If you’ve lived here long enough, you probably remember the days of loading up on meat from the Mead Ranch booth during the summer farmers market and freezing it to have fresh, I-know-where-they-came-from steaks and burgers throughout the winter. Those were the days before local speciality markets such as Sweet Cheeks Meats. Never has there been a better time for grocery shopping locally.
“We’re getting back to the idea of doing everything by hand,” said owner Nick Phillips, who opened the old-school style butcher with his wife, Nora, in the fall.”I like to say old school is the new school.” The Scott Lane shop was founded on the principles of humanity, sustainability and community.
So what exactly does that mean? Sweet Cheeks brings in whole animals that were raised locally or regionally (Carter Country Meats, Mead Ranch, Lockhart Cattle Co., Jackson Hole Hereford Ranch and Robinson Family Farms) in an ethical and humane manor. Phillips utilizes the entire animal (everything from trotters, skin, head and organs) in their retail case and prepared foods. The result is twofold: They create as little waste as possible while simultaneously connecting the rancher/grower/producer to the end consumer.
“We are the branch between the two to help inform and educate, from growing practices of the producer, to dietary demands of the consumer,” he said. The consumer also benefits by their sustainable practices, in that prices are reasonable, particularly for their grab-n-go foods, just $5. They are able to keep those prices low because much of what goes into the grab-n-go is a byproduct from the retail case. The pricing is based on them being able to move a volume of product to an immediate consumer so that they utilize every usable part of the animal and have minimal waste.
Almost nothing at Sweet Cheeks goes to waste, and that’s a lot. These days they are selling through one cow and three pigs a week. Lucky customers who time it right can buy bones for broth and dog treats for just $2 a pound (Phillips won’t save them for you, however. If you’re there when he has them, they’re yours.) Short on time? Just buy their pre-made stocks, which they also use for their daily soup and as the base for their braising liquid and enchilada sauce (the enchiladas are filled with what’s left of the lunch carnitas special). And any leftover chorizo? That goes into house-made queso dip. Make sure to follow their Instagram for great shots of their products and their daily breakfast and lunch specials (it’s also where we grabbed all of these pics).
But the grab-n-go items are really just the byproduct of the main act: their butcher case. Phillips, a Reno-trained butcher, wants to turn people onto cuts they may be unfamiliar with, like bavette, zabuton or top sirloin. “People always ask for filet, but in my opinion top sirloin has better flavor, it’s not as tender but it’s very close, and it’s 60 percent of the price,” he said.
Some of their hottest products include house-made meatballs, smoked meatloaf and smoked whole chickens. What’s not used for steaks and other cuts is ground, resulting in one of their top sellers. “Meatloaf is a great end of the road,” he said. “We didn’t plan on making it, but people go crazy for it. We’re no longer using up product to make meatloaf, we are creating product to make meatloaf.” And the smoking? That wasn’t really planned — they started smoking the meatloaf because they don’t have an oven. Now customers don’t want it any other way.
Their breakfast burritos started out similarly. Nora Phillips had some gravy leftover from biscuits and gravy. One morning while she was making a burrito, she threw a scoop in there. Now that is the only way burritos are served. People go crazy for it and come in daily for one.
Below, a few other highlights from the butcher case:
Where: 185 Scott Lane
Contact: 307.203.0725, firstname.lastname@example.org