With his salt-and-pepper hair, big hands, and ruddy cutting board stained from breaking down meat all day, the man behind the counter at Kendall’s Johnny Jones butcher shop must be the guy who gave the store its name. After all, he looks the part. However, even with an all-American name and a sign promoting USDA Prime and Choice meat in the front window, this carnicería is about as Argentine as you can get.
The man behind the counter is Edward Ochoa, an Argentine native who has spent nearly 40 years in the United States, living between New York and Miami. “I have worked practically my whole life in this line of work. We were the family from Don Domingo, founder of practically the first butcher shop in Miami,” Ochoa says fondly, remembering how long he’s been in the meat-cutting business. “My father-in-law was there until 1996, when he sold. I stayed there with the new owner until 2001. After that, I came here. I became independent.”
American or Argentine, it really doesn’t matter. Ochoa is in the business of selling quality meats. "Carne está en mi sangre,” he says. Meat runs through his veins.
Ochoa doesn’t know the exact heritage of Johnny Jones, though he can say it’s been around for some time. Even after taking over the business in 2001, the name was too well known to change. “The name already had attention. It had been here for years, so we kept it,” he says.
Located at 9891 N. Kendall Dr., even with a purebred American name like Johnny Jones, the butcher shop’s soul is now South American. Outside, the writing on the windows promotes cuts of meat by their names in Spanish: lomo, entraña, picanha. Inside, wines from Argentina, Chile, and Spain fill the shelves.
Inside the butcher case sits everything from dry-aged rib eye to rack of lamb, various cuts of pork, as well as house-made sausages. “We make our own chorizos, morcillas, salchicha parrillera — also our invention, from the '80s, of the chorizo bon bon. We invented this type of chorizo, the little ones,” Ochoa says, proud of his handiwork. But he’s not the only one getting his hands dirty.
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Atop the meat cooler sits a small hotbox full of handmade pastries. "My wife is the guilty one for the empanadas you love," the butcher reveals. His wife remained in the back on a recent visit, but with attentive ears to hear praise of the small pockets full of various cheeses, chicken, beef, and the shop’s handmade chorizos.
On Saturdays, Johnny Jones sells baguettes that have been shipped from Uruguay. They make for a perfect choripan, ideal with a bottle of Malbec from Mendoza. Ochoa knows it. Instead of preparing to celebrate the Fourth of July, Johnny Jones will sell meat and pastries for the finale of the Copa América, which happens to fall on Independence Day.
It’s easy to hit up Publix, Whole Foods, or any other grocer for your grilling needs. However, you won’t get the same attention, or lessons in international history, that you would when visiting Johnny Jones. For your Fourth of July celebration, be it for soccer or freedom, visit Edward Ochoa, hanging out behind the meat cooler. Chances are, he’ll have the perfect cut. Just don’t forget a jar of his house-made chimichurri to go with it.