Meet Meatheads, a business serious about meat.

By Jan Tuney

As if the name Meatheads Meat Market doesn’t give it away, the door handles at the Bettendorf store, fashioned out of meat cleavers, confirm that this is a business that is serious about meat.

The tantalizing aroma of a variety of smoked meats in the store at 2503 53rd Ave., is a reminder of the old-fashioned meat markets that were located at one time on every Main Street in America, as is the personal service. And then there are the bratwursts. Oh, those bratwursts. More than 50 varieties.

“We have a brat for everybody,” says Jen Varble, general manager of Meatheads. The business was founded by Bruce Schafman in Milan in 2004, and also includes an operation at the Freight House Farmers Market in Davenport, the store’s Food Truck, and the Milan Cookout. Schafman was the meat manager at the Milan Eagle store, and when the grocery chain closed, he opened Meatheads. His wife, Lisa Schafman, is a partner in the business.

The Bettendorf store will mark its third anniversary in April. It was established after customers who purchased brats at the Farmers Market kept asking about a store location on the Iowa side, Varble said.

“What really drives people to come in is our bratwurst,” Varble said. Philly cheese steak is the most popular variety, but the list is seemingly endless, including mac & cheese, Bloody Mary, bacon cheeseburger, Reuben, alligator, chili cheese, Hawaiian, chicken spinach mozzarella, and gummi bear. Yes, you read that right, gummi bear. A full list can be found on the Meatheads website at

“We get a lot of input about brat ideas,” she said. “It’s one of the most fun things for our customers and our employees.”

Offerings at Meatheads go far beyond bratwurst, however.

New York strips and ribeyes top the list of popular steaks, while the Iowa pork chop leads the pork selections.

“All of our beef is USDA Choice or better,” she said. “We cut our case fresh in the morning and grind fresh.”

Requests for special cuts of meat are welcome.

Meatheads also smokes a variety of meats such as ribs, brisket, chicken wings and pork, as well as salmon. Its BBQ Pulled Pork, made with Meatheads own barbecue sauce (which is sold at the store), is a popular item at area graduations, weddings and other parties, Varble said.

Fish is also on the menu at Meatheads, with a number of frozen varieties including halibut, tuna steak, cod, tilapia, orange roughy, red snapper and scallops. Varble said the fish is supplied by Great Midwest Seafood Company, which has its own market in Davenport and is known for its quality.

“They’re wonderful people and do a great job,” she said. “We love working with them.”

Meatheads also prides itself on a large selection of bulk spices and rubs, hot sauce, pickles, baking supplies (check out the amazing variety of sprinkles), candy (everything from licorice to candy-coated nuts to old-fashioned rock candy), gummis, and snack items like chips and pretzels.

Varble invites those who haven’t experienced shopping at Meatheads to stop in. Once weather permits, the Meatheads Food Truck will again offer lunch at the Bettendorf location on Mondays through Fridays.

“We love to talk to people,” she said. “When you’re cooking with your family or with friends, you really bring people together. I love people coming in and having that conversation with them.”

If you go

Meatheads Meat Market

2503 53rd Ave., Bettendorf, Iowa, 563-888-1119

520 10th Ave. W., Milan, Illinois, 309-787-2466

On the web at

On Facebook at Meatheads Meat Market

Hours: Monday-Saturday, 9 a.m.-6 p.m.

Sunday, 11 a.m.-5 p.m.