Our city has long been known as a destination for charcuterie, offal, and assorted carnivorous delights. But here in 2022, things have gone pure maximalist: a slate of new openings sit alongside decades-old favorites, meaning that Portland’s chopping block positively runneth over with a surfeit of outstanding butcher shops, farm to table chop shops, carnicerias, meat counter-restaurant hybrids, and other assorted homages to all things beefy.
The fine line between butcher shop and dinner table has become well and truly blurred, with many of the region’s finest meat cases lurking inside restaurants and well-appointed grocery stores. But we’re also home to a number of avowedly old school joints, singularly focused on the abattoir arts, some even sourcing directly from their own family farms.
Whatever you’re looking for, from the dry-aged to the braise-ready, you’ll find it in one of Portland’s fine butcher shops. Here’s a crosscut of the region’s very best.
Theotis Cason is a living legend in the Portland butcher shop scene, a man whose legacy advocating for high-quality, flavorful, well-sourced meat and poultry cannot be understated. He oversees the daily operations at Cason’s Meat Market—“Celebrating four generations of family, faith, and flavor”—which in 2019 moved from its decades-long original location in Kenton to a brand new, gleamingly clean and modern space on the corner of Alberta and Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd. Inside you’ll find chickens from Draper Valley Farms, meat products from Carlton Farms, and cuts of just about any kind of beef you’d ever need, from oxtail to porterhouse to smoked Louisiana hot links and BBQ marinated steaks. Also in the case, look for enormous smoked turkey legs like something out of a Renaissance Fair fever dream, and some of the city’s best pork sausage, delicately herbal and flecked with flavorful red pepper flakes and sage. Hot food to go is also really popular here. On Fridays they fry fish, on Saturdays there are BBQ pork ribs, and through it all is Mr. Cason, the Portland butchery icon, who might offer some kind words of sympathy to you should you be wearing, say, a Seattle Mariners baseball cap in his presence: “At least you have some steak!” 5015 NE Martin Luther King Jr Blvd
Transportive, genuinely retro, and beloved, no story on Portland’s butcher shop scene would be complete without paying tribute to the meaty monument that is Gartner’s. Opened in 1959, this place is a multi-generational institution, but it’s more than just living history—Gartner’s remains a delightful place to shop (note that as of May 2022, its interior is temporarily closed for a few weeks for renovations, but customers can still order meats for pickup). Here, you will find 35+ varieties of house smoked sausage, an overflowing deli case of housemade lunchmeats (including my favorite pastrami in the city), and a broad cross-selection of cuts, smoked chops, marinated meats and rubbed poultry. The shop’s selection of meat packs make a particularly welcome entry point (just be sure to add some pepper jerky). And yes, the shop’s custom game processing services are still proudly offered, including “deer, elk, moose, bear” and “etc.”—whatever that may be, these folks will cut and clean for you on demand. If you’ve got a spare invitation, I’ll bring the wine for your next moose roast; for the rest of us, there’s plenty to choose from and experiment with at Gartner’s, to which the last 60+ years of Portland carnivores can happily attest. 7450 NE Killingsworth St
The Portland area has several very good carnicerias—including Kaah Carniceria inside the Portland Mercado, and La Norteña in Beaverton—but I really dig the busy, maximalist vibe and expansive selection on offer at La Tapatia, a multi-service market located just on the Portland side of the PDX-Gresham border. The marinated meat selection looks like some heavenly carnivorous fruit cocktail: Cornish game hens luxuriating in oranges and onions, pastor studded with pineapple chunks, and gorgeous fajita mixes topped generously with red and green peppers. This is just the start; I dream of a couple of pounds of La Tapatia’s marinated flap steak atop a grill fuming with El Gallito charcoal (sold here), alongside a nice cold beer from the market’s expansive selection. There are also many, many traditional cuts of pork and beef available, from cabeza to cachete (cheek) to oreja (ear) and molleja (gizzard), all of it vividly displayed and tended to by La Tapatia’s small army of helpful butchers. But part of going to La Tapatia is everything else you get: pastries on weekend mornings from the incredible in-house bakery, pastel-pink fresas en crema for my five-year-old from the cold case, a dozen limes for future cocktail-making back home, a little plate of tacos al vapor from the restaurant in the back, maybe some grilled corn from the vendor out front…I could go on. You will leave with more than you came for—on my last visit the lady in front of me checking out was holding the most beautiful, elaborately delicate creamy whole cake, summoning three shades of tres leches envy in me—and that is part of the fun. 18330 SE Stark St
Laurelhurst Market opened in 2009, and in the decade-plus since has become an important part of the city’s butcher shop landscape. It is also, and not coincidentally, one of the city’s best steakhouses, effectively knocking down the wall between butcher and chef, and highlighting the many natural overlaps that can be found between these two worlds. They do a little bit of everything and they do it well here, from chops to steaks to charcuterie and deli meat, packing a lot into a relatively small space. Tuesday is fried chicken day and it is not to be missed. Also, though not necessarily known as a smoker or house of barbecue, the smoked Andouille and Louisiana Boudin sausages here are outstanding and very much worth adding to your order. And in a competitive field, I think Laurelhurst is the city’s best purveyor of housemade deli meat, in particular the smoked turkey and German bologna. Also notable: the butcher chop salad with turkey and salami is a sneaky star on the daily menu. Suffice to say this place rewards repeat return, something I’m very happy to continue doing (especially on fried chicken Tuesdays). 3155 E Burnside St
