Sunday, May 8, 2011

Los Paisanos, we love you

...or: Union Market, why we do not love you.

I digress now on some local neighborhood minutia. Come back on Monday for flowers and gardens.

The lamb we will braai tonight (guess who is coming to dinner?) over good charcoal, on the rose-opening terrace,  came from Los Paisanos on Smith Street. That is not saying anything new, as they are my regular butchers. But the price of lamb is soaring, s-o-a-r-i-n-g, and we might as well be eating barbecued gold, for what it is worth, now. So I also checked out the lamb at Union Market on Court Street on Friday afternoon. They have some good things: I am attached to their thin crepes, the garlic-stuffed olives, the Murray's chicken at $2.99 a pound, and their whole organic chickens; but less to their Lisbon lemons, at $3.99. Each.

I pulled up to the Union Market butcher counter, saw a pretty leg, and waited to talk to the butcher about a shoulder. Can I help you, he asked, looking as though he wished me to drop dead. Do you have lamb shoulder in stock? I asked, remaining inconveniently alive.  It's in front of you, he said, waving at the case. I looked blank. He picked up a lamb shoulder chop and held it up in a 'Duh?' way. Ah, yes, I said. I'd like a whole shoulder, demonstrating this by holding up my right arm, which looks just like a lamb shoulder doing the black panther or amandla salute.

No, we don't have any, he said. Might you have some tomorrow? I asked. You can come in and see, he said, or call. We may have some downstairs but it has to be cut and I'm kind of busy right now.

No other customers nearby.

I left.

Kind of busy right now? 

What is wrong with this sentence? Me here with money and desire, wanting to spend. You? ...

I bought my bar of lamb-gold from Los Paisanos. Where they actually did go downstairs to fetch it! Cracks me up. Still, I looked at the price with astonishment after it had been weighed, and the butcher looked at me with genuine concern. It was so much higher than I had expected that said I couldn't do it and would perhaps rethink my menu. I was sorry, he was sorry. It was one of the younger crew of butchers. We looked at the scale in silence for a bit. Then he said, Wait, and disappeared. He came back with newfound authority and punched some new numbers into the scale and suddenly my lamb cost less. My eyebrows disappeared into my hair. You are a good customer, he said, and we don't want you to be upset.

Well, it was still an expensive lamb, even then, but what could I do? I was won over. He butterflied it beautifully, sawed the bones small (I'll steam some dolmades over them), and I handed him my plastic to be melted. With a smile.

See Union Market? That's how you do it! Like, duh?

I have worked on both sides of the service fence. I know it's not always easy. I have served, and I have been waited on, I have sold, and I have bought. But I am sick and tired of shopping at stores which cannot be bothered to treat customers with the bare minimum of courtesy and respect. This is the third strike out for Union Market (the bakery incident still smarts) and now I will walk farther, and perhaps may pay more, to shop where I feel happy. Where I am greeted with a smile, still see Tony on his good days, am not patronized, and where my business seems to have some value.

Because that is how I like to live. Like it matters.


  1. You shouldn't have.
    But we're glad you did:)

  2. Next time you're in Los Paisanos, please give them (as Damon Runyan would say) the large hullo from me.
    I only bought meat a couple of times, but it was real meat.And the boss man was genuinely concerned about the Queensland floods.

  3. Drives me mad. No concept of the customer, they're obviously too rich and should retire, shut shop and avoid all human contact.

    Lamb is a fortune over here as well. It has rocketed in the last few years so now is an infrequent treat.

  4. I have had one experience at Union Market where the person behind the meat counter manages to take my order, wrap it and hand it to me without ever looking at me in the eyes. It may have been because he was carrying a conversation with his friend the whole time ....

  5. Couldn't agree more!

  6. That's terrible. The butchers at Union Market on 7th Ave and 14th? St are always super helpful. Maybe they should teach a master class to the buffoon on Smith.

  7. Us, too, Frank :-)

    dinahmow - yeah, they're good people.

    Rob - your lamb is also expensive, really? Maybe we should invest in flocks.

    Lambert - yes, this is the second butcher we've had issues with at the Court Street branch, the previous one was very good at the no-eye contact/you're wasting-my-time thing, and extra good at flirting with a visiting cashier while taking my order :-)

    Anonymous - the buffoon, with co-buffoons, is on Court :-)Glad to hear the others are good.

  8. Followed over from your post today on Union Market. I love Los Paisanos! When we wanted to roast a whole suckling pig for Christmas last year and researched all the nearby butchers, LP came through with the best quality, price AND service (they brought our little guy to our door!).


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