a former Serious Eats intern, a freelance catering chef, and an obsessive chronicler of all things culinary. Try the original recipes on her blog, For the Love of Food, and follow her on Twitter @Lochina186.