Stefano Diaz, owner of The Meat Wagon, a newly opened meatery in Kingston.
Photos by Alex Harris
A Fleishers alum turns his mobile meat wagon into a brick-and-mortar butcher shop stocked with special cuts in the Hudson Valley.
“I don’t want to be the meat guy, I just want to be a meat guy.”
That’s what Stefano Diaz says about himself and his newly opened Kingston meatery, The Meat Wagon, where it’s all about nose-to-tail butchery.
Diaz, though, wasn’t always a butcher. The Fishkill native first attended culinary school at Le Cordon Bleu in Pittsburgh, then it was onto Asheville where he worked at The Biltmore’s Stable Café under Brian Hough. It was there that he was introduced to whole-animal butchery. “Brian brought in whole pigs and taught me how to Italian-seam butcher,” says Diaz. “I loved it instantaneously and got really good at it. I wanted to know and learn more. I was conflicted because I spent 80 grand on culinary school!”
From there, Diaz explored butchering opportunities. He found and applied to a three-month butchering apprenticeship at Fleishers Craft Butchery flagship store in Kingston. After completion of the program, he worked his way up to head butcher until it closed in 2017.
Post-Fleishers, Diaz missed the “natural meeting space” that butchering provided. “It’s not just about buying meat, it’s about the experience of talking to a human being, discussing recipes and talking about life,” he says. “Initially, I didn’t want a shop. My dad passed, I had little money. I wasn’t ready.”
Diaz became ready when someone he dated suggested the idea of a mobile butcher shop that moved from town to town selling whole-butchered animal packages or shares of one which he’d deliver straight to your freezer. In 2018, The Meat Wagon was born, with the same eco-conscious, no-waste butchering philosophy he learned years ago.
Along the way, Diaz was approached by the Rondout Kingston Farmers Market to be their sole meat vendor, a city and community he wanted to get back to serving because of the connections he made at Fleishers.
Diaz then heard that a co-worker from his Fleischers days was renovating a storefront in Kingston. They had a good rapport, and The Meat Wagon’s brick-and-mortar version opened in mid-January.
In Diaz’s shop, you’ll find everything from homemade merguez sausage, smoked ham hocks, steaks, duck confit, and house-smoked bacon to local pantry goods. Duck and rabbit are also available via special order. And because ethical butchery is practiced at The Meat Wagon, don’t expect to see veal or foie gras.
As for what’s coming up, Diaz would like to get a rotisserie to offer customers whole-roasted chickens and possibly other prepared items if there’s a demand for it. For now, he’s happy to be back in Kingston, cutting meat ethically, and fulfilling a community need.
The Meat Wagon
331 Hasbrouck Ave, Kingston; 845.536.6631