Czimer’s Game & Seafood: Your Local Lion Meat Option
It’s hard to recall how the whole thing got started. Was I hungry and watching The Lion King? Did the Bears disappointing playoff exit have me wanting to bite a bear? Actually, as with most ridiculous ideas, this one was born of alcohol. I was hanging out with some friends on a slow Monday night, knocking back a few High Lifes and listening to records, when my pal Joey jumps from his seat, phone in hand. We’d been talking about strange bacon-related foods when the rabbit hole that is Google dropped him off at czimers.com, the website for a local butcher shop offering wild boar, buffalo and, yes, bear bacon.
Plans were immediately set into motion. Everyone would toss in money, we’d buy a bunch of meat and have a cookout that would cause heads to explode at PETA meetings everywhere. Czimer’s menu of rare game is built to send taste buds scrambling to catch up with your imagination. Beaver? Raccoon? Sure, but that’s child’s play. What does lion stew taste like? Or black bear burgers? Is it even legal to eat kangaroo and camel?
Yes. Yes it is.
After much deliberation we settled on three meats. African lion was a must. We opted for stew meat based on affordability. Lion steaks sounded incredible, but at 19.95 a pound we might have to drop one of the other meats. Black bear burgers were a near unanimous pick. The last to make our shopping list was camel, as apparently some people think eating a kangaroo is where you draw the line. I’m of the opinion that once you start drooling when Dorothy exclaims “lions and tigers and bears, oh my!”, you’ve crossed the line.
Actually, in the case of tiger meat, you have crossed the line. At least according to our government. Richard Czimer, Chicago’s exotic meat czar, actually found himself in some hot water back in 2003 when he was convicted and sentenced to six months in prison for selling meat from federally protected animals. Among those creatures he was busted for butchering were two mountain lions, sixteen tigers and one liger. Yeah, a liger.
Lucky for us, Mr. Czimer has removed endangered species from his menu. Our only disappointment ended up being the fact that his supply of camel meat had been exhausted. Same for kangaroo. We settled for yak roasts.
Czimer’s family has been in the food business since 1914 and has specialized in game since the ’30s. Aside from operating a retail storefront he also ships his products across the country to both private clients and restaurants, such as Il Vinaio in Arizona. That establishment found itself embroiled in controversy after ordering ten pounds of lion meat. The lion was mixed with ground beef to create a lion burger in celebration of the FIFA World Cup in South Africa. So, clearly the concept of exotic meat is not without controversy.
Our lion meat was served over rice pilaf, alongside yak in tzatziki sauce and grilled black bear burgers. I’m no food critic, so you’ll have to take my opinions with a grain of salt (though perhaps a more exotic granulated spice would be more appropriate), but here goes — I thought the lion had the most unique taste, but also the most unpleasant consistency — very chewy. I would definitely order it again, though I’d be inclined to pony up the extra cash to get the steaks. The black bear burger was, well, a burger. It didn’t have the tangy-ness that, say, ostrich burgers do, but it was lean and satisfying. The star, to me, turned out to be the roasted yak. It tasted like a zippy sort of lamb-beef hybrid, and the tzatziki sauce complemented it perfectly. I’m thinking yak gyros are in my future.
Location: 13136 W. 159th, Homer Glen