In a tiny beige cottage on Lee Highway in booming Gainesville, butcher Jake Cho and his wife Young Mi operate a custom wholesale and retail butcher shop targeted to the needs of two specific ethnic groups.
"We know the kinds of meat that Koreans like and Latinos like, and we cut it for them right here," Mi says. The couple, originally from Seoul, opened West Meat last November. Thus far, the bulk of their business is providing trimmed chicken, pork and beef to the many Asian supermarkets that have opened in the region over the last several years.
The shop's Latino customers ask specifically for fajitas ($3.69 per pound), which is beef skirt steak. At home, the meat will often be marinated in vegetable oil, lime juice, red chili peppers and garlic for 24 hours before grilling. Once cooked, the flavorful steak is cut into thin strips and wrapped in warm, flour tortillas, ready for the table.
Another favorite is country- style pork spare ribs ($2.49 per pound) that are steeped, after purchase, in a sweet and spicy marinade with essential portions of brown sugar, vinegar and ground chili peppers.
Korean customers order bulgogi ($3.29 per pound) -- thinly sliced rib-eye steak -- which calls for a marinade of onion, garlic, soy sauce, sesame oil, sugar and black pepper before it hits the grill.
Sliced pork belly ($3.99 per pound) will later be marinated, basically, in red pepper paste, rice wine, garlic and grated ginger. It, too, is grilled, often on a portable tabletop cooker.
The owners have a personal preference for boneless duck ($6.59 per pound).
"At our house, we gather around the table and roast the meat in an electric tabletop wok with just sesame oil and salt and pepper," says Mi. "We like it so much. And if the customer doesn't know how to do it, I'll teach them."
West Meat, 14124 Lee Highway (Route 29), Gainesville; 703-987-1090. Open Monday through Saturday 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Sunday 9 a.m. to noon.
-- Walter Nicholls