For his own part, Ray Turkas Jr. doesn't have fancy tastes. "I enjoy a steak," he says.
But Strip District Meats is all about the customer. "In 40 years of doing this," Turkas says, "I've filled a lot of unusual requests. If people want rhino toenails, I want to find them." So alongside conventional products like ground beef and sausage, he's long offered unusual cuts, including cow brains and testicles. (Though "the testicles are, quite frankly, a slow mover.") And last January, Turkas began selling meat from different species entirely.
Ostrich steaks. Alligator sirloin. Antelope medallions. Each week, Turkas buys two 200-pound containers of such exotic meats, frozen and shipped by air from a California distributor.
"It's worked a lot of different ways for us," Turkas says. The rare meats appeal to the "foodie" clientele, while "giving us a lot of exposure." In 2012, Turkas plans to add rattlesnake and alpaca, among others.
It helps that the Turkas kids, who help run the shop, are adventurous eaters. Asked to pick a favorite exotic meat, Ray Turkas III pauses. "Kangaroo jumps out at me. Literally," he says.
Family tradition, after all, is as important here as trendy "exotics." A restored old-fashioned meat scale stands by the entrance, symbolizing a legacy that began when Ray Jr.'s father started selling poultry.
Would the first Ray Turkas approve of dealing in ostrich?
"He would have embraced it," says Ray Jr. "He was a broad-minded businessman."
2123 Penn Ave., Strip District. 412-391-1762 or www.stripdistrictmeats.com