Shop Local: Blue Ribbon Meat Market

Over 30 years in business, local butcher hand-cuts meat

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By David Hammond

Not long ago, I went to Dominick’s to get some soup bones. I figured I could get them from the butcher there…but there’s no butcher there.  Many big stores and chains receive their meat pre-cut from centralized butchering locations. Costco is the rare exception in that they actually have white-aproned butchers on-site. Blue Ribbon Meat Market is also a rarity in that it’s a traditional butcher store where the art of meat cutting is still practiced every day.

Ron Savino’s family has owned Blue Ribbon Meat Market in Oak Park for over thirty years, and they still do the butcher business the old-fashioned way – by actually cutting meat in their store.

We went in last Saturday to order a fresh leg of lamb for Easter.  Savino counseled us to go with domestic rather than Australian lamb (grain fed, thus more marbled and tasty), and he offered to custom cut the leg and tie it in half to fit on my smoker.

Blue Ribbon Meat Market carries traditional cuts (steaks, chops) as well as less traditional cuts (turducken); the customer-service oriented team seems very willing to special order items as necessary.

When we showed an interest in his home-made sausage, which accounts for most of the sausage in the display case, Savino gave us a two lamb sausages to sample. These sausages had a good spice level (just a little heat) and the lamb flavor came through quite clearly. Full of lush fat, they caramelize nicely when griddled in a cast iron pan.

We used to go regularly to the Villager on Chicago Avenue.  Recently, we’ve visited the Butcher and Larder (1026 N. Milwaukee),  a new butcher shop that is leading a growing movement back to small-scale butchering that had all but disappeared from the urban landscape.

From the outside, Blue Ribbon Meat Market is not going to catch your eye: there’s a funky, generic yellow sign above the door (original equipment, I’m guessing) and the windows are filled with hand-lettered signs for pork, chicken and other meats. In the summer, a tree in front obscures the storefront, and with traffic sometimes heavy at the intersection of Austin and Lake, I’m guessing a lot of potential customers drive right past without giving the place a second thought.

We chatted with Savino as we were leaving. He asked how long we’d lived in Oak Park.  We said about 25 years. So he asked, “How come you never came in here before?”

We had no good answer.

What experiences have you had with Blue Ribbon Meat Market?

Reader Comments

36 Comments - Add Your Comment

Comment Policy

Chris Koertge from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: November 14th, 2011 9:32 PM

Thanks for introducing my to my new butcher, David. I purchased 3 whole Boston butts for a recent batch of pulled pork on my smoker a few weeks ago and went back last weekend for beef short ribs, which were cut and trimmed to order for braising from the whole rib. I've since reserved a fresh turkey for Thanksgiving. The price charged for the quality of meat and service received is exceptional. This looks like the start of a long and beautiful relationship. Thank you!

Occupy Violet Aura & Sarge 311  

Posted: October 23rd, 2011 11:10 PM

I suggest we camp outside their homes and have local businesses and vendors selling their best meat products and dead flesh delicacies. The raw meat we can grill and deep fry on site. This will allow us to support local business while getting back at them for being so annoying. No one is offended by you not liking meat. That's great. You are not welcome or invited however to come and just bash us for liking meat.We don't come looking to bash you guys for being acorn eating weirdos.

David Hammond from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: October 23rd, 2011 10:16 PM

Violet Aura, I was surprised by the comment, though not surprised to hear it wasn't you. Ref, I used to go to Villager all the time -- a fav. Laughing, I think you hit it.

Laughing  

Posted: October 23rd, 2011 8:40 PM

Location, Location, Location

ref  

Posted: October 23rd, 2011 8:17 PM

There have been a few businesses on Chicago Ave that have come and gone. Not for lack of quality, just that OPers don't tend to come out this way. I've been talking about Blue Ribbon for years and only this year have people started coming out. I think it is a combo of Villager going out of business and people not being able to afford Whole Paycheck any more.

Violet Aura  

Posted: October 23rd, 2011 6:17 PM

@David: That was an imposter. My guess is this imposter is a lover of dead cow's flesh and tried to besmirch my good name on here (yeah right). In any case, I hope you will understand that I usually have more on my mind than that.

David Hammond from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: October 23rd, 2011 9:14 AM

ref, I actually talked to Savino about the low visibility of his place. His thought was that maybe the tree in front blocks the sign, or perhaps people are so focused on the nearby intersection that they don't notice the store. Who knows. But...what other East OP vendors do you think should should be celebrated?

ref  

Posted: October 23rd, 2011 8:39 AM

My only rantish comment is why it's taken people so long to "discover" this wonderful store. There are a lot of hard working vendors on the East side of OP who aren't taken very seriously! But, better late than never.

