Tom Moriarty had recently finished studying butchery in France when he returned to Buffalo. He soon met his future wife, Caitlin, who had recently relocated here to work as an architectural historian (and Buffalo is a city with a deep architectural history.) Over the next few years, they regularly spoke about Tom’s dream of opening a butcher shop. While it didn’t immediately get off the ground, an opportunity eventually materialized when the owners of the long-standing Zarconi’s meats announced that they were retiring. Tom and Caitlin quickly found themselves moving into the historic butcher shop on Grant Street. Opening their doors to customers who were looking for something different than what the big grocery chains offered.
Whole animals are brought in from local farms that Moriarty partners with early each week. Tom breaks these animals down by hand into the various cuts, chops, sausages, offal, and prepared meals that stock the shop’s display cases. As the weekend nears, the case gets emptier and emptier, and when it’s gone, it’s gone until the shop restocks the next week. Beef, pork, and chicken are stocked weekly, while lamb, goat, rabbit, turkey, and seafood offerings vary from week to week.
A cow coming into Moriarty’s will be turned into a multitude of the nearly one hundred cuts of meat available from the animal.—Both the widely popular ones many of us know from the grocery store likes ribeyes and strip steak, as well as others like the bavette and onglet. Some of Tom’s favorite cuts include the tongue, oxtail, and the surprise (or crescent) steak, unique cuts that all pack an unbelievable amount of beefy flavor for those that try them.
I’ve become a regular customer of the shop since this shoot. It is close to my neighborhood, the product is fantastic, and Tom and Caitlin are always happy to make suggestions and share recipes. On one of my family’s earliest visits, Erin was looking for something to make slow-braised tacos with — she usually would use chuck or brisket for this. Still, Tom suggested that we try beef heel. While I’m a somewhat adventurous eater, my wife is a little less so. – she’s notorious for eliminating anything from the pot that could be considered “a weird piece.”
Nevertheless, she put her trust in her friendly neighborhood butcher and since become a convert to using this and other less popular cuts. I’m a fan of many of the prepared meals they use their locally sourced meat in — I am not exaggerating when I say that they make hands down the best beef pie I have ever eaten. It has quickly become a staple at my house for quick dinners that still taste amazing and nourishing.
This shoot is a fantastic example of what can happen when you’re genuinely passionate about your subject matter. Not only did I create images I love, but I dove deep into the subject matter and stretched myself creatively. I’m also happy to share aspects of my work that you don’t usually see, like reportage and directing. I learned so much from Tom about what he did and how he and Caitlin build relationships with their customers. Moriarty Meats will soon be moving to a new, more expansive location, but that can only mean good things for the city as this emerging and vital business continues to grow.