A veteran of Maxbauer Meat Market in Traverse City, Mark Wilson had his eyes on swinging the boss cleaver for years when the opportunity finally arose in 2012. Mark’s meat savvy and customer service skills matched with his wife Stephanie’s business and culinary skills has business booming. We sit down with the Wilsons to talk butcher shop basics, giving back to the community and get a prime rib primer.

What’s the first question we should ask when visiting a butcher shop?

S: Rule #1 is don’t be intimidated. Ask the butcher where their meat comes from and how it’s raised. If you’re buying ground meat, make sure it was ground after it came into the store. Look in the case. All the beef should be red inside and out, anything grey or brown means it’s old.

M: If we cut a pork chop Thursday morning, it’s going into sausage if it hasn’t sold by Friday afternoon.

What three products can we use to measure a good meat counter?

M: Porterhouse steak, beef jerky and fresh bratwurst. The steak needs to be well-marbled and precisely trimmed. The jerky should be tender and not too salty, and when eating bratwurst you’ll immediately know if the sausage was made with fresh spices or a premix.

We know you sell a lot of meat but tell us about giving it away.

M: I’ve always felt called to impact hunger in our area. Since buying the store we’ve partnered with the Northwest Food Coalition. Through our own donations and by leveraging relationships with our vendors we’ve been able to supply tens of thousands of pounds of protein to local food banks.

I’m hosting a holiday dinner party, what’s on the menu?

S: Prime rib is probably the easiest holiday roast but there are a few things you’ll need: some of our roast beef rub, a remote oven thermometer and one of those 1970’s-style electric carving knives.

Run us the through the pre-oven prep … oh, and explain the electric knife.

S: Pull the roast out of your fridge at least four hours before you start cooking so it comes up to room temperature. Make sure you dry it with paper towel and then put on the rub. The salt is key to forming a great crust. The knife will get you perfect, uniform slices. Nobody wants a wedge cut.

Showstopper roast, check. What’s an easy way to up our potluck cred?

M: I got this one. Buy one of our four-pound rings of fresh polish sausage, dry it off, rub it with a little oil and put it in a shallow roasting pan with sauerkraut mounded on either side. 425 degree oven for 25–30 minutes and you’ll make a lot of friends.

Northern Michigan Meat Markets

Indulge your carnivore cravings at these quality independent meat markets.

Burritt’s Market
509 W. Front St., Traverse City, 231.946.3300

Toski Sands Market
2294 M-119, Petoskey, 231.347.1571

Plath’s Meats
116 S. Third St., Rogers City, 989.734.2232
2200 E. Mitchell Rd., Petoskey, 231.348.8100

Anderson’s IGA
6545 Western Ave., Glen Arbor, 231.334.3149

Honor Family Market
10625 Main St., Honor, 989.325.3360

Pleva’s Meats
8974 S. Kasson St., Cedar, 231.228.5000

L&J Meat Market
3901 S. Morey Rd., Lake City, 231.839.2176

Ebels General Store
420 E. Prosper Rd., Falmouth, 231.826.3333

Traverse food and drinks editor Tim Tebeau writes from Petoskey. // Dave Weidner is a freelance photographer based in Traverse City.

Traverse City Food & Drink

Photo(s) by Dave Weidner