Aug. 17 2009 12:00 AM

Southside butcher cuts it your way

In the age of gargantuan supermarkets, with meat counters that span the length of a grocery store aisle, making it as an independent butcher can be a steep challenge. Not for Karim Karana, owner of Nineteen Ten Meat Market, on the corner of Pleasant Grove and Holmes roads in Lansing. He says its a snap. "Its not that tough, not enough to worry about, because you are doing things [supermarkets] don’t do,” Karana said. “People have a reason to come back: for the service."

On a busy Friday afternoon last week, a line of customers proved the value of a smalltime meat market, as they waited patiently for two apprentice butchers who chopped, sliced and wrapped cuts of beef, pork and fowl in stark white butcher paper.

Karana, an Iraqi native, came to the United States after the first Gulf War. After working in Detroit for a few years as a butcher at various stores, he came to Lansing for the opportunity to run his own business. He bought Nineteen Ten four years ago.

Although he doesnt process whole animals, Karana said his shop offers the vast majority of cuts from beef, pork and chicken. Want ox tail? Nineteen Teen will it cut any way you want; its good for soups and stews.

"Each meat has different taste — New York strip is different from T-bone and ribeye," Karana said, while explaining the array of flavors found in cuts of beef. "The meat by the side of the bone is more tender. And when you cut the cow from the shoulder, these cuts of meat are different from cuts on the side."

Although Karana does minimal processing on site, the enormous slabs of uncut bacon in the display case hint at the possibilities customers have to fashion their meat the way they want. Karana said if you want 20 strips of bacon cut thick and 20 thin, that’s what you’ll get. "At (supermarkets) theres a package right in front of you — you want it, take it, you dont, leave it." Karana said. But it’s different at Nineteen Ten. "You ask for what you need, we do it for you."

Part of the appeal of a shop like Karana’s is the opportunity to learn more about the food you buy and experiment with the knowledge you gain, whether its which steak is your favorite or what type of sausage suits you best.

Karana works to keep his suppliers as close as possible to ensure freshness; three of four hail from the Midwest, with one from Flint and one from Detroit. Orders and shipments are starting to pick up now that warmer days point to grilling season.

When it comes to his own backyard grill, Karana isn’t very picky. "I like the meat all," he said, laughing. So do his customers. And they especially like Nineteen Tens attention to detail. Karana once cut 150 steaks 4 inches by 2 inches and a half-inch thick and wrapped them individually for a special order. "Anything the customer asks, we do it for them," Karana said. "People like what they want."

Nineteen Ten Meat Market, 2203 W. Holmes Road, Lansing. 9 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Sunday. (517) 887-0404.

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