David Hammond from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: October 22nd, 2011 6:29 PM

Violet Aura, could you be more coherent, please?

Violet Aura  

Posted: October 22nd, 2011 6:06 PM

Blah, Blah, Blah, Blah, Blah,Blah, etc........

ref  

Posted: October 22nd, 2011 12:00 PM

Blue ribbon's lamb sausage with green onion is out of this world. I recommend it highly.

Mrslaw05 from Chicago  

Posted: October 22nd, 2011 7:27 AM

Service is topnotch! I wouldn't dare get my meat from anywhere else. Largest selection of turkey products I've seen. Absolutely love it.

David Hammond from Oakpark.com/Dining/Blogs  

Posted: June 21st, 2011 5:18 PM

Once again, let's all of us try to keep the conversation productive and non-confrontational. Issues of eating meat or not can be discussed intelligently, as many here have demonstrated, and my guess is no one wants to read angry rants. Please, civility.

Violet Aura  

Posted: June 21st, 2011 5:04 PM

@Veronica: You love you some dead cow flesh? You sound like a classy broad. Oh, and thanks for making my skin crawl. There is a subgroup of humanoids who call it "Jewel's" and "Soldier's Field."

David Hammond from Oakpark.com/Dining/Blogs  

Posted: June 21st, 2011 4:17 PM

Let's all of us try to keep the conversation productive and non-confrontational. Issues of eating meat or not can be discussed intelligently, as many here have demonstrated, and my guess is no one wants to read angry rants. Please, civility.

Sarge311  

Posted: June 21st, 2011 3:15 PM

@Veronicanazi, see I can do that to with the word nazi! How long did it take you to come up with that sophomoric word? Must listen to rush "oxycontin" limbaugh. If you consider yourself a REAL woman for eating meat, then you are truly a sad, pathetic individual. To revel in the deaths of millions of animals each year to feed your face is a sad commentary on your life. But then, meat eaters usually are devoid of compassion and intelligence anyway. Hey, why not eat your dog/cat? That's meat.

Veronica_No pork from Chicago  

Posted: June 18th, 2011 2:43 PM

MMM MEAT! ...Ahem, REAL women eat meat...in moderation, but I LOVE me a FAT BURGER...Just saying (in light of the Vegitarinazi- extremist commenting on the butcher shop. Id rather have the fresher/ not overpriced commercialized meat than A place like Jewels or whatever anyway..

Carol from Oak Park  

Posted: April 21st, 2011 6:48 PM

That wasn't my point. I wasn't arguing from tradition. I was trying to point out to you that there are a lot of animals already in existence that depend on farmers for feed and care. What do you propose to do with them? Set them free? Force farmers to pay to care for them without seeing any benefit from selling them for meat? It's just a question regarding the practicalities of your philosophy, which I find that moral vegetarians rarely consider.

Sarge311  

Posted: April 21st, 2011 6:10 PM

@David. Your responses are so juvenile and stupid. Perhaps if you get smashed by a car, we should think the same of you? Roadkill is roadkill, right? Although I suspect in your case, no one would care except like minded animal killers.

Sarge311  

Posted: April 21st, 2011 6:06 PM

@Carol. Just because it was done a thousand years ago, doesn't mean it has to be done today. Secondly, if we took the land that it takes to raise cattle and pigs and convert it into farmland for vegetables or trees, we would have enough food to feed our entire country. And shall I mention the pollution involved? As for your last statement, I make minimum wage and can barely afford to eat. But my principles will not be compromised because of that. Eating animals is morally wrong and repugnant.

David Hammond from Oakpark.com/Dining/Blogs  

Posted: April 20th, 2011 4:00 PM

Roadkill raccoon might be a reasonable option if going to butcher stores seems like it would be an unpleasant experience: http://www.slashfood.com/2011/04/19/is-roadkill-safe-to-eat/

Givemeaburger from Oak  

Posted: April 20th, 2011 12:01 PM

Interesting posts, for me, I will definitely check out Blue Ribbon as I hadn't known it existed. Cool!

Carol from Oak Park  

Posted: April 20th, 2011 11:41 AM

Sarge, I just want to point out that (1) those animals would die someday anyway. (2) Those animals have been domesticated over the course of thousands of years, and what else do you propose to do with them? What do you propose to do about the local farmers who make their living raising these animals? (3) Vegetarianism for moral reasons is essentially reserved for those privileged enough to have access to, and can afford good, fresh produce. How many Americans does that actually describe?

OP Resident  

Posted: April 20th, 2011 10:27 AM

Be Careful, Steakburger. Too much Fox News in your diet is bad for maintaining a reasoned thought process.

