Chow, Baby: Wednesday, August 29, 2002
Bones to Pick

What do people who don’t hold grudges do with all their free time? Chow, Baby occasionally broods over this thought whilst trekking to meat market, farmers’ market, rail market, and public market, dodging intrusive “loyalty” cards here, too-cool-for-school yuppiemarts there, and miscellaneous grievances all over town. Oh, for the days of carefree, anonymous one-stop shopping at national grocery chains. Oh, for the days when Austintatious “gourmet” stores stocked merely a couple dozen cheeses, maybe two types of prosciutto, and zero hipper-than-thou attitudes. Now it takes a week for Chow, Baby to do its weekly shopping. That’s OK. Marketing the Parisian way may suck up time and gas but pays off in freshness and taste.

It’s best to think of Roy Pope Grocery, in Arlington Heights, not as a store but as an interactive projection of a future world where inflation is so out of control that even Whole Foods’ prices seem reasonable by comparison. Chow, Baby loves to visit now and then, to rub elbows with the household staff of Fort Worth’s wealthiest families and to buy seriously prime steaks at the museum shop. On a recent expedition Chow, Baby asked for two nice T-bones and was handed a package marked $21.90. “Not all that bad for supper à deux,” thought Chow, Baby. “Here’s your other steak,” said the butcher. Oh, but those were some fine, melt-in-the-mouth, $15.99/lb hunks of beef.

Klein Meat Co., in contrast, is a throwback to the 1940s. The building is in Fort Worth’s newly trendy industrial area around White Settlement and Henderson, but it’s on Cullen, the bleak northern edge. Hard to imagine upscale auto lots and stylized restaurants moving in. The prices sure haven’t kept up with the times: Chow, Baby scooped up a couple of choice T-bones for $6.60/lb. — not quite as stellar as Roy’s, true, but at least Chow, Baby didn’t have to take out a loan this time. Steak, chicken, pork, steak, you name it, all at eerily low prices. In fact, Klein’s beef tenderloin seems identical to the stuff that “gourmet” stores are selling for three times as much. How do they do it? The counterwoman gave a well-duh shrug and eye roll: “We don’t rip people off.” A hoot ’n’ a holler, that one is, as Grandpa Klein might have said.

Don’t be afraid of the “Financing Available” signs outside Country Meat Market in Handley; that’s for their “Buy a Side of Beef, We’ll Throw in the Freezer” deals. (Chow, Baby made up that phrase, but they’re welcome to use it.) Everything’s available by the pound as well. Choice rib eyes, T-bones, and strip steaks are cut to spec; the ones on display are an inch thick, gorgeously marbled, and usually cost less than $10 pound. Prime is a couple bucks more. Great meat, good prices — add a genuinely nice and helpful staff, and you’ve got Chow, Baby’s choice for a grade-A prime meat market. Carpool to East Lancaster, anybody?

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