Southern Butchers Have Serious Chops

Revisiting a bygone tradition one cut at a time

Photo: Caroline Allison

Tools of the trade.

Between the farm and the table stands the butcher, an old-school craftsman whose techniques are attracting a new breed of food artisan. Across the South, young men and women armed with cleavers are honoring the region’s agricultural and culinary heritage by opening neighborhood markets where the andouille is hand chopped, beef scraps are salvaged for high-end bologna, and it’s perfectly reasonable to request the jowl of a Red Wattle hog. Here are five new charcuterie-and-chop shops that are doing for sustainably raised meat what farmers’ markets have done for locally grown produce.

The Chop Shop Butchery
Asheville, NC
Asheville’s first whole-animal butchery draws a steady crowd of rubbernecking
locavores. Animals are broken down be-hind a glass wall, an ongoing exhibition that owner Josh Wright says nudges eaters to think about the genesis of their dinner. “A lot of folks are used to Styrofoam trays covered with cellophane,” he says. “Our philosophy is to bring transparency to meat.” Housed in a retrofitted 1920s brick apartment building, the Chop Shop also includes an on-site smokehouse, where butchers cure everything from sausages and charcuterie to turkeys and chicken wings.

Dai Due Butcher Shop
Austin, TX
In sausage-geography terms, Dai Due is located at the confluence of boudin, chorizo, and bratwurst territories. Jesse Griffiths, who helms the farmers’ market stand, strives to honor the area’s Cajun, Mexican, and German influences with his product list, although he’ll occasionally sneak in British-style bangers or a French guinea hen terrine. “We cheat a little when it’s good,” he says. Texas has emerged as a leader in artisan butchery, largely because the climate is kinder to animals than to vegetables. Among the creatures thriving—to the exasperation of homeowners and golfers—is the feral hog, which Griffiths uses in two of the four sausages on his standing menu. For DIYers, Griffiths’ upcoming book, Afield: A Chef’s Guide to Preparing and Cooking Wild Game and Fish, makes a handy kitchen manual.

James Peisker and Chris Carter in their new East Nashville butchery.

Photo: Caroline Allison

James Peisker and Chris Carter in their new East Nashville butchery.

Porter Road Butcher
Nashville, TN
This months-old East Nashville market is closed on Mondays so that co-owners James Peisker and Chris Carter can visit nearby farms. “We go out and walk with the animals,” says Peisker, who returns from such field trips girded with facts for inquisitive customers. “We can tell you about the guy who raises the pig, and what he likes to drink.” Both classically trained chefs, the duo take pride in supplying more than neatly trimmed cuts: Their coolers are also stocked with prepared dishes such as gumbo and lamb shepherd’s pie.

Red Apron
Washington, D.C.
No meat product is more fitting for the nation’s capital than a hot dog. Nathan Anda’s franks come in ten flavors, including foie gras with black truffles. “More than just grinding and seasoning, a hot dog takes time and temperature,” says Anda, who parks his cart at farmers’ markets and microbreweries. Back at Red Apron’s industrial kitchen (stand-alone shops are in the works), Anda stocks more than eighty  provisions, including whipped lardo–cured, spiced, and emulsified fatback meant for spreading on toast. “While it’s fatty,” says Anda, who keeps a “PORK FAT” license plate on his Volkswag-en bus, “it doesn’t overtake the tongue.”

The Spotted Trotter
Atlanta, GA
Kevin Ouzts, an Atlanta native and trained chef, adheres to European techniques when making guanciale, pepperoni, and terrines. But the classic preparations at the Spotted Trotter—the new brick-and-mortar home of Ouzts’ previously nomadic operation—are spiked with distinctly Southern ingredients (think chicken liver pâté with mayhaw–and–Arkansas Black apple aspic). For an upmarket snack, nothing beats the air-dried salami flavored with cracked black pepper and sorghum syrup.