I’m very excited about a new house in the Winter Park neighborhood. I don’t usually get excited about real estate, but this particular property is called the Meat House, and it’s on its way to filling a void this area has: high quality steaks, chops and other carnivorous needs, as well as myriad other gourmet food products. I wonder if they’ll rent me a room.
I say that it’s on its way to filling that void because it isn’t quite top-notch yet, but from what I’ve seen, the people involved will see that it gets there.
One big problem: the staff -- and there are a lot of staff -- aren’t all familiar with the inventory. That might be excused with some of the prepackaged items, but for a place called the Meat House, you have good reason to expect that the folks behind the meat counter know their meats. That wasn’t the case with the first young fellow who waited on me. I asked him to tell me about the cowboy steak that seemed to be winking at me and giving me come-hither looks through the glass. His response was that it was basically a t-bone.
Sorry, wrong answer. Luckily another young fellow standing next to him and waiting on another customer heard him and gave him the correct answer: the cowboy cut is a bone-in ribeye.
I wanted that young man to wait on me, so I told the first guy I wasn’t ready yet and that he should help someone else. He moved on, presumably to sell a prime rib as a rump roast.
When the knowledgeable young man had finished with his customer, I stepped up and asked if he could help me with my steak selection. His enthusiasm and knowledge were impressive. I decided not to get the cowboy cut because it was just too big (although the fellow volunteered that they would be happy to cut another at a smaller size). I selected a beautiful ribeye, opting for the choice grade at $11.99/lb. as opposed to the prime cut at $21.99.
I grilled it over hot charcoal and it was wonderful. I seriously can’t believe the prime cut would have been much better (certainly not 10 bucks better) but I think maybe next time I’ll try the prime just to compare.
Steaks aren’t the only thing the Meat House sells, nor is the sole product meat. In fact it calls itself a “neighborhood butcher & grocer,” though it won’t replace your local Publix. The bright, clean space reminded me of a mini Fresh Market, with myriad other food items, everything from sauces and dips to a few vegetable items. There are some cheeses, though not an extensive selection, and deli items. I was pleased to see duck confit in the refrigerated case. Every time I come across a recipe that calls for duck confit I lament that I can’t get it readily anywhere in Central Florida. Now I can.
Unfortunately the hapless meat man wasn’t the only one unfamiliar with the inventory. I asked the woman standing next to a large pickle jar with pickles the size of small logs if they were sours or half-sours. She admitted that she did not know and called over to another fellow nearby. They were half-sours, he told her with confidence. I love half-sours, and it’s easier to find duck confit in Central Florida that those delicious pickles. I told her I’d take one.
It was neither half-sour nor sour; it was simply a dill.
But all the staff members have enthusiasm, and there is an obvious goal to provide good customer service and to bring back the long lost tradition of a neighborhood butcher.
I’m not sure a franchise operation (the Meat House is New Hampshire based) can fully accomplish that. But I’m hoping it can.
The Meat House is at 669 N. Orange Ave., Winter Park. It’s open daily from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Here’s a link the Meat House website. The phone number is 407-629-6320.