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Best Butcher Shop

Reay's Markets
Three (soon-to-be four) locations

READERS' AND STAFF PICK: For some, there is no politically correct meat to eat. But for others of us, we simply want to know that the critters we're about to devour weren't crowded, beaten or otherwise terrorized before they made it to our tables. Call it carnivorian rationalization, but we like the idea of range-fed chickens (the hens get to roam around a big area and don't have to be exposed to pesticides, antibiotics, hormone flooding and other icky stuff). The confidence we see at the meat counter at Reay's resembles the hometown butchers' pride some of us oldtimers remember from the Midwest. But where it was mostly red meat at those shops of yesteryear, at Reay's you'll see a lot more fresh fish, shellfish, poultry, even live lobsters. The meat-cutters see their work, at least outwardly, as art and their pride shows in the presentation and explanation. We don't really want to think too hard about this stuff; it's their job, so let them do the figuring. All you need to do is give 'em a ring, tell 'em you're expecting 15 adults and four children for holiday brisket, can they have your meat ready when you get there. They'll not only wrap it up, they'll offer you cooking tips and sincerely wish you enjoyment as they hand the package across the case. Reay's opened a new store in March, at 7025 E. Tanque Verde Road. And a fourth local store is scheduled to open October 11, at 7133 N. Oracle Road.

READERS' POLL RUNNER-UP: Dreher's Quality Meats & Sausage, 7340 E. Broadway.

CAT'S MEOW: Ready to fling the Exercycle out the window and flee shrieking from the "Healthy Choice" aisle of your supermarket? Stop at Sambo's Meat Market en route, they of the blessedly un-PC name and equally fashion-defying inventory. This is the stuff the Food Police won't let you have anymore. Part-butcher shop, part-independent market stocking beer, sodas, tortillas, fresh chiles and snacks, places like this are a vanishing element on the urban landscape. Unlike the modern supermarket with Muzak and hanging plants, Sambo's looks, feels and smells like some collective-memory meta-market, a place from our past transported to 610 N. Grande Ave. They also sell hominy for posole or menudo, masa and corn husks for tamales, 5-pound tubs of lard, and the best hot chorizo in town.

Case History

1998 Winner: Reay's Ranch Market
1997 Winner: Reay's Ranch Market
1996 Winner: Reay's Ranch Market

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