Boarman's Meat Market stands at the same country crossroads in Highland where it opened nearly 50 years ago. As the Howard County neighborhood around the small market changed over the years, the Boarman family remained neighborhood grocers. "We're small, but we're power-packed," says George Boarman, 51, whose grandfather and father ran the market before him and whose 19-year-old son, George, works for him now. The keys to their success: the butcher shop in the back and a century-old family recipe for Boarman's Country Sausage.
What's its appeal? "First, it's the seasoning," says assistant butcher Steve Beard. And, he adds, "It's a well-guarded family secret." But there's no mistaking that the sausage will fry up full of flavor. The ground pork sausage ($3.39 a pound) glistens with flecks of rich fat. Sear it for a few minutes on a hot, dry skillet for a crisp, juicy breakfast patty. Boarman's serves the sausage on carryout egg and cheese sandwiches ($2.50). Hot and mild Italian sausages, nine inches long and three-quarters of a pound, are another family recipe ($4.29 a pound).
Freshly cut steaks and thick porterhouse pork chops ($4.49 a pound) fill the compact meat case. Well-marbled beef short ribs ($3.89) and other long-cooking cuts for winter braises and stews are recent additions. "We follow the weather," says Beard. And the holidays, too: Boarman's is now taking orders for fresh turkeys ($1.79 a pound) from Maple Lawn Farms, just down the road.
For those who don't want to cook, a long and tempting carryout deli menu offers pork barbecue sandwiches ($3) and subs ($5), chicken salad made with freshly cooked chicken ($7.95 a pound), tangy deviled eggs (three for $1) and more. As the sign outside says, Boarman's is old-fashioned. "This is a dinosaur," says Beard, "but it's a good place."
-- Matt McMillen