Offering specialties such as rosemary bacon, corned beef and smoked chickens, Ehran Ostrreicher is planning to open Evanston’s first locally sourced butcher shop at 1305 Chicago Avenue this spring.
The Evanston resident has already tested many of the recipes for Homestead Meats & Deli in front of what he calls his “main focus group”—his kids and their friends.
“With my stay-at-home dad background, I’ve had a lot of kids go through my kitchen,” Ostrreicher said. “Every time I experiment, I use my kids and their friends as tasters, because they have honest, fast reactions.”
Ostrreicher says he is basically self-taught, although he also has experience butchering for City Provisions, a deli and caterer in Lincoln Square, and Artisanal Wilmette. Growing up in an Austrian family living in Israel, he says, he’s used to a European approach to eating meat, which means consuming every part of the animal.
“And it also means small shops that make their own, which cannot be compared with any big production food companies,” he says. “Not to mention, it’s also better for you.”
Ostrreicher sources his meat from farms throughout the Midwest in Illinois, Michigan, Indiana and Wisconsin. He’s careful to choose farmers who provide their animals with good food and plenty of room to grow.
Knowing where your meat comes from—and how it’s prepared, is important to Ostrreicher, who says the design of the shop will allow customers to watch him as he prepares everything from sausages to head cheese.
“When I start making sausages, people say, ‘Oh, it tastes good, just don’t tell me what’s in it,’” Ostrreicher explains. “I’m going the opposite. I want to tell you what’s in it. It’s important that you know what you eat.”
He describes his approach to eating meat as one of “reverence”—both for how the animal was raised, and for how it will be eaten.
“If we are eating meat, which is a choice that I’m fine with, then reverence has to be part of it,” he says. “We’ve been brainwashed to not know what we’re eating because it’s a lot easier to market processes food. So people forgot, or got grossed out by seeing or being aware of what they eat.”
Reverence means that when Ostrreicher butchers an animal, he uses the entire carcass, so there’s no waste. That means some very creative dishes—like pork skin noodles, which he describes as “succulent and amazing.”
Although the shop doesn’t open until April at the earliest, Ostrreicher is holding two pop-up dinners at Company Evanston this Friday and Saturday along with Andrea Deibler, butcher and charcuterie and sausage maker at Hopleaf.
The whole hog dinner begins with a charcuterie board followed by a warm winter greens salad topped with pork confit. Ostrreicher’s special pork skin pasta will be served with grilled oyster mushrooms next, with a main course of herbed pork loin and belly served over buttered white beans. Dessert is brioche beignets with maple sugar, apple butter, crème fraiche ice cream—and a ham dust, of course.
There are still a few tickets available on the Company website, according to Ostrreicher.