A butcher shop was always in the cards for Ulises Urbina. When the Veracruz, Mexico, native immigrated to the U.S. in 1993, he started off working behind the counter in a supermarket butcher shop. Working in a slaughterhouse since he was 15, Urbina was already seasoned in the anatomy of animals and the delicate art of butchery.
It was behind that supermarket counter he had his revelation: Why not me? “The store had brought in this butcher from Texas who was supposed to be amazing,” says Urbina, “but I saw him cutting the meat all wrong. That’s when I thought, I can do this. What’s stopping me?” Yet, despite moving up the ranks and overseeing eight supermarkets across Brooklyn, owning a butcher shop with his daughter and son-in-law still seemed like a fairy tale.
“We found the spot first,” explains Urbina’s son-in-law, Gabriel Jimenez, about their storefront. “Then it became a question of what to put there.” The answer wasn’t a restaurant or a café. “Suddenly it all clicked,” says Salma Urbina, Ulises’ daughter. “We had to open up a butcher shop. I called my dad and asked, ‘How would you like to work for yourself?’”
While Urbina was practiced and polished at the art of butchering, Salma and Gabriel were coming into this venture as clean slates, tethered by their love of food. Quick to admit that they’re still learning, Urbina is quicker to point out how far the two have come.
The shared love of what they do shines through the menu. The chorizo is house-made from a family recipe that won’t have you doubting for a second its artisanship. The butcher’s marinade was created by accident; Urbina was making himself lunch, walked away from the meat for a moment, and Salma mistakenly sold it.
If you have a palate for exotic meats, Ulises’s Butcher Shop caters to expanding horizons. Kangaroo, wild boar, and ostrich — including both meat and eggs from the last — are just a sampling of the game you’ll find chalked on their butcher board. They source their meats from natural, antibiotic-free animals; in the case of the ostrich eggs, it’s as close as a farm in New Jersey.
No matter what else you take away from the shop, you’ll also leave with a sense of the bond the Urbinas share with one another and their customers. “When I was a kid, if I was bad, my punishment was going to work with my dad,” says Salma. “Now, I go to work with him every day — and now it’s a blessing, not a punishment.”
Ulises’s Butcher Shop