Ask any serious barbecue cook and they'll tell you one of their best friends is their butcher or meat shop manager. To consistently get the best results from your barbecue, it's imperative that the meat you start with is the best quality and freshest you can find. Often, you can purchase adequate meat for your smoker or grill at the local chain grocery store but if you really want to take it up a few notches, find a reputable specialty meat shop with a butcher willing to take the time to help you pick out the best cuts.
In Independence, Missouri, Curt's Famous Meats is this kind of store. Although owner Donna Pittman has operated the business since she purchased it in 1989, Curt's has been serving Independence and the Kansas City area at this location since 1947. The original owner, Curt Jones, began the business in the early 1940's at a smaller Independence location. The current location on Truman Road served as a fruit and vegetable market during the 1930's and early 1940's prior to Jones relocating his shop. The current store still has some of the original refrigerated fruit display cases used in the 1930's which these days are part just of the charming decor inside Curt's.
Donna Pittman was a French major in college but after graduating, she owned several liquor and convenience stores. In 1984, she got into the grocery business full time and purchased Curt's Famous Meats in 1989. Within a short time, Donna had made some positive changes and additions to Curt's but she chose to retain the name of this landmark business in Independence. Added to the offerings to her customers were fresh-made deli sandwiches, voted the best sandwich in eastern Jackson County, along with a place within the store to relax and enjoy lunch. In addition, Donna added two daily meats specials and the popular pre-packaged meat bundles, each containing a variety of Curt's Famous Meats' most popular cuts. There are twenty different bundles that range in price from $29.95 to $249.95.
Donna says her shop specializes in USDA Choice or higher custom cuts of beef (with some Prime), fresh, never frozen poultry, homemade breakfast sausage, sliced smoked slab bacon and their own lean ground beef from trimmings her butchers cut right there in the shop. While most ground beef found in the chain stores arrives in tubes already ground at the processing plants and re-ground in the stores, Donna insists on grinding her own meat from quality beef trimmings in-house. Once you cook some ground beef from Curt's Famous Meats, nothing less will satisfy the palate. In addition, the shopper can purchase exotic meats at Curt's such as lamb, bison, frog legs, rabbit and duck. Curt's Famous Meats is also available for catering.
According to Donna, Curt's is one of the few butcher shops that over the years has employed several female meat cutters. "You don't often find that elsewhere," says Donna. Also unique to Curt's is a fabulous ham salad recipe that's been used for the past 63 years. "Nothing's changed in the recipe in all this time," Donna reports.
Over the years, western Independence and the Maywood Business District, where Curt's Famous Meats is located, has seen its share of families leave and the infrastructure deteriorate but according to Donna, who is the President of the Maywood Merchants Association, things have changed in recent times. "Our association has taken the initiative to make improvements with new sidewalks and curbs being installed, along with decorative street lamps and landscaping." The Maywood Merchants Association also played a large role in the 2008 fight to change school district boundaries that brought some struggling neighborhood schools out of the embattled Kansas City, Missouri School District and into the Independence School District. "In the last two years, we have seen a large increase in families with children move back into area and start a re-vitalization of our neighborhoods," Donna says. "I am proud of my community involvement and love the opportunity to give back."
Kansas City is the world's Mecca for barbecue and it's no surprise it is also front and center for competition barbecue. Many championship barbecue teams find their way to Curt's Famous Meats each season on a weekly basis. Donna loves to cater to the needs of the teams who rely on her business to supply quality meats for their competitions. These pitmasters take the contests seriously and Donna and her staff have come to know exactly what each team is looking for when they come in to pick up their contest supplies. During the world-famous American Royal Barbeque Contest in October, teams from all across the nation make the trek to Kansas City and many of these people also show up at Curt's, having heard of the reputation the store has earned. Donna pointed out the many ribbons and plaques sitting around the store. "These awards were won by several of the teams who purchase their contest meat from us," she says proudly. One team has won five chicken titles over the past two years with poultry purchased at Curt's. Another team used Curt's meats to win the prestigious All-Star BBQ Showdown televised on the VERSUS Network in 2005. Numerous other awards are highlighted by a 3rd place in sausage at the American Royal BBQ, known as the "World Series of Barbeque".
Curt's is open Monday through Friday from 10 am to 5:30 pm and on Saturdays from 10 am to 3 pm. It is located at 10101 E. Truman Road in Independence. You can reach Donna and her staff by phone at (816) 836-2288 or on the Web at www.CurtsFamousMeats.com.