When I lived in Argentina, I probably ate red meat every day. That's not hyperbole. Beef was by far the cheapest protein available, and it's quality was generally unrivaled. It is true that most of the beef I ate in those days was not flesh from the glorified, pampas-grazing cattle of old, but it was still better then anything one could pick up in a shrink-wrapped package in an American supermarket. One of the reasons being was that on every other corner in Buenos Aires one could find a butcher. Not just butchers, of course, there were also green grocers, fish mongers, bakers, etc. In other words, specialty shops just like in days of yore. Except that stores of that sort are still the everyday norm in Argentina. Sure, you could take a bus to a huge box store designed to emulate the supermarkets here stateside. You could even find one or two Walmarts in the city. In general though, your everyday meat and vegetable needs, not to mention bread, were handled by specialists. If you wanted meat, you walked into the butcher and saw what cuts he had available, or asked what he could saw off the carcass hanging in the back. Then you'd indicate the amount of the cut you wanted. It was then cut for you, weighed, and given to you in a little plastic bag with a little piece of paper stapled to it indicating what you would pay. This dynamic is what I miss most.
In many cities in the United States, it has become a trend to try and revive butchery as a everyday facet of life. I think you can probably thank the hipsters for it. Still though, they aren't popping up on every corner, and certainly not in Savannah. In fact, as far as I know, there are only two true butchers in the town (and one place that specializes in game meat, but I don't know in what capacity.) It most certainly isn't convenient to get your meat from a place you have to plan a trip too. That being said, Smith Brothers downtown on Liberty might be worth the trip.
They are a new affair, at least in their current incarnation and location, opening in 2015. The people responsible apparently had a grocery store out in the Landings for some time before moving downtown to focus solely on butchery. When you walk in, the meat focus is immediately apparent as three beautiful, flesh-filled glass cases surround a central room where, when I walked in one day, the meats were being broken down in full view behind large glass windows. You could literally stand there and watch how the sausage is made, because they do indeed make sausages. The store is full of other non-meat related items which really give it the air of "gourmet" shop, or in other words, a fancy place where everything is expensive. It sure looks really nice, though.
I was not there for meat, per se. I was there to check out their "counter", where Mon-Sat during lunch they serve a limited selection of meaty sandwiches, as well as a few side dishes. Scope this nice, clean menu and admire its simplicity:
They snuck that falafel one on the bottom there for that one person who goes to a butcher shop to get a vegetarian sandwich. You know that person. Her name is probably Karen, and nobody likes her. From the minute I saw that menu I was locked in on the porchetta. I had a real existential crisis though as I waited for my sandwich, looking at the beautiful roast beef and pastrami that could have been...next time, I promised. I'm a sucker for beets, so I grabbed a side of the beautiful looking salad. I noticed some "craft" sodas in the refrigerator that purported to be from Savannah, some company called Verdant Kitchen. I don't normally care about such beverages, but they had a few varieties of ginger beer, which I've loved since childhood--the spicier the better. Thus it was hard to pass up something named "Artillery" with "hot spiced" in the title.
It was fine. I wouldn't buy it again since, as with most "craft" sodas, it lacked sufficient carbonation. It really wasn't very spicy either. Like I said though, fine.
The very first thing that hit me when I bit into my sandwich was pork--or I should say PORK. Immediately I knew that Smith Brothers was not fooling around when it came to the meat. You know what I mean when I tell you that the pork tasted real, because no doubt you've had supermarket pig meat that has about the same flavor profile as tofu. There is a reason they tried to sell pork as a "white meat" back in the day. Smithfield and company new the bland chops of factory pigs would appeal to the same kind of lunatics who prefer chicken breast.
Once you get past the pork you can enjoy the toothy, crusty bread upon which it lays; semolina bread the menu claimed. It was just as good as the pork, and maybe the best bread I've eaten in Savannah. The woman behind the counter told me that the "chef" made it in house daily. So I guess the butcher shop has a chef who can bake. I'll let you do with that information what you will. If you've ever been to Philly and had a roast pork sandwich, particularly the upscale versions sold at Paisano's in the Italian Market, then you know what this porchetta was all about. To keep the pig company is some broccoli rabe and a lot of cheese and aioli. So much so that this beast of a sandwich was swimming. I didn't mind though, because the bread was up to the challenge.
Beets are nature's candy disguised as a vegetable, and the beet salad at Smiths may as well be dessert. I loved every bite as much as the sandwich, which is madness. The menu said tahini but that day my salad had walnuts and goat cheese, which is pretty typical. The ratios were perfect though, and the ample fresh dill was pleasant on the eye and the tongue. I will be back just for these beets. Man I love beets. One of the best dishes I ate in Chicago a few weeks back was beets at Publican. I digress...
I will no doubt be back soon to find out if these butcher-chef-bakers know how to do pastrami, and when I do I will update you accordingly. Summary judgement, Smith Bros is a great place for lunch and probably a great place to get your meat too, if you have the time and expendable income.