This week is a little different. Instead of finding seasonal food (nothing produce-wise is local yet in Illinois, thanks horrible winter), I found local food. It’s about as local as you can get, yet it’s one of the best-kept secrets around the University. What is it?
The Meat Salesroom.
The name is certainly not appetizing, but what’s going on inside is, if you’re a non-vegetarian. The Meat Salesroom, just west of PAR and FAR residence halls, is where meat butchered by University staff and students is sold. It’s housed in the Meat Science Lab and is easily passed/ignored if you never knew it existed.
I stumbled upon the Meat Salesroom on accident while Wikipedia-ing things to do around the University. You’d think a student would know what to do, but sometimes I’m just not that creative. I was reading through the “Buy” section and there it was. Being a huge meat eater constantly in search of local meats, I had to find out more.
After a Google search, I found more information about them and got myself on their email list. Only one thing was left. I had to go there. Immediately. So, I did.
I finished class at 2 o’clock and headed over to the Salesroom. I figured it was just inside the building and went through the entrance on the Maryland St. side. Those with the faint of heart, be warned. Do not go through the Maryland St. entrance.
I walked in to what appeared to be a “regular” building with no sign of the place. I got confused so I thought it might be behind one of the numerous doors. I started peeking through doors, which both piqued my curiosity and kind of frightened me. I have no problem with raw meat – touching it, working with it, eating it (steak tartare anyone?) – but I did find myself more than once essentially opening a door to the butcher room. Whoa.
After walking cautiously through the winding hallway, I finally ran into a student and asked where the Salesroom was. He was standing in it. Whoops. So, if you want to visit the Salesroom, enter through the South entrance that is clearly marked “Meat Salesroom”, otherwise you might find yourself face to face with numerous animals in various states of being butchered.
Once you get inside the Salesroom, however, it’s amazing that there’s this much stuff coming out of a University building. They have various cuts of pork, beef and lamb, as well as fresh eggs (sold by the tray at 30 eggs per tray), whole chickens, frozen meats, brats, sausage and bacon.
The pricing is great and the demand is high. I went in at around 2:15 and they had already sold out of the bacon and most of the lamb shoulders I was looking at. They had been open for just over an hour so if you are looking for something specific, I would definitely recommend getting there early.
The clientele is mainly adults – professors, individuals who work at the University and people from the surrounding towns. There were quite a few people in the shop when I was there and more came in after I left. It definitely draws a crowd!
The “menu” was overwhelming. There are probably 6 to 8 cuts of pork, beef and lamb, in addition to other products. I bought a pound of pork sausage to use for breakfast, mainly because I had no idea what kind of things they offered. At $1.71/lb, the Salesroom is definitely the place to go. I will without a doubt return and prepare to buy lots more stuff.
The sausage came frozen, which makes it easier to carry (and safer). To make breakfast sausage patties, I just took the package out of the freezer, let it sit out for a little bit to defrost and made slices without even unrolling the plastic. Then, when you’re ready to cook them, you can just unroll the wrapping and place them in the pan.
The sausage was juicy and flavorful; I would definitely recommend it. It would also would be a good substitute for Italian sausage in lasagna or for ground pork when making meatballs.