By Justin Hemminger

HouseOfMeats

Columbus called for me about 9 years ago: I packed up my life in Toledo and made the move southward. I had a handful of college buddies who had moved here before me, but I was essentially rebooting my life on a whim. For the first few months, I was really homesick and wondering if I had made the wrong decision. To combat that doubt, I was looking for a way to explore and connect with my new home while retaining ties to where I grew up.

I’ve often said that all a man really needs for a happy life (besides a spouse/partner) is a barber, a butcher and a mechanic. I found my wrencher right away (because when you don’t have a job, your car always breaks down) and I’ve been through about a dozen hair cutters so far (maybe I’ll get into that in a future column). There are plenty of meat mongers to choose from around here, but when I discovered that there were House of Meats locations in Columbus I knew that everything was going to work out OK for this Toledo transplant.

K & J House of Meats is perhaps Northwest Ohio’s most successful and respected meat market. What began as a simple family butchery has blossomed into a mini-meat empire with nine northwest Ohio shops and one in each of The Andersons General Stores here in Columbus (one on Brice Road and the other near Sawmill and 161.) My mom and I used to go to the Alexis Road House of Meats every Sunday morning. While this is the kind of shop where you pull a number and wait to be called, our butcher, James, could be counted on to recognize us as we walked in the door and jump to our service, numbers be damned.

With Memorial Day coming up, I went to House of Meats this week to stock up on grillables. I picked some of my childhood favorites: marinated chicken breasts, Hungarian hot dogs and bacon-wrapped pork medallions. HoM offers several flavors of their boneless, skinless chicken breasts; I went for the Italian Gusto and made a fantastic grilled chicken pasta salad with it (recipe below). The Hungarian hot dog is a heavily paprika-spiced natural casing dog that is a Toledo staple food. These are smaller versions of the world-famous Tony Packo’s hot dog and are properly served with minced onions, yellow mustard and Packo’s chili sauce (also available at House of Meats). The crown jewel, however, is the pork medallion, a four ounce tenderloin cut marinated in Audrey’s basting sauce (another Toledo product) and wrapped in bacon. The medallions were on sale for $1.19 each as the HoM daily special when I went in. It was a challenge not to buy out the entire case at that price.

Besides the Toledo specialties, House of Meats offers just about any cut of beef, pork or chicken you could possibly desire.  They also deal in veal, lamb, buffalo and some seafood. This is a service-based butcher shop: if they don’t have what you’re looking for, just ask and they’ll cut to your liking. You can also plan ahead and stock your freezer with anything from a “One Week Meal Deal” (mix of beef, pork, chicken and sausage) to a 300+ lb. side of beef.

I can’t say that I’m an exclusive House of Meats customer (if a happy man only needs one butcher, then I’m a very happy man), but when it’s Toledo calling, I know I can count on them for unique offerings that I can’t get anywhere else in Columbus. It’s well worth seeking out one of the two tucked-away Andersons stores for this hidden meat marvel.

House of Meats at The Andersons General Store (Sawmill)
7000 Bent Tree Blvd., Columbus
614-734-3229
Monday-Saturday: 8 a.m. – 9 p.m.
Sunday: 9 a.m. – 7 p.m.

House of Meats at The Andersons General Store (Brice Rd.)
5800 Alshire Rd., Columbus
614-866-6704
Monday-Saturday: 8 a.m. – 9 p.m.
Sunday: 9 a.m. – 7 p.m.

Italian Grilled Chicken Pasta Salad

Salad ingredients:
1 lb. tri-color penne or rotini
1 whole Italian Gusto marinated chicken breast
4 roma tomatoes, cored and diced large
1/4 red onion, diced large
2 large handfuls of fresh baby spinach
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1/3 cup shredded Asiago cheese
olive oil

Dressing ingredients:
4 Tbsp. olive oil
2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. lemon pepper
1/2 Tbsp. Italian seasoning
1 Tbsp. grated parmesan cheese
1 clove of garlic, minced

Directions:
Grill chicken breast until internal temperature reaches 165 degrees, then allow it to rest for 15-20 minutes before dicing into 3/4″ pieces.  Boil pasta to al dente doneness, then drain and rinse with cold water.  Heat some olive oil in a pan over medium heat and saute red onion and garlic for 2 minutes.  Add spinach to pan and cook until wilted.  Allow mixture to cool, then toss with pasta, chicken, tomatoes and cheese.  Mix all dressing ingredients together and stir into pasta salad.  For best flavor, chill overnight before serving.