You might not think of the local butcher shop as a place to get a restaurant-quality meal served — but then, Dundore & Heister is always trying to change the way people see food.
The Wyomissing meat market known for whole-animal butchery, specialty cuts and sustainable practices now also offers a bevy of hot meal options.
Diners can pick up a grab-and-go meal kit, grab hot food specials such as tacos or pasta on select days of the week or order lunch or dinner anytime from a to-go menu that includes burgers, roast beef and fried chicken sandwiches and more.
Every meal is nourishing, ready to go and thoughtfully prepared using Dundore & Heister meats and other locally sourced ingredients.
"Our chef and culinary team are thinking about creative recipes, beautiful presentation and unique ways to present D&H meats in ready-to-go form," said Tod Auman, who co-owns Dundore & Heister with his wife, Chrissy.
Hot meals are not a brand new concept for Dundore & Heister, which has become known in part for its Fried Chicken Fridays and Hot Smoked Saturdays since opening in 2014.
Earlier this year, Dundore & Heister expanded on its prepared food offerings, citing evolving consumer preferences and a rising need for convenience.
"People want to eat better coming out of the pandemic," Auman said. "They've seen how their health and what they eat can affect what happens to them, so there's been an increasing focus on what's in the food we eat, where it came from, how it was raised. Is it clean?
"And we want to have convenient meals, especially coming out of the pandemic. People's schedules are different now. They might not have as much time as they did at home during quarantine, a lot of people are back to work — but there's still that same need to eat a nourishing meal."
A ringer in the kitchen
The expansion of hot food service brought with it the arrival of Executive Chef Jonathan Collins, who builds on the credibility Dundore & Heister already established.
Collins began training to become a chef in high school, going on to earn bachelor's and associate's degrees from Johnson & Wales University's culinary program, then purchasing a bagel shop and deli in North Carolina out of college. He later worked at Michelin star restaurants in both New York City and Washington, D.C., and also spent time consulting and teaching in the industry.
His experience with the latter played a role in attracting Collins to Dundore & Heister.
"I really loved what Tod's approach is," Collins said. "Not just to food and the way things are done with the business, but his outreach to the community is very big for me.
"I love to teach. I love to make sure people are succeeding."
As a native of southern Maryland who grew up visiting Amish markets with his family, Berks County also felt familiar to Collins when he began gravitating toward the region last year after COVID resulted in his being laid off from his previous job.
The opportunity to help assemble a kitchen at Dundore & Heister while simultaneously putting to use the lessons learned during the pandemic proved too good to pass up.
"We want to push how and why we're doing it rather than what," Collins said. "After COVID happened and everybody had to adjust to doing takeout and all these prepared meals, you're definitely seeing customers where that's the norm and the expectation now.
"You can go out and get a really good meal, and you don't have to pay $600 at a fine dining restaurant."
How to order from Dundore & Heister
Dundore & Heister helpfully breaks down the new meal offerings into three categories, all of which can be ordered online or by phoning ahead — in-store availability may vary.
There are grab-and-go meal kits such as complete steak dinners, cheesesteaks and burgers that are relatively easy to prepare at home. Then there are the Chef's Table Meals, which are ready to eat and consist of either the special of the day or one of several menu options that are always available to order.
"With 'Chef's Table,' we're trying to imply that special sauce, that special kiss of attention of thought and detail that makes it a Dundore & Heister Chef's Table Meal," Auman said.
Of course, Dundore & Heister continues to offer its full line of proteins skillfully carved in-house by head butcher Mark Mancuso and his team, with every product farmed locally and responsibly, plus a selection of artisan and handcrafted food items from regional vendors.
Meals to go are just another way for Dundore & Heister to connect with consumers and provide them with quality ingredients.
"Sometimes during the week, maybe Saturday or Sunday, our worlds seemingly slow down, and you might have an afternoon to make an amazing meal where you sit down with family and friends," Auman said. "That's a good time for D&H raw meats from the case.
"But during the week, maybe you work, the kids have baseball, you're running around, have all these errands. You can quick stop in, get a meal brought to the car, brought to the takeout window, call ahead, order online and get the same nourishing meal in ready-to-go fashion."
D&H continues its mission
The other benefit to the expanded menu is it will strengthen Dundore & Heister's most important partners.
"The more prepared foods we do, the more demand there is, it allows us to purchase more from local farmers," Auman said.
Since its opening, Dundore & Heister always strove to be more than a simple butcher shop. It's also trying to uphold the culture and traditions that made the region so well known as a farming hub for centuries, and maintain Berks County's "sense of place" through food.
"We want to be symbolic of what a Pennsylvania butcher is, which is sourcing locally, working hand-in-hand with farmers to bring their amazing hard work and dedication to market, and telling the story of our heritage," said Auman, a Berks native. "We want people to feel a sense of pride about where their food comes from."
Even if those values don't lead everybody to buy their meat from local butchers rather than grocery stores, if Dundore & Heister can at least make you a meal or a sandwich, it still has a positive impact.
"Creating more awareness is huge," Collins said. "And just smiles. That's the biggest thing for me — making sure we are creating a memory and experience for somebody."