Meadowlark Butcher Pops Up around Boston While Hunting for a Storefront

Find the startup, whole-animal butcher shop's sausages at your favorite breweries this year.

Meadowlark Butcher's Max Gitlen

Meadowlark Butcher’s Max Gitlen. / Photo by Tim Newman

Eventually, Max Gitlen is excited to invite local omnivores to try tender, flavorful merlot steaks, culottes, and other more unfamiliar cuts at his whole-animal butcher shop, Meadlowlark Butcher & Grocer. But the butcher recently moved back to the Boston area—and what better way to get settled and make friends than to bring along trays of delicious sausages?

As Meadowlark Butcher, Gitlen is popping up at breweries around the city with a taste of what’s to come at his future shop. He introduced his concept last Friday at Trillium Garden at the Substation, and has events coming up at Mystic and Lamplighter taprooms in the next couple weeks.

“As we’ve been hunting for a location, I’ve been antsy to start doing this work in Boston, building relationships with customers and other businesses,” Gitlen says.

When he started brainstorming what could work as a pop-up, sausages were the obvious choice. “It’s a great expression of what the art of butchering is,” he says.

Gitlen demonstrates his No. 1 goal of sustainability—the tubes make use of less desirable cuts of pork, beef, chicken, etc. He can show off culinary creativity, with a rotating range of flavors from Mexican-style chorizo verde, to a Wisconsin-style cheddar-beer bratwurst, “porchetta” (fennel-herb pork), and even scallion and Chinese five-spiced chicken sausages. And of course, a sausage sandwich pairs perfectly with beer.

“It’s light, easy—I can be high-minded about [butchering], but the truth is, it’s fun and delicious,” Gitlen says.

Cheddar bratwurst topped with Hosta Hill Crimson Kraut and grainy mustard from Meadowlark Butcher

Cheddar bratwurst topped with Hosta Hill Crimson Kraut and grainy mustard from Meadowlark Butcher. / Photo provided

Gitlen started learning the craft of butchering more than a handful of years ago. He was working for the Food Project, an eastern Mass. non-profit behind a variety of programs around sustainable agriculture. There, Gitlen had several roles, including fundraising and program administration. But he eventually learned “I really like making food and working directly with customers,” he says.

Over the years, he met many organic vegetable farmers—and his father even started raising sheep as a hobby on his land in upstate New York. But when Gitlen started looking for a source for sustainably sourced meats around Boston, he came up short.

So, he left the Food Project, and started an apprenticeship at Formaggio Kitchen. From there, he got other food-service experience, including time at Matt Jennings’ Farmstead in Providence. Gitlen eventually made his way westward and started working with chef Jeremy Stanton at Fire Roasted Catering, and the Meat Market in Great Barrington.

“Those businesses really gave me the opportunity to figure out how to make a whole-animal butcher shop work,” Gitlen says. Though the Meat Market has since shuttered, “I feel really proud of what we were doing out there, but for me the message was clear I needed a bigger market to make it work.”

Hence, back to Boston. The eventual plan for the shop is to buy whole animals directly from farmers—grass-fed beef and lamb, heritage breed pork raised on pasture—and process them in-house. A similar model is M.F. Dulock in Somerville, Gitlen notes.

“Whenever the farmer starts selling you [animal] parts, other parts are stacking up in their freezer,” Gitlen says. “It takes some ingenuity and special care to figure out how to market all of that. We need to be creative about the cuts to be able to give the grass-based meat farmer enough money to do what they do.”

He plans to do house-smoked bacon and ham, roast beef, and other specialty products that will require a kitchen buildout, so Gitlen is taking his time finding the right space. In the meantime, it’s all about the sausage.

Gitlen plans to offer three flavors, nestled into large, eggy brioche rolls from Hearth Baking in Plymouth, during every event. He’ll rotate through his recipes, and try new things. Each sausage is paired with with a homemade caramelized onion mostarda, Hosta Hill sauerkraut, or other appropriate accompaniments. Follow @MeadowlarkButcher on Facebook and Instagram to keep up-to-date on the weekly events.

Meadowlark Butcher in the Taproom, Saturday, Jan. 27, 3-7 p.m., Mystic Brewery, 174 Williams St., Chelsea, Facebook.

Meadowlark Sausage Pop-Up, Thursday, Feb. 1, 6-9 p.m., Lamplighter Brewing Co., 284 Broadway, Cambridge, Facebook.

A sausage board by Meadowlark Butcher

A sausage board by Meadowlark Butcher. / Photo provided