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Long-overdue Coney Island discovery

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Long-overdue Coney Island discovery

Paul Lukas | Nov 22, 2002 11:15 PM

For years I've been admiring the lovely window display at Major Meats (Mermaid Ave between 15th/16th Sts), a butcher shop that's the last old-school storefront on a block that's otherwise gone to hell. But for a variety of reasons, none worth explaining here, I never stopped in until today.

It's an amazing place, mainly because of owner Jimmy Prince, who's been running the show since 1949. Aside from the sawdust on the floor and the telltale smell, it initially seems more like a deli or bodega than a butcher shop -- no steaks or chops in the meat case, lots of produce, cereal, and canned goods on the shelves. But as Jimmy explained once he caught my eye, he keeps his meat in a locker behind the counter and then cuts it to order. "Look, I'll show you," he said, disappearing and then coming back with a huge section of beef, from which he table-sawed me a rib steak.

All his meat is Prime. He gets it from the same purveyor -- and in some cases from the same *carcass* -- as Peter Luger. He's an artist with the boning knife, and get this: He trims all the waste from your meat *before* putting it on the scale, which makes his $9.99/lb for Prime steak very reasonable.

Jimmy wears a tie under his apron, a smile on his face, and his heart very clearly on his sleeve. He's among the last of his type, and he knows it -- not in a cocky way, but in a preservationist, almost curatorial way. Very, very special. I'm convinced that if he wasn't buried way out in Coney, he'd be mentioned in the same breath as Staubitz anytime people talked about great Brooklyn butchers. Worth the trip all by himself -- I'm kicking myself for not having ventured into his shop until now. Go see him while he's still there.

-- Paul

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