When I moved here 14 years ago, I took note of the butcher shops in town because I like interacting with an experienced butcher and asking questions about various cuts of meats, depending on my needs. What I love most is finding house specialties that can’t be found at a chain grocery store.
You might remember from last month’s column that I am a huge fan of A-1 Imported Groceries’ caprese sandwich. Their sandwiches are great, but their meat and poultry counter should not be glossed over when visiting because it is an inspirational sight for a variety of cooking explorations. The items that are uniquely theirs are the assortment of Italian sausages, which are perfect for grilling or cooking in marinara sauce to serve over pasta or polenta. Additionally, I like their cevapcici. Small Balkan rolls usually made with ground pork, beef, and lamb. Many years ago, I was told that Ante Bjazic makes the best cevapcici in town, and luckily, he is still hard at work at A-1. He makes plain rolls and others with parsley and garlic, which are outstanding.
I started going to South Shores Meat Shop based on a friend’s recommendation because of their impressive selection of meats, poultry, and seafood. After a trip to Denmark, I wanted to replicate a smørrebrød, a Danish open-faced sandwich I had at a restaurant with house-made roast beef. Owner Darko Skracic, a knowledgeable butcher, sent me home with the right cut of meat and cooking instructions. My favorite unique finds here are the kabobs — specifically the lamb, beef, chicken with garlic and parsley, barbeque chicken, and fish — some of which come with pieces of sweet onion and bell peppers. The skewers are easy to grill because they hold well and make for a flavorful meal to serve with salad or rice. As an Iranian, being attracted to meat, lamb, or chicken kabobs is predictable, but the fish kabob, made with house-seasoned swordfish delivered fresh twice a week, is superb. Last but not least, as a Croatian-owned establishment, they are well known for their cevapcici.
I recently invited Ana Jelenic, my favorite Pedro-born Croatian, to a crosstown cevapcici taste testing. We enjoyed our cevapcici with thinly sliced red onion tossed with fresh parsley and Podravka brand ajvar, a red pepper and eggplant relish recommended by Bjazic. Additionally, Jelenic baked lepinja. A traditional flatbread served with cevapcici (a similar bread, somun, can be found in South Shores’ freezer). She also made a refreshing coleslaw tossed with a delicious red wine vinegar dressing prepared by her mother, Miranda Jelenic. We found that A-1’s cevapcici has minimal fat and is well seasoned, while South Shores’ is bigger in size and fattier, resulting in a juicy meat roll.
My husband was introduced to La Perla Tapatia Meat Market by Heyday Elite Fitness, co-owned by San Pedro Today columnist Ricky Magana. For a time, we purchased their premade meals, which were great. In recent years, we have bought their prime-grade ribeye steaks, which is my preferred cut. Their carne asada is well seasoned and tender, while the flavorful al pastor seasoning is offered on pork as well as chicken wings. Their mango habanero wings are flavorful and spicy; when grilled or air-fried, the skin is delightfully crispy. The unique finds here are their prime-grade picanha, and occasionally they will carry a Wagyu cut as well. Picanha is a beloved Brazilian cut whose equivalent in the United States is sirloin cap, which is characterized by a thick layer of fat on one side with little marbling inside. They send you home with a rub to massage into the meat liberally (we like to add minced fresh garlic and let it rest overnight in the fridge). Grill the meat to rare or medium rare for the best flavor. They also have a small selection of Mexican food favorites prepared on site. Their popular T-City salad, loaded with an abundance of pollo or carne asada over a bed of lettuce, tomatoes, and cucumbers, is named after San Pedro-born professional UFC fighter Brian Ortega. Lastly, they offer a highly rated catering service under the name That Mexican Guy Catering Service. spt