Joseph's Finest Meats still gets 'straight cattle'

February 20, 2013 9:56:32 AM PST
From the stockyards to the modern steakhouse, Chicago has always had a romance with beef. An Italian butcher on the city's Far Northwest Side takes an Old World approach to butchering and customer service.

There aren't many butcher shops left in Chicago, especially shops that have been in business for more than three decades and are still run by the original owner. And in an era of supermarkets and specialty stores, it's nice to see some of Chicago's history on display every day at joseph's.

Since 1977, Joseph Camarda has carved out a unique niche among his meaty peers. His namesake - Joseph's Finest Meats - in the Dunning neighborhood on the city's far Northwest Side, still breaks down beef the old fashioned way.

"I still get what we call the straight cattle," Camarda said.

It's the kind of cooler that would inspire Rocky Balboa. USDA Prime-graded beef is kept here for several weeks, developing flavor.

"Minimum is three weeks, minimum. And then sometimes four to five weeks, all depends," said Camarda.

After that period of time, the exterior crust is cut away with a band saw, and the interior is revealed: tiny rivers of intramuscular fat, which give the beef its amazing flavor.

Camarda's team also makes their own sausage - both mild and hot - and they carry a limited selection of groceries - much of it Italian-related. He says while they do offer some handmade cuts, like lamb and pork crown roasts, they also serve as meat therapists, helping customers find the right cuts for their needs.

"Sometime they come in with a recipe. They want a certain cut of meat. Sometime I suggest for what you got to do, you don't have to spend that kind of money; try this," he said.

And that customer interaction is what drives Camarda.That, and the fact he still picks up the knives almost every day, even at the age of 80. His approach to life comes from advice he got from his grandfather, who lived 96 years.

"As long as you got good eyesight, strong knees and a good mind, move," he said.

There are also breads and sauces on hand in the market, just in case you want to pick up everything you might need for dinner.

Joseph's Finest Meats
7101 W. Addison