A location-obsessed realtor would probably not think well of Odenthal Meats’ address. A few miles outside of New Prague, down a winding county road, and just past Next Chapter Winery, Odenthal’s is surrounded not by other shops and attractions, but by wide-open farm fields. There’s no sign on the nearby state highway that tells you where to turn.
But good will out, apparently, because Odenthal Meats, which opened in 1999, has doubled in size since then, despite its location. Owners Randy and Laura Odenthal were raised in the area, Randy just two miles from the shop, and Laura in neighboring Montgomery. Randy grew up on a 300-acre dairy farm, but when his parents asked him if he wanted to take over, he decided that even though there were aspects of farming that he liked, it wasn’t for him. “I had some friends who worked in meat markets, and I liked that idea,” he says.
His next step was to attend Minnesota West Community and Technical College in Pipestone, which offered meat-cutting courses (discontinued in 2006). After ten years of working for others, he wanted to strike out on his own, specifically to open a shop in which he could handle the slaughtering side of the business. Although he looked at other locations, New Prague was where he wanted to stay, so he and Laura bought the property just down the road from his family’s old farm.
Today he offers custom cutting and processing as well as an extensive line of retail products. His shop earned a Minnesota “Equal To” license (granted to operations that meet Federal inspection standards), and this allows him to sell meat wholesale as well as retail. Odenthal’s offerings show up on the menus of several local cafes and restaurants, including Ettlin’s Cafe, Fishtale Grill, and Lakeside Supper Club.
Randy Odenthal also works with Fischer Farms and Sunshine Harvest, and laments the lost partnership with the recently closed Cedar Summit Farm. He shares these producers’ enthusiasm for local and natural products. Ask him where the meat that he sells comes from, and he points in various directions: “Jim and Donna [Hoefs] own my parents’ old farm, and they supply us with cows for our ground beef. Ted Odenthal (a fourth cousin) brings us pigs. Mark Simon brings us veal.” Only two products are not from the immediate area: Amish poultry that’s raised hormone free, and fish from Morey’s in Motley. “We do things as naturally as we can,” he says, noting that his sources don’t use growth hormones.
But getting the meat is just the first step. Odenthal’s sells more than 120 kinds of sausage and jerkies as well as fresh-cut meats and a wide variety of frozen items. The recipes weren’t handed down to him from previous generations of his family. “Trial and error,” he says. “Lots of trial and error. Lots! We’ve spent so much time researching and developing recipes.” The payoff for all that effort is found in a display case full of pungent, garlicky summer sausage, potent Czechoslovakian jitrnice sausage, and smoky bacon in thick, fatty slabs.
Another highlight is the smoked salmon, which retains a silky, moist texture and a strong salmon flavor along with the smoke. It’s a fine art, as Odenthal knows too well: “The time from start to overcooked is pretty short. We have to watch it closely.” Fortunately, there’s a backup plan: when the salmon is overcooked, the shop has a standing trade agreement with the nearby Lakeside Supper Club, which takes the salmon and combines it with cream cheese to make a pecan-coated salmon log: an old-school supper club dish for the restaurant, with some sent back to Odenthal’s for the staff to enjoy.
The shop also does custom orders and frequently someone arrives with an old recipe that’s been buried away and asks Odenthal’s to prepare it for them.
The most unusual item that Odenthal makes? Year after year, right before the State Fair, they receive a shipment of alligator meat to make sausage for Bayou Bob’s.
18189 320th St, New Prague, MN 56071
Mon-Fri 8 a.m.-6 p.m.
Sat 8 a.m.-1 p.m.