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On Monday, Lincoln Square's once-great Delicatessen Meyer closed its doors, and I was tempted to declare it a sad day for sausage. The truth is Meyer had been in a downward spiral for months, something I'd failed to notice until I visited recently after a long absence. What was once a bustling, old-world-style German deli, shelves and cases packed with specialty meats, dark breads, European butter, German spirits and wines, and imported chocolates and candies, staffed by a disciplined platoon of starchly efficient, white-clad Eastern European ladies, looked like it had been looted by starving cossacks. I'd been in a few times since 2004 after new owner Hans Liebl took over from the Koetke family, who'd run it it since 1956 (according to the Sun-Times). What the hell happened? No more pretzelwurst, no more kaiserfleisch, no more holiday marzipan.
Meyer's closing reflects the fading imprint of the neighborhood's once strong German-American population, which supported at least four really good delis and butcher shops until fairly recently. Now there's only one. The selection at Lincoln Quality Meat Market isn't nearly as extensive as that at the old Meyer's, though it seems to have improved quite a bit recently with fresh free-range chickens, prime beef cut to order, all sorts of smoked and fresh pork, imported Italian prosciutto, a small but interesting selection of packaged goods, and three varieties of dry cured Hungarian sausage--not to mention more than dozen other different European varieties. I bought a package of Romanian cevapcici yesterday to console myself. The butcher was good enough to advise me he'd just ground it that morning, and to put it in the freezer if I wasn't going to use it right away. No need for that.