This Hillsboro butcher shop was early to the pasture-to-counter trend—like, really early. The Meating Place opened in 1974; today it is a sprawling compound that includes a full-service deli café with excellent sandwiches, and one of the region’s top butcher shops. The selection here is broad, sprawling across beef, poultry, and pork, and the shop’s house marinated selections have a dedicated following (the teriyaki chicken is especially good). But the stars here are the top-shelf cuts: The Meating Place prides itself on a daily selection of excellent local grass-fed beef from Laney Family Farms, Oregon wagyu from Mason Hill, and a regionally notable in-house dry aging program, managed on-site with a broad range of cuts available. TMP’s dry aged grass-fed beef is as good as anything you’ll find on one of those Instagram direct-to-consumer meat websites, and without the shipping costs. Be sure to ask what else is available beyond the case, as there are often special cuts held back for discerning consumers. If you’re looking for a showpiece cut of steak—like for an anniversary or a dinner meant to impress in the pursuit of future anniversaries—The Meating Place is your happy place. 6585 NW Cornelius Pass Rd, Hillsboro
Another exciting newcomer to the Portland butcher shop scene, Piccone’s Corner has settled nicely into the butcher shop-restaurant hybrid model, with a focus on whole-animal butchery and meat sourced from tiny family farms in the Willamette Valley. This includes the Piccone family’s own Wallow & Root pig farm in Sandy, overseen by owner Austin Piccone, making for a rare example of a pasture-to-counter model all under one family name. There is rightly a lot of excitement around the food here—a Wallow & Root pork chop is a must, but the “chopped cheese” sandwich is a favorite as well. On the butcher side look for outstanding tiny-production beef from Birkeland Farm in Beavercreek, plus grass-fed lamb from Crane Creek Ranch in Roseburg. In a city awash with delicious cured ham, Piccone’s is a standout—you can taste the quality of that Wallow & Root pork, and the combination of brine and smoke here is executed deftly, without artifice or interference with the baseline porky goodness. Sliced ham here is ready and waiting to layer back home on a sandwich of your choice or maybe diced into some scrambled eggs and peppers. 3434 NE Sandy Blvd #200
Kei Ohdera and John Schaible’s new whole animal butchery, Pasture, is the newest edition to Portland’s thriving butcher shop scene. Following a successful 2021 pop-up at Tails & Trotters in 2021, Pasture opened on Alberta Street in early 2022, and has quickly become one of the city’s buzziest lunchtime destinations. So far, the butcher counter selection is concise and focused, with the duo’s sausages being especially notable—think duck, chicken and pickled carrot, or potato, beef, and pork—along with less common cuts of lamb and beef, all sourced with a focus on regenerative agriculture. But it is the sandwiches and composed plates here that really steal the show, including the shop’s outstanding smoked pork shoulder Cubano riff, classic mortadella, salami & provolone dressed with cherry peppers and onions, and daily specials, like a recent smoked chicken salad with Mama Lil’s peppers and melted cheese. Your wait for a table will be worth it. 1413 NE Alberta St
Tucked away in the back of Providore Market, the counter at Revel Meat may quietly be the city’s best all-around butcher shop experience. Revel’s corner inside Providore underwent considerable expansion in late 2021, and today it is a full-service butcher shop offering a range of cuts and chops, from dry aged New York steaks to lesser-seen offerings like Santa Fe or Spider, a particularly delicious naturally marbled cut (with an unappealing name) taken from the inside of a cow’s hip bone. My family swears Revel’s smoked bacon is the city’s best for the construction of bacon sandwiches; I cannot help but order a pound or so of Revel’s in-house marinated meats each time I visit, in particular the shop’s excellent bulgogi and Tuscan rosemary pork chops. Pair this with some verdant vegetables from Providore’s outstanding green grocer, Rubinette Produce, and maybe some nice fresh pasta from the Pastaworks fresh counter, and you’ve got a home dinner situation par excellence. 2340 NE Sandy Blvd
They do exactly one thing at Tails & Trotters, and that’s pork—lots of pork, finished on a diet of hazelnuts, then presented in a hundred styles or more, from chops to sausages to pates and charcuterie. It’s fascinating to see the level of focus and dedication here, speaking elegantly to the many uses of the wonderfully versatile hog. For me, there’s three things that bring me back to Tails & Trotters: a classic, center cut pork chop, redolent with creamy white fat, displaying the quality and flavor of the pork; a simple ham, Dijon, and butter baguette sandwich, available for quick takeaway at the counter; and the shop’s weepingly perfect, subtle, wonderful Cumberland sausage, which is cheaper than a flight to London and ready for your own homemade breakfast of dreams. There’s more—the pulled pork! the chorizo verde! the lonza!—but it’s those perfect pork chops that keep me coming back, and the unctuous simple perfection of that baguette sandwich. 525 NE 24th Ave