Croatian classics for the District:
PHOTO by ROSHEILA ROBLES
South Shores Meat Shop once seemed from a different time as much as a different place. The Croatian-minded store is the kind of neighborhood market that’s been eradicated by history, marginalized to the point of near nonexistence by the human pursuit of hyper-convenience. It’s a throwback to simpler and smarter days, staffed by knowledgeable craftsmen understanding of every facet of their work. But for as foreign as South Shores may seem to modern kitchen traditions, the market has endeared itself to San Pedro, so much so that a San Pedro without South Shores is beyond culinary comprehension.
The shop’s enduring success is owed in large part to owner Darko Skracic, who arrived on American soil some 40 years ago. Skracic has molded South Shores into a family operation that’s as welcoming a butcher shop as you’re likely to find. As a result, it’s become a crucial component of San Pedro’s Croatian community and the town as a whole, operating as a supplier for local restaurants (including reigning pizza champion Pavich’s Brick Oven Pizzeria) and home cooks alike.
Raw, freshly butchered meat is the primary product here, but South Shores also assembles a number of respectable sandwiches. There are both hot and cold options, spanning the traditional range of deli meats like roast beef, turkey, capicola and more. Stuffed in a spongy roll is the meat of your choice, plus lettuce, red onion, tomato, peppers and provolone. There’s no doubt these are good sandwiches, but they approach neither the belly-busting size of those from Busy Bee Market nor the unerring quality of those from Angelo’s Italian Deli.
The prize of South Shores is cevapcici. The skinless sausages are a Balkan staple, stubby beef logs that are loaded with garlic and grilled. There are a few cevapcici sources in San Pedro, but South Shores is one of the best. Though traditionally served on their own (with perhaps a scoop of sour cream or a pile of onions), the sausages are incredibly versatile. They’re great folded up in flatbread, pounded out into burger-like patties or even cooked in the morning as a breakfast-sausage stand-in. Plus, they’re cheap: you can score about eight fresh sausages for right around $5.
Being a full-scale butcher shop, South Shores also stocks all kinds of excellent and economical meats that shame their pre-packaged counterparts. Racks of lamb and massive pork chops are common purchases, though the market also capably handles fish. Consider a cut of swordfish, halibut or salmon marinated in a mix of Skracic’s Old World ingredients—garlic, lemon, olive oil and white wine.
South Shores also maintains a small selection of Croatian essentials. Ajvar, a pureed relish of eggplant, red bell peppers, garlic, paprika and chilies, is a universal condiment about as common as ketchup that pairs extremely well with cevapcici or a hunk of flatbread. It’s available in both mild and spicy varieties, the latter of which measures a significant spike on the capsaicin scale. There are also olive oils as pure and powerful as those from Italy and Greece, potent sea salts that crush most commercial competition and bags of the highest quality Turkish coffee.
But because South Shores is indeed more than just a meat shop, it also provides the building blocks for dessert. If sour cherry jellies don’t spark sweet dreams, jars of pekmez od sljiva also line the counters, a smooth, spreadable plum butter that’s great slathered inside crepes and equally good spooned onto mountainous scoops of ice cream.
SOUTH SHORES MEAT SHOP 2308 S WESTERN AVE | SAN PEDRO 90732 | 310.831.0044 | OPEN DAILY | FOOD FOR TWO $10-20