Old Fashioned Butcher Shop – Smitty’s

Back when a mere 99 pounds seemed “chubby” for my frame, gramma would regularly take me on a tour of specialty butcher shops back home; I tell you, I felt like the grandson of a celebrity whenever we would walk into one. At the sight of gramma, smiling faces would call out from behind the meat counter, “How ya doin’, Alice? Who’s that “little” guy?” To be greeted so warmly would only be topped by the “free treat” headed my way upon arrival -­- a natural-­-casing hot dog for me to chomp on; a cunning diversion to keep me quiet as gramma conducted her business and caught up on everyone else’s! Shops like that have all but disappeared…ALMOST…

Four years ago I searched to locally procure an elusive ingredient: caul fat (a delectably lacey, pork-­-fat webbing). Although I can hear you asking, “What in the world did you use that for?”, just stay tuned for my “Best Kept Holiday Secrets” article in October! What I can tell you now is that all of the “butchers” I contacted in my gourmand scavenger hunt simply told me, “We don’t carry that,” all except Smitty’s Old Fashioned Butcher Shop (owned by David Crumbaker since 1974) where I reexperienced childhood in their tucked-­-away, sawdust-­-laden, 1930’s-­-reminiscent storefront. I realized upon arrival that this place was a rare gem -­- greeting their guests by name, Smitty’s staff is knowledgeable and recalls their regulars’ preferences before they even ask! Smitty’s is South Florida’s treasure trove of superior-­-quality, Nebraska Prime or Japanese Kobe beef and hard-­-to-­-find, superior butchered items like Colorado & Australian lamb, USDA pork belly and buffalo. Call-­-ahead for game specialties like ostrich, venison, elk, alligator, caribou, antelope, and for all you Two Fat Ladies fans there’s wild boar, rabbit, capons, Cornish game hen, Guinea fowl, pouissin, bobwhite quail, squab, partridge, pheasant, grouse, goose, Muscovy & Long Island Peking duck and a myriad of rich demi-­-glaces! They even grind their own sausages: hot & sweet Italian and fresh Polish kielbasa made with a traditional recipe including marjoram, a sweet herb high in antioxidants like its “cousin” oregano. King and snow crabs, in season, line Smitty’s cases and almost six thousand pounds of free-­-range, organic turkeys arrive in time for Thanksgiving and Christmas. That explains why David and his staff are all in such good shape!

If you’re hungry for more, let me tell you about their beefeater’s dream: a 12” Long-­-Bone Kobe Ribeye Tomahawk Chop which looks prehistoric -­- right out of The Flintstones -­- which is comical because David refers to himself as a dinosaur. Out of pride for their consistent quality, David inspects all of Smitty’s monstrous slabs of fresh, never frozen meat upon delivery three times each week and quips, “While everyone else is out selling Chevys, I sell Rolls Royces.” It’s not bragging, it’s a fact. While less expensive meats are hormone-­-laden and fed with fillers to keep prices low, David knows his prices will be slightly higher because of the quality feed used to nourish his suppliers’ livestock – paying for quality now staves off paying for ingesting the wrong foods later on.

When I met David I knew he would be a steak purist: salt, pepper, maybe roasted garlic powder, but nothing more. He rightly cringes at the thought of anyone submerging his aged, prime cuts in a marinade, but take the advice of my own customers who insist that adding just a dusting of our PORCINI RUB produces a char that amplifies the inherent “umami” flavor (the 5th taste referred to as “meatiness”) without disguising it on a prime steak like a Delmonico Ribeye, David’s and a his customers’ favorite cut.

So why is Smitty’s still a secret? Truth be told, most specialty food shops are solely known by-­-word-­-of-­-mouth; their aura of exclusivity (which might be why Dionne Warwick was a repeat customer) can make some feel intimidated, but when everyone is welcome with open arms that deceptive image disappears. Spreading the word should be easy David jested, “Good news spreads more quickly in my butcher shop than in a beauty salon. A lady came in glowing and told me she was pregnant, when I asked how excited her husband was, she said he didn’t know yet!” David was flabbergasted, “Next time, go tell your husband first, then come tell me!” It’s this type of comradery that transports me back to a simpler time with gramma. Smitty’s regulars are loyal because David and his staff make it effortless to become friends with your butcher. Their passion is evident and you can count on a well rested staff each week, as their door sign proudly promises: “CLOSED MONDAY, SUNDAY RESERVED FOR CHURCH, BRONC RIDIN’, CALF ROPIN’ & FISHIN’” -­- it doesn’t get any more refreshing or local than that!

Call or visit Smitty’s at (954) 771-9341, 1980 NE 45th Street, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33308, or visit their website at  www.smittysmeatsandwines.com.

Contributed by: Paul Rydza, Proprietor of The Spice Quarter on Las Olas at The Intracoastal “Broward’s ORIGINAL Spice, Herb, Balsamic and Olive Oil Tasting Shop” thespicequarter@email.com