of the Flesh
Dutch Food Center's new Margate superstore joins its Hollywood
location as a mecca for food lovers in South Florida.
in The Miami Herald
On the west side of I-95 in Hollywood, between Stirling Road
and Sheridan Street, a gigantic sign with distinctive Gothic
lettering beckons passersby to a paradise for gourmands --
especially the carnivorous kind.
Drivers who venture off the highway and through the adjacent
gray, warehouse-lined streets are rewarded with a staggering
selection of beef, pork, veal, lamb and poultry plus house-made
hams, sausages, cold cuts and much more. Butchers are on duty
to cut and trim by request -- cubing legs of lamb for shish
kebabs, for example, or ''frenching'' (stripping) the bones
on a crown roast of pork.
Penn Dutch Food Center is a South Florida landmark. The family-owned
operation began here in 1975, when Edwin and Sophie Salsburg
relocated their meat business from Pennsylvania Dutch country
near Reading, Pa. -- hence the name. (The mustachioed, tam-topped
fellow on their logo is a Pennsylvania Dutchman.)
Today, their grandson Greg Salsburg, 36, is company president,
running the 38,000-square-foot store and a brand-new, 70,000-square-foot
super center in Margate with his father, Bill, uncle Paul,
younger brother Rick and sisters Kara and Amy. A fourth generation
is on deck, with one of Rick's sons already at the Margate
store and another set the join the team after his college
graduation next month.
''We may be known as a meat market, but we have a lot more
to offer,'' says Greg Salsburg.
And that's true. At both locations, the produce section is
the first area a shopper encounters -- shelves and bins heaped
with everything from potatoes to papayas.
There's a full-service seafood counter at each store with
whole fish (locally caught, when possible), fillets and steaks
and all manner of shellfish. Wild salmon is featured several
times a year.
The dairy and deli cases offer a wide selection of domestic
and imported cheeses. The deli counter also beckons with prepared
salads, side dishes, pastas, knishes, dumplings, arepas, barbecued
ribs and rotisserie chickens.
Freezer cases bulge with huge bags of vegetables, stuffed
patties, empanadas, pastas and shrimp. Shelves hold the usual
grocery items, and the bakery turns out breads, rolls, pies,
cakes and other sweet treats.
And there's something new at the Margate store: a concise
collection of wines and cold beers.
But meat is Penn Dutch's claim to fame. For starters, Greg
Salsburg says, the company buys directly from producers.
``No middlemen. We buy grain-fed beef, for example, age it
and cut it ourselves. Pork comes straight from the Carolinas.
The custom approach doesn't stop there. There's a reason the
vast array of sliced meats, salamis, bolognas, hot dogs and
other sausages carry Penn Dutch labels.
''They're old family recipes,'' said Salsburg. ``We don't
buy them from other suppliers or middlemen. They're made right
here. We also cure and smoke our hams, pastrami, smoked sausage
and the rest. That's our secret. We even bake our own rolls
and bagels, and we also make our own Nova Scotia lox and spiral-cut
A tour of the back-shop processing facilities at the Hollywood
store is a meat lover's equivalent of a Bono fan's pass to
a U2 recording session.
There's a smoke room full of hams, whole turkeys and turkey
breasts and a cold room stacked high with boxes of beef aging
for three weeks. In another area, Salsburg points out a new
machine that cuts pork loins into chops without shattering
the bone, eliminating shards. In yet another room, machines
grind sausage meat, mix it with custom spice blend, grind
it again and force it into casings.
Though the production areas are clean and uncluttered, Salsburg
says space is tight.
``We tried to buy out our neighbors on either side of us here
in Hollywood because there's no room for us to grow. That's
why we opened the new store.''
The expansion introduces customers in northern Broward and
southern Palm Beach counties to Penn Dutch's competitive pricing.
Comparison shopping last weekend at four other major grocery
outlets found Penn Dutch the lowest or second lowest on six
meat-case items, often by a wide margin. (Example: skirt steak
was $3.99 a pound there, $4.34 at Wal-Mart, $4.99 at Albertson's
and Publix and $6.99 at Winn Dixie.)
The atmosphere at both the Hollywood and Margate stores is
unpretentious and accommodating. Penn Dutch, for example,
was a pioneer in stocking specialty meats like goat, souse
(head cheese) and chicken feet (crucial for Chinese chicken
stock) to please its ethnically and economically diverse clientele.
It also carries capon, goose, duck, whole lambs and suckling
''If we don't have it, we can get it in 24 hours or less,''
But the lack of stuffiness doesn't mean the place is anything
less than heaven for sophisticated food lovers. The variety
is dazzling -- and at times startling.
A case in point: I've loved skirt steak all my life. It may
have been the first thing I learned to cook as a kid, frying
wax paper-wrapped portions that my mother left in the freezer
for me. During one Penn Dutch visit some years ago, I curiously
eyed a piece of beef that resembled my favorite cut but wasn't
as flat, had an odd, cartilaginous seam in the middle and
was labeled ``beef hanging tender.''
IN WITH TRENDS
I inquired of the worker filling the adjacent case and, to
make a long story short, hanger steak (an alternate appellation)
has replaced skirt steak in my repertoire -- usually at about
a dollar a pound less. A few years later, I read that it was
all the rage among the culinary in-crowd.
Just recently, I tried Penn Dutch's ''chicken'' steak, a top
blade steak from the beef chuck (shoulder). A little Internet
sleuthing informed me that it was also known as flat iron
steak and was the newest hip cut at Manhattan restaurants.
Nice to know that folksy, friendly Penn Dutch is on the cutting
edge of gustatory trends.
Food lovers in the southern reaches of South Florida might
like to think that Penn Dutch, with one expansion under its
belt, could be heading their way someday. No such luck, according
''This is it,'' he said. ``We wouldn't want to grow so big
that we couldn't maintain our standards. Bigger isn't always
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