Connecticut’s best butcher shop goes beyond simple cuts of meat

I have never told anyone my “bucket list” because it is so painfully lackluster. But the truth is I do not want to go on a photographic safari in Kenya or take the first civilian flight to the moon. I just want a good roast beef sandwich.

This may seem a simple request, but I have ordered a roast beef sandwich everywhere in the USA and except for one at Charlie the Butcher in Buffalo, N.Y., they are always disappointing. The Buffalo roast beef sandwich was so good I actually considered moving there so I could have one weekly.

You can imagine how delighted I was when I walked into Butcher’s Best Market and in the deli saw a high wide and handsome hunk of roast beef. It was pink in the middle and looked fresh as can be. I ordered it on a hard roll with nothing on it but salt and pepper. I can honestly say that since moving to Buffalo is not on my short list, I will be a regular at Butcher’s Best.

How I did not know about this place escapes me. I am, after all, a food critic and I often go to Newtown. I must have always been looking at the wrong side of the road because this large, handsome place (worth a trip) evaded me. To make things even more embarrassing Connecticut Magazine named Butcher’s Best the best Butcher Shop in 2017 and 2018. Helloooooo Jane, where have you been?

Butcher’s Best Market

125 South Main St., Newtown

The Butcher’s Best Market is first and foremost a butcher shop. They sell the best cuts of meat, every one inspected by the butchers at the shop. The meats are hormone free, all natural and they are “food porn” pink, juicy and unspoiled. What I like about the place is that unlike a supermarket where there are dozens of meats all wrapped in plastic ready to sell, at Butchers Best the meats are sold on an individual basis. They are selected by you, wrapped and trimmed by the butcher. It is like going back in a time capsule to simpler days.

I could linger on the meats, but that would be unfair to the rest of what is available here. I was delighted to see that there were meals to go. You can get a full meal, or as I did, parts of a meal. I got an exceptional red pasta sauce, mashed potatoes, cooked honeyed carrots, a few thick slices of meatloaf, and a container of pulled pork. I am going to go back for roasted turkey, macaroni and cheese and smoked brisket. This is not an anonymous food emporium, it is the vision of Steve Ford, the owner, and you get the feeling absolutely nothing is offered for sale that has not been curated by him.

Here the fish and seafood is called “Day Boat Products” because what is available has just been caught by local fisherman. Local is a key word at Butcher’s Best Market. Virtually everything from meat to seafood to dairy, fruits, and vegetables is sourced from local farms. The names of the farms and where they are in Connecticut is posted on a chalk board. It is authentic and well worth pulling yourself away from the supermarket and taking a detour here.

My first bite of the roast beef sandwich made one thing clear, I do not need to move to Buffalo. The roast beef sandwich is a classic roast beef sandwich, better then anywhere else I have eaten in our state, but looks just as you would expect unless you lived in upstate New York. To be clear, the Buffalo version is called “Beef on Weck,” a Buffalo specialty of thick-sliced roast beef on a salted caraway seeded Kimmelweck roll. Not exactly “apples and oranges” but these sandwiches and the ones at Butcher’s Best Market are first cousins in the wonderful world of roast beef.

Butcher’s Best Market is a delightful place to shop. It resembles a country store, but one that is spacious and has lots of elbow room. Being in there will put you in a good mood.

One bragging point at the market is their claim to have the best hamburger anywhere. Now this sounds like hyperbole, but why shouldn’t it be true? They are a well-known prize-winning butcher shop, and making a good patty out of freshly ground Angus beef should be a no-brainer. I am happy to report the burger is first rate.

I am funny when I order a hamburger or a roast beef sandwich. I do not want cheese, or mayo, or mustard, or pickles, or lettuce or tomatoes or pesto or onions. ... I want the meat on a bun or roll. I want the quality of the meat to speak for itself, not be disguised a la fast food burgers. After all, you can take inferior meat and add enough condiments and other things to make it taste good. But to me that is putting lipstick on a pig. By now I am used to the person behind the counter asking me repeatedly what I want on the burger. “I want the burger,” I reply and the looks I get are often the compassionate looks given to someone with a hideous stomach condition.

One thing that will lure me back to Butcher’s Best Market is that they change their offerings daily: prime rib one day, fried chicken the next, barbecue ribs to follow. I find this exciting because looking at the same olds same old everyday is tiresome.

I hope they win Best Butcher in 2019. If I vote, it will be for them.

Jane Stern is co-author of the Roadfood guide.