Boston Burger Week: Talking With David Crespo Of Savenor's Market In Boston

"I'd say anywhere from 80-100 pounds per week," estimates David Crespo, head butcher at the legendary Savenor's Market in Cambridge.  "And that's just retail." We're talking about ground beef, which the shop has proudly been selling since they opened their doors in 1939. In the '60s and '70s, Julia Child used to shop here weekly, special ordering game birds and, generally, being Julia Child. Crespo has been working at the store for four years and fills us in on the city's demand for signature burger blends. He also answers the pressing question: Is grass-fed beef really worth it?   

When someone comes in to your shop and says "I want burger meat," what do you suggest?

I normally suggest either chuck — which has the right amount of fat-to-beef ratio — or we go with the special blend of chuck steak, short rib beef and a top sirloin. We can really grind anything you want on the spot to give you a very good mixture of beef burger.

So people actually come in requesting their own signature blend?

They do. We normally have three different types of blends. We have a grass-fed, all-organic blend that's a mixture of organic, grass-fed chuck, tenderloin and New York strip. We have our Kobe, which also makes awesome burgers. We tend to only use the chuck of the Kobe itself or the flap meat — which are the steak tips and make awesome burgers. We have our Prime grade, which we only use chuck for.

Is your chuck an 80-20 blend, or do you go a little leaner?

The chuck is around an 85-15 blend.

Why is that the ideal grind?

You want a little fat in your burger — you don't want too much of a lean burger because you're not going to get too much flavor in it. A really good burger comes generally from chuck because it has the right amount of fat and right amount of beef. It doesn't really "spit out" a lot of fat if you were to grill it. It's generally one of our favorites to recommend. As I said, though, we're more than happy to grind any custom orders that our customers request.

Do you buy that grass-fed is better beef?

It's better to a point. If you're used to eating just Prime grade, there is going to be a real big taste difference. With grass-fed, you're really going to taste the earthiness of the blend. Most of our grass-fed products usually come from Archer Farms located in Chesterville, Maine. This guy comes in every Tuesday and Thursday — we meet the farmer himself — and he drops off at least two to three cattle a week.

And you go through two or three cattle a week?

Yeah, well we supply most of the restaurants around South End, Boston.

How do you personally cook your burgers at home?

I'll cook them medium. Basically as close to raw as possible. I'll get them nice and brown on the outside and nice and red in the middle. My wife won't eat them like that, so I'll do it with my kids.

What do you with the patty? Any spices?

Well, if I want to get weird I'll put in some onions or chunks of provolone cubes or peppers in there. But I like to taste the raw flavors. Any other sauces or marinades just generally ruin the beef and you're not tasting the quality of what you're purchasing.

Do you have a favorite burger in Boston?

Bergamot! They're right on Beacon Street. They do excellent food there and we supply most of their beef.

What makes the burger special there?

They purchase it from us and we know exactly where it comes from! We know exactly what they're grinding and what we're eating. So does every other customer in Cambridge — they know what they're getting when they purchase their beef from us and there has never been a complaint about the quality of food.

Earlier in Boston Burger Week: 

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