On the Hunt - Finding Local Meats and Produce (Mostly Meats)

This past Saturday, I had a grocery list of items that I needed to obtain for a family gathering the next day.  Since it's National BBQ Month, my goal was to head outdoors and grill skirt steak and fish for tacos to feed about 12 people with a variety of tastes (including one partial-vegetarian that I reluctantly accept as family).  I was really hoping my favorite butcher (Gillespie's Meat Shoppe) on Silverton Road would have some skirt steak handy, otherwise I was going to try LingFarm's stand at the Salem Saturday Market.  I had a lazy day planned, so I had time to meander around town to find just what I was looking for.


My first stop was at Gillespie's Meat Shoppe, which shares the building with Norman's Farmer's Market.  This is exceptionally handy, because it's a single stop where you can get fresh local meats, along with farm fresh produce that is usually local (although I noticed some garlic from China when I was there).  I spent $4 at Norman's for a cabbage, some roma tomatoes, jalapenos, cilantro, and green leaf lettuce.  I thought it was a good deal, but as many of you know I'm not very experienced with produce pricing, so maybe that was expensive.

The other half of the building is where I spent a majority of my time.  Most of Gillespie's meats are from Hill Meat Co. in Pendleton, or Carlton Farms in Carlton.  And Speaking of Bacon!  I have no problem sticking my neck out and saying that Gillespie's has absolutely the best bacon in Salem.  It's actually the best bacon that I've ever purchased at a grocer or butcher shop (it's true that I've eaten better bacon elsewhere, but none that I've cooked myself).  If it's between the hours of 9am-6pm right this moment, you need to stop reading and go RIGHT NOW to Gillespie's to pick up a pound or two of their smoked bacon.  I'll wait.

See?  Was that worth it or what??  Makes my mouth water.  Anyhow, back to the skirt steak.  They didn't have what I was looking for, but when I asked the fellow behind the counter as he rang-up my package of bacon (which, like beer, is always on my grocery list), where I might find some good skirt steak, he directed me to Salvador's Bakery which is just down the street on the other side of Lancaster.  Take a look at the Eat Salem review on Salvador's to see that this place is no secret to Eat Salem readers.  I love when one local shop recommends another -- I put a lot of weight behind that recommendation.

And I'm so glad the guys at Gillespie's told me about Salvador's because they have a bunch of cuts of meats that most big name grocers as well as Gillespie's don't carry.  The picture here shows an array of thinly sliced cuts of beef -- PERFECT for grilling, slicing, and putting on tacos.  Naturally, if you're going to be making a Mexican dish, a Mexican market is the place to go.  I selected the Ranchera cut of beef which is a more tender cut than skirt.  It was priced at $5.99/lb -- I'd compare that price to someone else, but I can never find this cut anywhere, so let's just say it's a reasonable price.

While I was there, Salvador's was serving up tacos, tortas, and other dishes to hungry patrons.  I almost couldn't resist, but I had several other stops to make and didn't want my beef sitting out of the fridge longer than it had to.

Before I got back on the road, I did a quick search to see what other meat shops I might find in the area -- specifically ones that would carry halibut or another white fish which would be good for fish tacos.  I came up with El Torito Meat Market.

El Torito was immediately attractive to me because there was a guy out front grilling 4 or 5 whole-chickens on a big charcoal pit.  Yep, this is my kind of place.  It's a Mexican market with a small produce section near the front, and a pretty large butcher shop at the back.   I was surprised at how large the butcher case was for the size of the market.  Sadly, while they had some seafood, they didn't have the fish I was looking for.  However, while I was there, I figured I might as well get some tortillas, as it just so happens that they have their own in-store tortilleria!  And there happened to be a bag of warm white corn tortillas that were hot off the press, sitting on the counter, waiting for me.  Quite honestly, I have no idea how much I paid for them, because once I had that bag of soft, warm tortillas in my hands, it didn't seem to matter.

I was exceptionally disappointed to have rounded out the day with a trip to Safeway to get some cod as I was having such difficulty finding a local shop with halibut.  I was desperate to get over to Fitt's Seafoods (and I'm still kicking myself for not taking the time to go) but my lazy day was running a bit longer than expected, and I had a couple of other tasks to accomplish on the home front.  I never did get down to Saturday Market, but I'm pretty satisfied with the results of my hunt.

On the way home, the sign on Cordon Road for Willamette Valley Fruit Company's new store just east of Salem caught my eye and I decided I could spare a few minutes to swing by and check it out.  As it turned out, I needed a marionberry smoothie.  I didn't know that until I saw it on the menu board and it called out to me.  The little shop is very nice inside and has a freezer row of berries and pies for a reasonable price.  You can get 8-lbs of blueberries for $9.  My breakfast-smoothie-loving wife tells me that's an awesome deal.

Vegan's Nightmare

16 comments:

Anonymous said...

I'm very impressed with your excellent meat shopping prowess!

Anonymous said...

all of this sounds really awesome. Thanks for the great info. Do you know if el torito makes handmade flour tortillas too?

Salem Man said...

Salvador's is great. I heard the one in Woodburn is even better. Thanks VN for doing all of this research. How did the BBQ go?

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the info -- didn't know Willamette Fruit had opened up a shop! I'm sad it's way out there on the north side but I will definitely have to make a special trip out.

Anonymous said...

Just visited Willamette fruit company today on your suggestion and besides all the fabulous stuff they have to offer, we absolutely fell in love with the mushroom table and chair set they have there for kids.

I can't wait to try the strawberry freezer jam and the slice of peach pie I took home was yummy. I wish I had some vanilla ice cream to go with it.

Anonymous said...

Have you ever been to Ocean Star Seafood - (503) 399-8688 1975 Lancaster Dr NE, Salem, OR 97305. It is near the Blue Willow Restaurant on Sunnyview.

Vegan's Nightmare said...

@Anon-2, Yes, they make flour tortillas too. I got a package of each, and their flour tortillas were outstanding.

@Salem Man, the meal was fabulous. Even the "vegetarian" loved the fish tacos.

@Anon-5, I haven't been to Ocean Star, but I'll give it a try!

Anonymous said...

This was a great article. I'll check out all the places you mentioned. I'd love to see an article on the Asian and Russian markets in Salem.

Lainey said...

Curious if anyone knows where I can get high quality meats at the best prices in Salem. I am interested in following the paleo lifestyle and I am trying to seek out more affordable options than what I have found at Safeway.

I would strongly prefer to shop a local butcher...even if it did cost a little extra.

By high quality meat I mean grass-fed, organic, no hormones/antibiotics, cage free chickens without additives. Meats along those lines. Bonus points for game meats. ;)

KandN said...

Lainey, Have you checked out the meats at Rafn's or Fitts? They both have a nice selection.

Anonymous said...

I agree that Rafn's has good quality although a bit pricey but you would expect this for the type of meat you're looking for. Another good choice is La Consentida meat market on Lancaster at the Big Lots stip mall. We tend to go Portland for our meats. Wish we had an old fashioned meat market here in our capitol city =(

Anonymous said...

Isn't Gillespie's an old fashioned meat market?

Anonymous said...

Just FYI the Salem Food Coop booth at the Salem Public Market has wonderful fish. Sustainably caught out of Port Orford they usually have tuna, salmon, halibut and rockfish. It's fresh frozen and really delicious.

Anonymous said...

It is excellent fish, isn't it? I bought it throughout the summer at MIG farm stand in SSalem.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the fyi!

Anonymous said...

Have you also tried Mt Angel Meat Company? They've got a really good selection, although I have not seen game meat there.