Great Jones Street

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Basquiat’s Place: How a Site of Mob Beef Became a Boutique Butcher Shop

This week, we present a series of longer pieces unraveling the histories of storied buildings.

Japan Premium Beef at 57 Great Jones Street. (Photo: Hanna Wallis)

Japan Premium Beef at 57 Great Jones Street. (Photo: Hanna Wallis)

Below the sparkling glint of a crystal chandelier, slabs of meat rest behind glass as if displayed in a museum. Each label is handwritten in gold ink on a black card, leaving a sense of mortal weight; something lost, commemorated, aggrandized.

The little butcher shop at 57 Great Jones Street lacks any trace of blood or a stained smock. It gives no hint of the secrets lurking in the building’s history, like an art icon’s untimely death or the 1905 murder that catalyzed the decline of the Italian mob in the Bowery. The shop’s unexpected elegance hides the death intrinsic to each of its products. Steaks appear as objects of art, an impression their price tags reinforce.

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