Walking into craft butchery E.A. Brady’s you’re met with a display case offering a copious amount of local pasture-raised meat, beautifully arranged like a work of art, rather than heaving in bulk. Don’t worry, there’s loads more in the walk-in cooler. The case is just a promise of what’s available — namely beef, pork, lamb and poultry, always fresh, often smoked, and beautifully trimmed into steaks, roasts and chops.
“We are a retail butcher shop that specializes in whole animal breakdown of local animals and turning them into as many products as we can,” said Evan Brady, head butcher, who co-owns the place with his brother Aidan. “We also cure and smoke here. About the only thing we buy is chicken feet and some other items like that. Everything else we do ourselves.”
Six years ago, the brothers opened E.A. Brady’s in Eastown, and in doing so paid homage to their heritage — as three of their four great-grandfathers were butchers and that fourth great-grandfather was a cattle broker who spent his career buying from ranches and auctions to fulfill large contracts, including supplying the U.S. Army, according to Cindy Brady, the boys’ mom.
On May 1, E.A. Brady’s relocated to the corner of Lyon Street and Union Avenue (the Martha’s Vineyard storybook stretch that now includes the butcher, the baker and the espresso maker). The butcher shop is nestled in a 1900s building with a tin ceiling, gorgeous storefront windows, warm hardwoods and exposed brick.
This is where the brothers roll up their sleeves and get to work. Breaking down an entire steer allows E.A. Brady’s to introduce you to magical parts of beef that you didn’t know existed.
Just a whiff from the smoker woos shoppers into buying more items than they intended at E.A. Brady’s. “We’re constantly smoking stuff and it just permeates a certain richness,” said Evan Brady, the head butcher who co-owns E.A. Brady’s with his brother Aidan.
On a cool fall day, the music is rocking, the telephone is constantly ringing, and the smoker is busy flavoring freshly made sausages. At a corner workstation, Evan Brady organizes his mise-en-scène, pulling together an enormous measure of freshly grated garlic, bouquets of flat-leaf parsley, whole aromatic spices and seasonings for those house-made sausages.
When Aidan Brady throws open the smoker, ropes and ropes of sausage from Berkshire pigs — with a genetically high level of luscious fat — lounge along the racks. There’s kielbasa, jalapeno cheddar and an Austrian style Käsekrainer offering up a gooey mix of roasted garlic and Swiss cheese. The Hungarian paprika sausage is smoked until it turns a fetching shade of red — so deliciously carnivorous.
There is pork spiked with Founders Solid Gold lager. “So, it’s basically German by way of Wisconsin-style prep,” laughed Aidan Brady whose favorite, though, is the lamb brochette inspired by the North African merguez sausage full of warm spices like allspice, cumin, coriander and paprika. “We can’t keep it around, can’t make it fast enough.”
While training at New York City’s Fleishers Craft Butchery, Evan Brady realized, for practical reasons, that butchers need to get creative to move all the muscle. So, there’s bavette steak, similar to a skirt or flank steak, that’s custom cut into a tantalizing strip from the hind-quarter. It’s particularly prized in South America and grilled with chimichurri sauce. Teres major, a cut of beef that comes from the chuck section, “happens to be the second most tender cut,” according to Aidan Brady. And, chuck eye steak — cut from the fifth rib — offers the same wonderful happiness of a ribeye at a third of the price.
Everything is custom cut on the spot to your specifications. To help you tamp down the stomach rumbling greed upon eyeing the mouthwatering possibilities, the brothers keep a series of beef leg bones lined up on the counter denoting 1- through 3-inches. “This is a really good visual because people will be certain that they want the 3-inch ribeye,” explained Aidan Brady. “But when you see that — that can be pretty daunting — you might make a different choice.”
On a large workstation, an aproned and masked Eric Gallegos carves into a large section of meat. It’s a very physical trade and he uses a handful of tools to accomplish his task — boning knives, sharpening steel and a sturdy saw.
“I’m breaking down the chuck on the shoulder of this steer,” said Gallegos, formerly a butcher at Montello Meat Market in the Grand Rapids Downtown Market before it closed. “At first everyone wanted the ribeye, flank steak, but we wanted them to come back for all the rest.
“Everything that we do is unique and sets us apart.”
This no-holds-barred approach means E.A. Brady’s only partners with local ethically responsible ranchers. Beef is sourced from Tom and Tracy Dykstra’s Moraine Park Farms of Zeeland. The Berkshire pigs hail from Allegan Harvest Farm, a nonprofit operation started by pastor and lay counselor Doug Rietema and his wife Cindy. The Berkshires are broken down into desirable cuts or made into sausages, hot dogs and bacon that
are dry-cured and applewood smoked for two weeks.
For now, E.A. Brady’s is gearing up for the holidays with fresh, smoked turkeys, whole hams, tenderloin roasts, standing rib roasts and kielbasa. It’s best to place your order early as this meat has to be perfected by the butchers. Order online at eabradys.com.