In Acadiana, it seems no town is too small to have its own Cajun butcher shop, that quick stop for the regional specialties off the smoker and perhaps a link of boudin to tide you over on the way. Lately, more New Orleans neighborhoods can claim their own, too.
In September alone, two distinctively different meat markets opened their doors with Chris’ Specialty Meats bringing a traditional Cajun-style shop to Lakeview, and Bourrée at Boucherie opening in Carrollton as a combination market/eatery with both familiar flavors and a modern chef’s ideas about where they go.
Landing in Lakeview
The new Chris’ Specialty Meats, developed by Rich Graham and his partners, is the first New Orleans offshoot of a well-established Baton Rouge store, which also has a location in Prairieville.
The Chris’ brand got its start in 1994 when siblings Chris and Twyla Lachaussee opened a store based on traditions from their hometown of Maurice, the Vermilion Parish town known as the spiritual home of the turducken.
That famous Cajun portmanteau of poultry is part of the program at this new Chris’, along with an array of specialty sausages (including its “tiger sausage,” a pork link with a distinct snap to the casing), stuffed meats, steaks and ready-made gumbos and dressings and sides to bring home. You can get a hot boudin link or a bag of cracklin’ for grab-and-go snacks, while sandwiches and plate lunches could join the rotation later on.
“It’s that Cajun country butcher shop experience, that’s the niche we’re looking to fill,” said Rich Graham. “We want to be that place people hit on the way home.”
Links in the sausage circuit
The neighborhood butcher shop was once a fixture of New Orleans life, though there are far fewer now. Rarer still was a Cajun-style shop in this Creole city, but this category has been growing. The granddaddy of them locally is Gourmet Butcher Block in Gretna, which opened more than 20 years ago and has family ties back to Hebert’s Specialty Meats in Maurice. Much newer, but similar in style, is Boudreaux’s Boudin & Cajun Meats outside Mandeville. Each serves hot boudin by the link.
The Uptown butcher shop Cleaver & Co. most resembles a Cajun transplant on Fridays and Saturdays, when it adds bags of cracklin’ and hot boudin links as ready-to-eat snacks next to its take-home meats, which now includes a speciality in Louisiana-grown Wagyu beef.
Donald Link’s Butcher is more international, resembling an Italian salumeria and functioning as much as a café for sandwiches and drinks as a retail shop, but it can still send you off with thick andouille and hunks of tasso for the black pot and a hot boudin link to gobble in the car.
In Harahan, Emmett’s Fine Meats & Seafood is well supplied with the many stuffed, smoked and fresh regional butcher shop specialties (though no hot food). Head to LaPlace and there’s a dedicated circuit of butcher shops working the River Parishes’ own deeply-ingrained butcher shop tradition, which starts with plus-sized, very smoky andouille “sticks.”
In particular, Wayne Jacob’s Smokehouse doubles as a restaurant, putting its meats through the paces of gumbos, po-boys, plate lunches and more composed specials next to the butcher’s case.
Meanwhile, in the Marigny, Kris Doll, a well-known local butcher from the city’s charcuterie circuit, is putting the finishing touches on his own specialty butcher shop, Shank Charcuterie, which he plans to open at 2352 St. Claude Ave. Last spring, he opened a stand just across the street in the new St. Roch Market food court. His own stand-alone shop will serve as a production facility and also a retail shop and lunch counter with sandwiches and plates.
Fire and ice
Bourrée at Boucherie, which also made its debut this month in the former home of Café Nino, approaches the Cajun meat market from a different angle.
This project has been in the works for more than a year now from chef Nathanial Zimet, James Denio, and their crew at Boucherie, the popular restaurant located just next door. It’s a three-part prospect built around meats by the pound for home, fresh fruit daiquiris dispensed from swirling machines at the butcher counter and a short menu of snacks to eat on the spot, starting with chicken wings, fries, boudin, cracklin’ and spicy boiled peanuts.
Those daiquiris are distinctive (the hurricane is made with Earl Grey tea simple syrup, bitters and passion fruit). But the drinks don’t have anything on the boudin that Zimet is preparing here.
There are traditional links, and others that are are not exactly your parrain’s boudin. There’s one with chicken, duck tasso and black rice, for instance.
Another starts with pulled pork and adds a griddled, carnitas-style pork, too.
“Just getting into straight butchering for a market and not for the restaurant, it’s been so much fun,” Zimet said. “We’re going to do what we do, and see how people respond to it to decide what we do next.”
For its take-away meats, Bourrée has a more specialized selection than most butcher shops. The approach starts with whole hogs, sourced from the north shore’s Chappapeela Farms, which Bourrée turns into several types of bacon and country hams, pork flank steaks, trotters and headcheese, plus the boudin and cracklin for the grab-and-go business. There’s also Wagyu brisket, the same sort that Zimet uses for one of his signature dishes at Boucherie, and that’s just the beginning of the interchange possible between the chefs’ smokehouse and restaurant.
“In a sense, Bourrée will be Boucherie’s butcher,” said Denio.
It may also be a test track of sorts, as the Bourrée crew makes more specialty meat products that could become hot snacks at the shop or even dishes at the restaurant.
“Eventually, more of the stuff from the butcher case will make it to the menu,” Zimet said. “I can see us doing meat pies that you take home, or we drop them in the fryer here for you, stuff like that. I’m excited to see the evolution of this and think about what we can do.”
Follow Ian McNulty on Twitter @IanMcNultyNOLA.