Sarge311  

Posted: April 20th, 2011 10:10 AM

@steakburger. You bring up abortion and snuffing out an innocent human life. Being the capitalist CONservative that you are, I bet you had no problem supporting your buddy bush when he cost over 4,000 American soldiers lives to avenge his daddy and for oil. And BTW, abortion is a decision that should be between a woman and her doctor and not MEN who have no idea what a woman goes through. She is the one carrying the fetus. When a fetus can live outside the womb on its own, then it is a baby.

Sarge311  

Posted: April 20th, 2011 10:03 AM

@David Hammond..."Humane carnivorousness" is one of the most laughable oxymoron's I've ever heard. There is no such thing as humane carnivorousness because AN ANIMAL HAS TO DIE and their is nothing humane about that. Hmmm, let's see. Do I bash the animal's head with a sledge hammer to kill it or do I hang it upside down and cut it open after stunning it. Get real David. You can try to assuage any type of feelings you have but animals are tortured either way.

David Hammond from Oakpark.com/Dining/Blogs  

Posted: April 20th, 2011 1:36 AM

Humane carnivorousness is the way to go, at least for me. I'm with Carol who sez, "For those of us who find the idea of going vegetarian to be unacceptable, but who care about how our meat animals are treated prior to and during slaughter, there are also local farm options."

Steakburger from Oak Park  

Posted: April 19th, 2011 5:31 PM

Sarge, I found my humor to be quite successful. To be an highly educated, carnivorous, capitalist conservative living in OP takes a great deal of self-effacing humor. I'll smile as I walk my dog to Blue Ribbon! Interesting thing about our town...if stats are to be believed, this same group of OPer's who decry the "butchering" of animals for our sustenance likely have no problem at all with the "choice" of abortion to snuf an innocent human life. Sorry to go there, but the irony is delicious.

Sarge311  

Posted: April 19th, 2011 4:42 PM

@steakburger. Your attempt at being funny fails miserably just like your desire for dead animal flesh. Just because meat was eaten IN THE STONE AGE, doesn't mean that it's necessary today. Back in those times, people didn't know any better nor were they educated. But judging from most of the responses, I see things haven't changed much. @Violet....I couldn't have said it better. Proud to be a vegan!

Carol from Oak Park  

Posted: April 19th, 2011 11:15 AM

For those of us who find the idea of going vegetarian to be unacceptable, but who care about how our meat animals are treated prior to and during slaughter, there are also local farm options. For instance, Cedar Valley Sustainable Farm provides excellent, humanely and organically raised meat, and also delivers to Oak Park once a month. http://cedarvalleysustainable.com/ There are other, similar local providers, but they are the ones I am familiar with (and highly recommend).

Violet Aura  

Posted: April 19th, 2011 10:47 AM

To the all the dead-flesh eaters: I agree with Sarge. It's amazing how many OPRFers (and Americans in general) will love their pets, get all warm and fuzzy about baby eaglets on Ustream and other animal videos, and yet not see that all animals feel pain and fear from being incarcerated and slaughtered. It takes a certain level of consciousness to appreciate this, though, so it's just a matter of time (eons?) for some to get it. Go vedge!

Peter Traczyk  

Posted: April 19th, 2011 10:25 AM

I've been here 14 years and didn't know this place was here, but now heard of it 3x in the last week. I miss the Villager and will be swinging by Blue Ribbon this week. Thanks for shining a light on this long term OP business.

localop_sarah from Oak Park  

Posted: April 18th, 2011 6:45 PM

Terrific! I had no idea they were there. I'm adding them to my list. Thanks for the post.

Steakburger from Oak Park  

Posted: April 18th, 2011 6:35 PM

You can't fool me, Sarge311...you also can neither undo tens of thousands of years of history, nor the instinct of all humans (including you!) We are meat eaters! We've always been meat eaters, and we always will be meat eaters!! You are just trying to scare away enough potential patrons so that YOU can have MORE MEAT!! You can pretend to be a vegan, and may even think you are. But when you go to bed at night you really dream of a thick juicy steak, a Johnny's beef, a Vienna hot dog, a Big Mac!

easy answer:  

Posted: April 18th, 2011 6:15 PM

Saw your comment on how you'll "NEVER understand how someone can..." yada yada yada. They're delicious! Hope this helps.

sarge311 from Oak Park  

Posted: April 18th, 2011 6:01 PM

I find it truly disgusting and appalling that butcher shops continue today. With all the health risks involved with eating meat not to mention the unconscionable cruelty involved, I can't believe people still would go to this place of death and disease. And I will NEVER understand how someone can "butcher" a living creature unless that are sadistic or born that way. How anyone can enjoy making a living out of killing animals and displaying their dead carcasses really makes me question humanity.

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