Tuesday, October 28, 2014

First Quality Sausage House

When randomly driving through Safety Harbor a few months back (I think we were trying to get around a traffic backup), the family and I happened to pass by a squat yellow building festooned with national flags, a sight that reminded me of various ethnic food businesses scattered throughout old immigrant neighborhoods up North. Upon further investigation, I determined that this place was, in fact, a Hungarian butcher shop, clandestinely tucked away in the industrial part of town. Being part Bohemian (at least according to stories from my ancestors), I find it difficult to pass up the opportunity to purchase cured and smoked meats from the Motherland, so I decided to stop in one day after volunteering at the church food pantry to check our their wares.

The First Quality Sausage House (605 9th Ave. North) is situated across the street from the railroad tracks and surrounded by what appears to be miles of chain-link fence separating it from adjacent blue-collar operations (metal shops?); in other words, you pretty much have to be seeking it out to find it. Once inside, the enticing aroma of fresh sausages snaps you to attention.

The retail portion of the building is very modest (the kitchen in back takes up a lot of space), consisting of a few deli cases, a walk-in cooler, some shelves of sauerkraut/jams, and the cash register. What it lacks in stature, however, is compensated for by the staggering variety of meat offerings on sale: all manner of sausages (brats, polish, knockwurst, blood sausages), lunchmeats (bologna, salami, headcheese), smoked ribs, bacon, hams, and liverwurst, much of it made in-house from the owner's family recipes - these people are not messing around. On my initial visit, the lady behind the counter let me sample some of the house fried bacon (my eyes nearly rolled up into the back of my head - was that both the loin and the belly?) and happily sliced me a half-pound of garlic bologna to take home. When combined with a hunk of crusty bread, some cherry and cheese strudel (also prepared on-site), and some ground pork-stuffed cabbage to go, I had the makings of a great meal.

What about the sausages, you say? Well, I snagged several of those on a subsequent trip, picking up a sackful of polish, hungarian (smoked and vibrant red with paprika, but not in an overpowering way), and their last bratwurst of the day for a cookout at home, all of which were enjoyed and continue to be enjoyed in leftover form. My neighbor down the street swears that I need to try out their "pig salami", which I plan on doing sometime in the near future, along with a healthy (by that I mean size, not body condition) dose of fried bacon pieces for the road. It is now my fervent belief that everyone should have ready access to a Central European butcher shop...

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