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Ethnic Markets: Paulina Market

By Lisa Shames in Food on May 15, 2007 5:08PM

rsz_rsz_paulinas.jpgCarnivores are happy people. Or at least that’s the case for the ones buying their meat from Paulina Market. From the outside, this West Lakeview store, with its brick facade and minimal windows, offers few clues of what awaits inside. But pull open the front door, inhale, and that lovely aroma of smoky goodness is a telltale sign. If you still haven’t figured it out yet, the pink pig-head ticket dispenser by the entrance should clarify things. (Be sure to grab a number; you’ll need it.)

Back in 1949 when Sigmund Lekan first began making sausages and smoking meats and poultry at Paulina Market, this stretch of Lincoln Avenue was called Germantown, and while the hood has since changed, the emphasis on recipes and traditions from European Old World butcher shops remains. Translation: this family-run business is all about selling only the freshest, top-quality meats. That means there’s beef jerky made from sirloin; smoked chicken, duck, turkey, goose and parts thereof; snack stix such as honey pork, salami, lamb and Portuguese linguisa; and more sausages than you can shake a bun at, including andouille, Italian, knackwurst and brats.

In addition to the large selection of fresh meat, Paulina Market also stocks prepared frozen items, including beef stroganoff, pulled pork and corned beef hash. Their cocktail meatballs in zesty sauce and lamb-stuffed mushroom caps have dinner party written all over them. There’s a huge selection of condiments — mustards, barbecue sauces, rubs, gourmet salts and Paulina Kitchen spices — plus cheeses, crackers and a smattering of fresh vegetables if you must.

rsz_1rsz_rsz_1paulinas2.jpgBut more than just being a carnivore’s idea of heaven and a vegetarian’s idea of hell — although Chicagoist has never seen dead animals look so, dare we say, beautiful — Paulina’s serves up good old-fashioned service, too. When the butchers in their crisp white paper hats and aprons tell you to have a nice day, they mean it. Kids, or at least the lucky ones, get slices of housemade bologna while their parents decide what to buy (not an easy task, mind you). Don’t know a Boston roast from a bottom round roast? No worries since the experienced meat-heads — and we mean that in the nicest way — do. Have a more personal "flesh" question (no, not that kind, silly)? Log onto their web site ( and check out their “Ask a Butcher’ section.

Even short people get some respect here, with all the products shelved within easy reach. And single gals take note: on a recent visit, we noticed that Paulina’s was packed with men. Not that’s our kind of meat market.

Paulina Market is located at 3501 N. Lincoln Ave., 773-248-6272.