“No, that’s a ridiculous thought,” scoffs Pat LaFrieda when asked whether he’d ever consider becoming a vegetarian. Still, the undisputed king of meat couldn’t care less about what you put in your own mouth. “I have nothing against anyone who does not want to eat meat,” he explains. “I want everyone to eat what they feel comfortable with eating.”
While dining out or shopping in New York, there’s a good chance you’ve encountered LaFrieda’s burgers, steaks, hot dogs, sausages or even his Martha Stewart–approved porchetta. After all, the nearly 100-year-old Pat LaFrieda Meat Purveyors, started by LaFrieda’s grandfather, supplies choice cuts to all kinds of spots, from casual NYC pizza joints and Shake Shack to Michelin-starred temples of haute cuisine. These days, you can feast on some of his greatest hits at our very own market.
You’re a native New Yorker. Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Bensonhurst and went to a private school in Brooklyn. I’ll never forget how many of the students from Manhattan would look down on those of us from Brooklyn. But all of the changes to the area are really great, especially in Dumbo. With the cobblestones, it looks a bit like Montreal to me. I really love it there.
Has it surprised you how much the borough has transformed?
Yes. For my whole life, I couldn’t wait to get out. There used to be borders where different groups were supposed to be, so it felt very segregated. I knew things had changed when friends asked me to look into condos in Williamsburg. Being at the Time Out Market is like coming full circle.
What do you love to do around the city when you’re not working?
I like to go out with chefs and for us to just bust each other’s chops—that’s a fun thing to do.
Which NYC icon would you like to meet?
I’m sure most would throw tomatoes at me, but I’ve never met Donald Trump. Love him, hate him, want to run him over: Ever since I was a kid, he was on the front page of the Daily News or the Post every week.
Okay, less controversial: Yankees or Mets?
Both. As the season went on, we rooted for whoever made it to the end. We weren’t really a divisive family. We weren’t like the hooligans wearing jerseys and running to bars to fight the opposing team’s fans. We always enjoyed when a New York team was winning.
Do you ever get tired of eating so many steaks and burgers?
I don’t think I could ever get tired of meat. We bring the meat to the restaurants, but that’s only 50 percent of the battle. When I go to a restaurant, I want to see what a chef does to the meat. I know what I can do already, but what makes that chef special? New Yorkers are a very demanding, fickle crowd. If you do it right, though, even a little start-up can turn into a success like Shake Shack.
You started in finance before joining the family business. Did you ever think about going back to Wall Street?
Nope. I was a stockbroker right out of college, and about nine months in, I quit. There was pressure to sell all these intangibles, these stocks, to people over the phone, and it felt wrong. I felt like I was harming people. It was like the movie Boiler Room but without Vin Diesel. Things went full circle, though: I had to join the meat industry to go back and ring the bell.
About Pat LaFrieda Meat Purveyors at Time Out New York:
If there’s such a thing as a celebrity butcher, Pat LaFrieda is it. At our Dumbo market, the Brooklyn native serves his own signature selections of meat, featured in the superb cheesesteaks, burgers and hot dog. For complete menus, more info and editors' picks, head to timeout.com/newyork/market.