If you’re like me and grew up around Eastern-European family, you know that it’s pronounced kah-bah-see and that it’s best served with a little sauerkraut and spicy mustard.
You then also probably know that the traditional neighborhood butcher shops that serve up this sausage delight, among other smoked and cured meaty goodness, are now few and far between. A recent article in the Times, The Lost Art of Buying From a Butcher, examined this disappearing breed and asserted that patronizing a local butcher, as opposed to a big box supermarket, not only gets you tastier meat, but saves you money as well (even as far back as 1966, the Times was looking at the vanishing butcher). Luckily for GVSHP staffers, we only have to walk around the corner to purchase some country ham and blueberry blintzes.
The East Village Meat Market, located at 139 2nd Avenue near East 9th Street, has been serving up traditional Ukrainian staples for over forty years. The building which houses East Village Meat market was erected in 1900 by noted East Village architect Michael Bernstein as an Old Law Tenement which housed 23 families (prior to that, the site was home to “the Lying-In Hospital,” a branch of the New York Hospital started in 1799 amid the yellow fever epidemic to care for expectant mothers….but that’s a story for another day). Julian Baczynsky immigrated to the U.S. in 1950 from the Ukraine and settled in the East Village/Lower East Side, which was a hub for Eastern European immigrants. He then opened the East Village Meat Market in 1970.
Now 86 years old, Mr. Baczynsky has made his shop an anchor of the Slavic community in the neighborhood. He’s friendly with the owners of Veselka (a fellow Ukrainian establishment) across the street and most of the men who work the counter are of Ukrainian ancestry (the manager of the shop is Andrew Ilnicki). Shelves are filled with products such as borscht mix and cherry jam that are imported straight from Poland or the Ukraine.
This past May, the East Village Meat Market gained huge exposure by serving up their carnivorous delicacies at the Governor’s Island Food & Beer Festival. And in just a few days the shop will be holding kielbasa tastings in store as part of Meat Week 2011. Mr. Baczynsky’s hams are also quite famous. Brined and smoked in-house, these juicy cuts are serious business: “these hams soak in their salt solution for two weeks, hang in the smokehouse for 12 hours, and are then glazed a burnished brown with caramelized sugar,” according to a 2006 Times article.
Supporting local businesses such as this is increasingly important as more of the neighborhood is lost to gentrification and development (see how else you can help to save the East Village). The East Village Meat Market is the last of its kind in a neighborhood that was once full of similar establishments- two of the most notable that we have lost were B&M Meat Market of 111 1st Avenue and Kurowycky Meat Products of 124 1st Avenue.
Stay tuned for the history of these butcher shops….and in the mean time, head over to the East Village Meat Market and get yourself a smoked ham sandwich on rye!