The first morning I stopped by Eckerlin Meats, a dozen employees were behind the counter, coming and going from the back room and taking care of the retail trade. Among customers stepping up to the counter was Joe Tucker, proprietor of Tucker’s Restaurant, a well-known breakfast place nearby. Just minutes before arriving at Eckerlin, we had been pounding on the door of Tucker’s, trying to get in; but despite its posted 9am opening time, no one was there. Before leaving Eckerlin with a box full of provisions, Tucker explained that his wife wasn’t feeling so well and he is shorthanded at the restaurant; but he promised to be open by 10. “I’ve been written up many times for the best goetta in town,” he told us. “Because I get it from here.”
Goetta is unique to Cincinnati: a mix of pork, beef, oatmeal, onions, and spices, formed into a loaf and cooked slowly. Roadfooder Marjorie Solomon suggested a visit to Eckerlin Meats because it makes the best. When I asked her how it would be possible to eat it, given that Eckerlin is a retail butcher shop and goetta requires serious grill time before serving, Marjorie told me to get it at Tucker’s. But when I walked into Eckerlin along with Anne Mitchell of Cincinnati’s CityBeat newspaper, we definitely smelled something cooking. A gent behind the counter said he would be happy to make us a goetta sandwich, so long as we had the patience for it to fry. Even before frying, the preparation of goetta is a painstaking process; Eckerlin cooks it a full four hours in a Dutch oven behind the counter, where a bell goes off every twenty minutes to remind a member of the staff to stir it. Once it’s done and made into a loaf, slices from the loaf are fried ten or twelve minutes until the outside gets crusty and the inside is cooked through. We spent the sizzle time happily studying Eckerlin’s inventory, which includes pig feet and ox tails, six kinds of bacon, sausages of every kind and even pig ears and smoked bones for dogs.