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Shopping small: Specialty shops for meats, fish and baked goods are fresher and often cheaper

<p>Chuck Frommer chats with a customer whilemaking quick work of some chickens in the butcher shop at John Mull&amp;#8217;s Meats. Frommer, who now owns the business, is the grandson of John Mull. PHOTO: BILL HUGHES</p>

Chuck Frommer chats with a customer whilemaking quick work of some chickens in the butcher shop at John Mull&#8217;s Meats. Frommer, who now owns the business, is the grandson of John Mull. PHOTO: BILL HUGHES

Among the things I miss most about living in Brooklyn are the numerous small shops where I could buy groceries. I could walk to a butcher for quality meats, drop by a fish market and visit a bakery. Sure, one-stop shopping is convenient. But the variety, quality and prices at specialty shops are almost always superior. And it’s nice to support a local mom-and-pop business rather than a faceless national chain.

I doubt I’ll be walking to a Las Vegas specialty store soon, but there are some great shops out there if you know where to look.

John Mull’s Meats (3730 Thom Blvd., 645-1200) has been operating in a suburban neighborhood off Craig Road since the 1950s. Looking more like a horse ranch than a butcher shop, it carries a large selection of beef, pork, poultry, goat and specialty meats. But you should probably call ahead to place your order. Because ever since Guy Fieri convinced owner Chuck Frommer to convert his barbecue catering company to the brick-and-mortar Road Kill Grill restaurant for an episode of Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, the lines for pre-cooked food have stretched out the door. Sure, you can cut to the front for the butcher — but it’s still pretty cramped.

For a butcher shop without the Food Network fans, the westside has two other great options: Larry’s Great Western Meats (420 S. Valley View Blvd., 877-3182) on the north end of town and The Butcher Block (7625 S. Rainbow Blvd., 558-6328) in the south. Overall, Larry’s tends to boast the better prices, with USDA Choice steaks running from $5 to $10 a pound. It also offers seven house-made sausages, and a nice variety of game meat, including quail, rabbit, elk and buffalo. And where else can you find sweetbreads for less than $2 a pound? Butcher Block specializes in some very nice high-end products like Kurobuta pork, dry-aged and grass-fed beef, and real Japanese A5 Wagyu. (Sure, $120 a pound sounds expensive for the latter, but compare that to the $20 to $35 an ounce you’ll pay for it in a restaurant, and it’s a steal!) Everything is cut to order, usually by owners Ron or Jeanette. If the trip to Rainbow and Warm Springs is too much, the couple will open a second location in Centennial Hills soon.

Finding a good seafood market in this town is a bit tougher. Chinatown boasts a handful of good choices. But I prefer the International Marketplace (5000 S. Decatur Blvd., 889-2888). OK, it’s as huge as any supermarket. But you won’t find most of the products sold here in any Vons — including the nice variety of fish, shellfish and other inhabitants of the seas.

When it comes to bakeries, there are several great spots, each specializing in something different. For basic breads, pastries and bagels, nobody beats Bread & Butter (1094 S. Eastern Ave., 675-3300). In addition to those, former Bouchon baker Chris Herrin also offers cinnamon rolls, soft pretzels, muffins and plenty of other baked treats. If you’re looking for more decadent gourmet desserts, check out Chocolate & Spice Bakery (7293 W. Sahara Ave., 527-7772). Run by another Strip expatriate, pastry chef Megan Romano, the selection of bon bons, truffles, homemade candy bars and other dessert treats is out of this world. They’re backed up by an amazing selection of cookies, muffins, croissants, scones and tarts.

Those two double as restaurants. My final choice is a takeout spot. It would be easy to dismiss Retro Bakery (7785 N. Durango Drive, 586-3740) as just another trendy cupcake spot. But for the past five years, owners Kari and Brian Haskell have turned it into a Centennial Hills institution. In addition to their over-the-top gourmet cupcakes, they offer cookies and their recently introduced miniature cream pies.