Tip Top Meats is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year! Owner and master butcher John Haedrich, who is a hands-on guy at 88, is still grinding his signature sausage and carving meat behind the butcher counter. Going strong since 1967, Tip Top Meats has always been the place to find the highest quality meat and poultry at the most reasonable prices. Besides the meat counter there is a fabulous European market and restaurant attached and new next door is Top Choice Fish, but let’s save that for another column.
So basically there is a lot going on at Tip Top so I suggest allotting enough time for a meal at the restaurant then shopping at the fabulous meat counter and market. To give you some idea of the extent of the delicious and interesting options they have available, I have come up with 50 or so I discovered on a recent visit. And trust me, this only scratches the surface. It’s fun coming across some unfamiliar product and looking it up on your phone as you go along. I will try and keep these in categories as to lessen any confusion.
Let’s start with the meat selection, both fresh and frozen. Besides the stellar selection of house-made sausage, they offer just about every cut of beef and if they do not have it at the counter there is a good chance they will find it in the back and cut or grind it to order. The same goes for poultry, lamb and pork.
Besides the fresh selections, there are several freezers full of frozen items that you most likely will not find in your local grocery store. And like I said, discoveries abound. Did know Capon is a castrated domestic cock fattened for eating? Well they have that in the freezer at Tip Top. Rabbit, venison sausage and steaks, frog legs, elk steaks and one of my favorites, quail, are all represented in one of the freezers.
There are also plenty of packaged sausage like Andouille and German Bratwurst to pick from in the freezer along with a smoked turkey. One of my favorite Thanksgiving traditions is stocking up on a few dozen quail, giving them a good overnight dry rub, then throwing them on the smoker for a quick smoke and making them part of our brunch. There are plenty of dried seasoning mixes in bag options to accentuate the beautiful pork roast or similar that you purchased at the meat counter.
In the dry goods category, there are a lot of familiar items but definitely some new ones — for me anyway. Westphalian Pumpernickel, Pretzel Rolls from Germany, German Pretzel Mix, Holland Toast, Kolln Flocken (oatmeal), German Egg Noodles, Suppennudeln (soup noodles), Spaetzle, Farro, Orzo, Potato Dumplings and Pankake Mix and Knodel (dumplings) are some of the options there.
The Tip Top market is also where you will find a nice variety of canned fish including Smoked Sprats (very similar to sardines), Smoked Eel, Salmon Fillets and Fried Fish Cakes in brown sauce — a Norwegian specialty. Packaged wursts are plentiful with Gelbwurst, Jagdwurst and Course Liver Sausage to name a few.
I could also write an entire column on their German wine selection and would love to browse that section with one of their in-house experts to up my game in that area. There are the familiar Rieslings but I counted half a dozen varieties that I had never heard of.
The same can be said for the beer selection, with a lot of German brands in stock along with some lesser known European options. My favorite, and this was based purely on the very cool logo of a Viking head, was the Einstok, an Icelandic White Ale. It was an impulse buy for sure but actually a very crisp and refreshing brew for a hot summer day.
While Tip Top is a great place for a hearty breakfast and lunch, I prefer it for dinner when I am in the mood to go big. Though I should say that for hearty breakfast eaters the Big John Breakfast with all the meat you can eat is a local favorite. For dinner, the Prime Rib Roast, Stuffed Pork Chop, Sauerbraten, Rouladen, Holsteiner Schnitzel, Meat Loaf, Country Style Pork Ribs, Lamb Shank and Oktoberfest Platter with Bratwurst, Knackwurst and Smoked Polish are all options that are about as hearty as they come.
Then you have old school classics like Liver & Onions, Beef Stroganoff, Zwiebel Rostbraten (sweet onion stuffed pork roast) and the popular Steak & Stein where you get your choice of Sirloin, Filet Mignon or New York steak with draft beer and sides for under $15. And yes, they have German beer on tap!
There are some nice looking desserts and pastries are available but to be honest, I have never had enough room left to try them. I always see folks picking them up though and they look fabulous.
Not many — if any — North County restaurants have 50 years under their belt and when you make it to that point, you are doing something right. In the case of Tip Top Meats, they are doing a lot right and I highly suggest checking them out. And remember, give yourself some time and make it a dining and shopping experience.
Tip Top Meats is located at 6118 Paseo Del Norte, Carlsbad. Visit www.tiptopmeats.com or call (760) 438-2620.
Lick the Plate can be heard on KPRi, 102.1 FM Monday – Friday at 4:10 and 7:10 p.m. David Boylan is founder of Artichoke Creative and Artichoke Apparel, an Encinitas based marketing firm and clothing line. Reach him at [email protected] or (858) 395-6905.