At Rudolph's Meat Market: Keeping Old-School Butchery Alive One Tip Roast at a Time
In 1895, Austrian immigrant Martin Rudolph opened Rudolph's Meat Market in Deep Ellum. Almost 50 years later, Cyrill "Sid" Pokladnik, who was an employee, bought the butcher shop, and it has remained in his family since. Pokladnik's five grandchildren all take part in running it now.
I recently spoke with grandson Brandon Andreason to talk about the lost art of butchery and how the Dallas market has changed over the past several decades.
How long have you worked here? Since I could walk. My grandfather started working here in 1927 and went on to buy it. My mom worked here as a child and then my dad was here for over 30 years. My brothers and sisters have all worked here too. It's just been passed down from one generation to the next.
Have you ever wanted to do anything other than this? I've just always really enjoyed this, so, no, not really. Being here is cool.
Has the locavore movement affected your business much? For about the last four or five years we've seen more people that want to buy from the mom and pop shops -- local rather than shopping at the big chains. But still, the majority of people just want convenience. People get off work and don't have time to run down here. And I really do appreciate our loyal customers who do go out of their way to shop with us. That really is asking a lot. We have customers that travel from all over to see us. But unfortunately, for the majority, it's just about convenience. They need it right now. It's hard to come down to Rudolph's.
There used to be butchers in every grocery store, but they much harder to come by these days. Why is the trade becoming extinct? There are a lot of reasons why, but mainly to keep costs down. Keep it cheaper. Grocery stores can't afford to have a quality-trained butcher that knows how to really cut meat. It's a lost art. Everyone is trying to save money and in a hurry. Even at the slaughterhouses -- they cut it, package it, handle it several times, repackage things and throw it out in the case.
As buyers, are we less educated now than we used to be? Totally, and that goes back to the previous point that grocery stores don't have good butchers anymore. The consumers don't have anyone there to educate them about things. They just throw it out there and expect people to know where a round steak comes from or a tip roast, what's ground round versus ground chuck. You don't have the opportunity to ask somebody, and that's the beauty of being able to come here. We educate people at the same time. Has the drought affected your business? Definitely. Everything is crazy, even turkeys are scarce and expensive and it's hard for us to pass the extra costs along to customers. The price of beef is as high as it's been in years. Across the board everything is affected, even slaughterhouses. They're slaughtering a lot less animals now just to keep costs down because of the futures; they're scared what it'll be like later on down the road. Across the board a lot of people are struggling.
How has the Dallas consumer changed over the last 20 years? It's more quick and easy meals. People don't buy a bunch of meat to stick in the freezer and make big meals for the family. It's a faster paced lifestyle. The younger generation wants just a couple chicken breasts or steaks. Something fast and easy. Ever since the 90's and the dot-com boom, everyone was doing good and everyone wanted some good steaks, since then we've really gotten away from a lot of the bigger cuts of meat.
How has your business adapted to that? We offer things that are easy to go home and throw on the grill. It makes more sense on the pocket book to buy in bulk since larger cuts that are less expensive -- baking and roasting are just less expensive the grilling steak. But, what we've seen is still just smaller portions. Sometimes I'll walk by the case and think, man why hasn't anyone bought that roast yet. It's beautiful.
What did you eat growing up? Since there were five kids, my mom would make a big meal for all of us. It was usually pot roast or something like that. She made meatloaf a lot too. Not always just meat though. She'd throw fish and different stuff every now and then.
Do you make big meals for your family? Yes, absolutely. I only have two kids, but we definitely have big dinners together.
Are family meals important to you? Yeah, they are. And they should be to everybody. Every once in a while sit down. Cook yourself a nice pot roast and have some friends over.
Do you think your kids will work here? If they want to, I hope so. It's been good to me and it was good to my grandfather.
How long have your butchers been here? Tony has been here for 20 years and Jessie has been here 34 years, so he's like a second dad to me. I was in pampers when he started.
Are you a hard man to please at a steak house? I expect to get middle of the road at most steak houses.
Where do you go for a nice steak? My store. And cook it in my back yard. I don't eat that much meat anymore though.
Why not? Because I work with it all day. I see it all day. Don't get me wrong; I'll eat meat a couple times a week. A lot of people think I bet you eat steak every night, but I've got to mix it up.
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