BY PAUL BICKLEY
Wagon Wheel Country Market & Deli at 1915 S. Walnut is a dine-in and carry-out deli, a grocery, and a full-service butcher shop. But Greg Stube, director of marketing, says the most important aspect of the Wagon Wheel is its emphasis on high-quality meat and in-house meat processing.
The Wagon Wheel starts with only the top 15 percent of grades of special-ordered meats from local suppliers — all additive-, hormone-, and antibiotic-free, says Stube.
Tri-tip cuts, the Wagon Wheel’s signature offering, are triangular cuts from the bottom sirloin. At the Wagon Wheel, they’re tenderized and marinated in a tumbler, the interior of which looks like a clothes dryer. The tumbler spins and drops the cuts a thousand times to tenderize them while a vacuum pump pulls marinade through them. Cuts and other marinated products are vacuum-sealed and stored in a cooler set at 9°F below the Board of Health mandate. All of this, co- owner Jim Wells says, guarantees consistent freshness, tenderness, and flavor.
Wells owns the Wagon Wheel with partners Jack Craig, a Bloomington entrepreneur, and Californian Pat Butler. Butler is also co- owner of the original 35-year-old Wagon Wheel, located in Oroville, California. The Bloomington store opened last November. “Jack and Jim thought a great cultural center like Bloomington would be a good test for this kind of market,” Stube says.
The store produces 36 flavors of brats, sausages, and franks, mix- ing small, 50-pound batches for optimal flavoring, says Stube. The smoked Hawaiian Jalapeño and Cheese brats are the most popular. Boasting a meat cooler–size programmable smoker, the Wagon Wheel can smoke 1,000 chicken wings at once. Those wings, Wells’ idea, are the store’s best seller. “We can’t make enough of them,” Stube says.
Everything on the deli’s menu is prepared fresh in-store, including special takes on breakfast sandwiches and burritos, franks, sandwiches (including tri-tip), and sides. “We treat you like family,” Stube says of the Wagon Wheel’s take-away customers and those who dine at the restaurant up front. That starts with host Emma Gill, whom Stube calls the “Wagon Wheel’s hub.”
“It’s about quality and customer service,” Wells says. “We offer things you can’t get elsewhere.”
For hours or more information, visit wagonwheelbloomington. com or call 812-333-2420.