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Where Your Food Comes From: Blue Ribbon Meats

Where does your food come from? That’s a question many people wouldn’t be able to answer successfully. But at The Rail we can tell you where each and every ingredient comes from: the great state of Ohio! All of our menu items contain locally-sourced ingredients from farmers across the Buckeye State. We think it’s important to support our local farmers and companies so you can enjoy the freshest meal possible, and we're highlighting one valuable partner in particular in this blog post.

Our beef partner, Blue Ribbon Meats, has been paving the way for food service distribution in northeast Ohio for decades. The company originated in the late 1940s and was located in the Northern Ohio Food Terminal, also known as Cleveland’s “Food City.” The building was tall and narrow. The production occurred on the main floor, but the offices seemed to be stacked on top of each other, almost townhome style. An extremely steep staircase joined the office rooms, but it was a little dangerous from both the steepness and moisture in the air from production. In an attempt to combat possible injuries, Blue Ribbon built "the basket system.”

The handwritten order would come in on the main, ground floor then it was placed in a basket that was literally pulled via pulley up to the second level of office. The upstairs office worker would disperse the ticket to production who would then cut the order. When finished, she would find out the weights of everything, assign the weights to the invoice, and once everything was complete, it was sent back down in the basket to indicate the order was done.  So, everyone was always "checking the baskets" to get a sense of what was done and what needed to be done. The owner of the company today, Mike Radis, recently said, "I wish we would have saved that basket." It was symbolic of the company’s early days.

During the company’s time in the “Food City,” each of Blue Ribbon’s four partners had their own area of expertise. Albert Radis was responsible for the meat cutting operations, while the other partners ran the sausage kitchen, the office and outside sales, respectively. Initially the company was called Master Meats, but after several years they renamed themselves as Blue Ribbon Meats.

In 1978, against the advice of the company lawyer and accountant, who advised selling Blue Ribbon, Albert Radis bought out his partners and acquired 100% of Blue Ribbon. As part of the deal, he brought two of his sons on board and let them run the sales and operations of the company. His ideas were considered "the old way", and he felt that his sons would develop a "new way,” which would ensure the future of the company. As years passed, three more of his sons joined the business. From 1978 to 1994, when Blue Ribbon moved from the Northern Food Terminal to its current location, Albert continued overseeing the meat cutting operations from his own cutting block.

In July 2003, Albert passed away. He was always very proud that Blue Ribbon Meats had grown into the established business that it is today. His lasting legacy is that Blue Ribbon's initial focus on quality and service remains the focal point of the company to this day.

The Rail is proud to serve Blue Ribbon Meats day in and day out, as they are one of Cleveland's premier food service distributors. The owners pride themselves on customer service, dependability and the relationships they build with each and every customer. Over the past several decades, they’ve grown to accommodate the needs of each customer they serve. Blue Ribbon Meats recognizes that most restaurants are someone's small business and someone's dream coming true. They are a small business too and love helping to make the dream come true.

Blue Ribbon's Ohio Proud Beef is environmentally friendly, great tasting and socially responsible. To this day, the family-owned company grinds all of their meat in-house, at their Cleveland establishment. Then they use a specialized patty machine to weave together to produce the perfect burger every time, which creates a consistently sized, evenly cooked, delicious burger.


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