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Sausage Fest

For this food critic, there's nothing quite as satisfying as gnawing on a hunk of butt while perusing the Scottsdale-based Serbian Times and occasionally wondering how many pierogi a grown man can ingest before he explodes. The butt in question? Smoked pork butt, silly! From Stanley's Home Made Sausage Co...
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For this food critic, there's nothing quite as satisfying as gnawing on a hunk of butt while perusing the Scottsdale-based Serbian Times and occasionally wondering how many pierogi a grown man can ingest before he explodes. The butt in question? Smoked pork butt, silly! From Stanley's Home Made Sausage Co. on McDowell Road, just east of 22nd Street.

Stanley's, which has been in business since 1963, displays its butts with pride, on hooks behind the counter in this small but ever-popular Eastern European deli. There these marbled hunks of pig flesh share space with a selection of the 46 meats and sausages made on the premises by the Stevanovic family -- 31-year-old Marko, and his mom and dad, Emilia and Vukadin. Needless to say, I haven't seen so many smoked butts since visiting the local pool hall a while back for a spot of snooker with the boys.

Okay, enough with the butt jokes, already. After all, pork butt is just a colorful way of saying pork shoulder, commonly used for North Carolina-style, pulled-pork barbecue. (A swine's rear end is ham, of course, so we've all eaten pig keister, unless you happen to be an especially devout Muslim or Jew.) Stanley's "butt" or "shoulder" is about the size of a beefy man's two fists laid side-by-side. The meat is soft and sweet, ready to be eaten as soon as the Polish lady keeping shop hands it over to you.

As mentioned above, Stanley's is far more than pork butt. Vukadin "Vule" Stevanovic, 60, is from Serbia originally, having fled the Iron Curtain when he was only 18 by walking all the way to Italy. Not long after, he immigrated to the U.S., and settled in Chicago, where he met his Polish wife, Emilia. Vukadin's pop was in the sausage biz in Serbia, so when he brought his parents over from the former Yugoslavia, they all went into business together, buying a deli in Chi-town, which they ran for several years.

Vukadin's father decided to retire 16 years ago, and as a result, the entire clan moved to Phoenix, where Vukadin bought the then-struggling Stanley's, becoming the deli's third owner. For the first three years, Vukadin and Emilia were barely able to keep it afloat. But they persisted, and today, their enterprise produces anywhere from 2,500 to 5,000 pounds of sausages and other pork goods a week, most of which is sold right out the front of the McDowell store, or the other location they have up on Bell Road.

Being that I'm still somewhat new to town, I'm a recent and enthusiastic fan of Stanley's. I'd been passing its pale-brick exterior for some time, making note of the small lot usually crowded with cars, when I finally stopped in for a Polish sausage sub with mustard and sauerkraut, and was hooked. The sub is one of the best sandwiches I've had during my sojourn in Phoenix, made with fat, garlicky kielbasa so packed with flavor that all I could think about afterward was going back for more the next day.

Stanley's makes 20 different kinds of subs, in most cases with meats mixed, packed and smoked in the back of the establishment. Another one I love is the European sub, made with five different kinds of meat, including pepper loaf and a coarsely ground Serbian sausage, all topped with lettuce, tomato and seasonings. After biting into the Euro, you'll swear off Subway forever as the sandwich-maker for girly-men. A double hot dog sub is a trencherman's treat, if only for the wieners Stanley's makes with natural "skins," i.e., pig intestines. This natural casing gives them a snap when you tear into them that you don't get with lesser franks, and with simple toppings like tomato, onions and mustard, they're scrumptious.

Aside from subs, you can also nosh on pierogi prepared in-house, boiled and then covered with fried bacon bits and the grease from the pan. These half-moon-shaped Polish dumplings are stuffed with either beef, sauerkraut, farmer's cheese, or potato. The dough is of a gnocchi-like thickness, and satisfying in a way few other foods can match. I tested them on a friend of mine of who hails from Pole-and-Slav-happy Cleveland (known by wags as "The Mistake by the Lake"), where these oversize ravioli are as common as prickly pears are here, and she agreed with me that Stanley's pierogi kick more ass than a Rage in the Cage champ.

You can partake of Stanley's pierogi at one of the four, count 'em, four, tables provided, or you can schlep 'em home frozen and boil or fry them up later. Most of Stanley's biz is takeout, with folks coming in for assorted groceries from Romania, Hungary, Poland, and so on, in addition to the meats. I haven't seen the newer Bell Road store, which is run by Marko's fiance, Danka Obradovic. But this original locale is funky and cramped with everything from babushka dolls and Serbian newspapers to the white eagle crest of Poland on one wall and a soccer ball that's been suspended from the ceiling for so long that even the Stevanovics can't tell you its precise significance.

Hard to do justice to Stanley's assortment of sausages, there are so many. Classics like beer sausage and bratwurst, which are mild and easy on the digestive tract, have an almost universal appeal. Other items like head cheese, a gelatinous cold cut crafted from chopped-up pig faces, are not for the squeamish. Yugoslav and Hungarian sausages tend to be coarser, and the Hungarian ones are especially spicy, and orange inside and out from paprika. There's krakow, a ham salami that's made from lean cuts, and Austrian-style tiroler, which is lightly spiced and smoked. And as for the kielbasa, or Polish sausage, according to Vukadin, "If it doesn't smell like garlic, it's not Polish sausage."

I need to go back to Stanley's to try the coffee cake and the cabbage rolls (golabki), but I did lap up a couple of pounds of bigos, which at Stanley's consists of sauerkraut stewed with pork. I'm telling you, the stuff was so savory it was all I could do to stop myself from going for pound number three. Indeed, after discovering Stanley's cornucopia of meats, I may never need to eat pork butt again, as I now appear to be growing my own.

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