There's no mistaking when you're in the vicinity of Paulina Meat Market ( 3501 N. Lincoln Ave.; PaulinaMarket.com ).
The scent of various smoked meats is enough to make most people's mouths water ( including this writer's )and, thanks to its expanded area, the spot is bringing in lots of people ( although capacity is limited because of the COVID-19 pandemic ). However, if that's not enough to convince you about what the market does, maybe seeing people take a number from a ( plastic ) pig's mouth will do the trick.
Paulina Meat Market ( also called Paulina Market ) has been around for more than seven decades, having originally opened in 1949. In 2006, longtime manager William and Laurie Begale, their three children ( Jackie, Joe and Johnnythe latter a onetime Windy City Times 30 Under 30 honoree ) and their devoted staff are in charge.
Locals have flocked to Paulina Market because it was a combination smokehouse/sausage house/butcher shop. ( And a tour showed how, literally, the sausage is made. ) However, it now also has a specialty grocery as well as a commercial kitchen where you can get sandwiches ( more on those later ).
"We were always kind of a grocery store," William told Windy City Times, as a steady stream of customers entered the spot ( although a crowd never amassed ). "We had higher-end items you couldn't find anywhere else. We had a retail area of about 2,500 square feet; in about 2007, I poked a hole through a wall and got about another 1,000 square feet and, now, we have about 5,000 square feetso about half the building is retail."
And this market has certainly made changes in the age of the coronavirus. Williams said, "We have hand sanitizers everywhere. We have a minimum of how many people can be in here, and people have to stay six feet apart from each other. We put shields in front of all our registers. No one can come in or shop without wearing a mask. And we have hospital-grade UV lighting."
"We closed the store for two months and had curbside pickup only," Johnny said, with his father adding, "We were fortunate to survive easily because we had so many people ordering."
As for the aforementioned sandwiches, Johnny said, "They've been keeping us busy." I've no doubt about that, as I've been dreaming about the Turkey Supreme ( with roasted, honey and smoked turkey, served with Swiss cheese and your choice of toppings on a French roll ) since my visit. There are also options such as the Hot & Spicy, the New York Sub and the 1949 Sub ( with the type of German meats that have been at this market since the beginning ), among others.
And, yes, you'll find practically any type of sausage ( from liverwurst to game meats ) as well as chicken, pork, bison and much more. However, there are also items such as artisanal cheeses, canned and pickled vegetables, pretzels and even chocolates.
One trend that many places have employed is plant-based meats, so with a venue like Paulina Market ( that is steeped in tradition in a lot of ways ), I had to ask if that's a possibility here. "We had something similar to that five or six years ago, but it wasn't [the best] quality," Johnny said. "We want to have something that's awesome. It would be nice to have something like that as an option, even if it's in the freezer."
Lastly, regarding the future of Paulina Market, does William see this venue becoming the Starbucks of meats? "We're just going to stay right here," he said. "We're bulging at the seams. Believe me, I know how lucky I am."