Belcampo Meat Co.
1998 Polk Street (at Jackson), 415-660-5573, belcampomeatco.com
In 2012, the folks at Belcampo set out on a mission to bring delicious meat from their own farm to their restaurants and old-fashioned butcher shops. Located at the foot of Mount Shasta in California’s Cascade Range, the farm is certified organic by California Certified Organic Farmers and as a humane handling facility by Animal Welfare Approved. The animals are pasture raised, meaning they’re free to graze and express natural herd instincts.
Belcampo in Russian Hill is their sixth California outlet and features a restaurant serving lunch, brunch, and dinner alongside a butcher shop that sells beef, pork, poultry, sausages, jerky, bacon, and fresh eggs (among other things). The restaurant menu changes daily, but on a recent lunch visit my dining companion had one of the staples, Belcampo’s take on a classic cheeseburger with gooey white cheddar, butter lettuce, grilled onions, and “special sauce” on a soft sesame seed bun served with fries ($17). The meat is as high quality as you’ll find, lightly packed and crumbly with a caramelized crust on the outside and a tender, pink center.
I went for one of the rotating specials, the “mean eggs and ham”: Ham salad “deviled” with sriracha aioli and green onions topped with a tempura battered deep-fried poached egg, sliced avocado, and pickled onions cradled in that same soft sesame seed bun ($12). It was as delicious as it was unique (my only complaint is that the egg was hardboiled — I prefer my poached egg yolk runny so it can ooze onto the other ingredients). I’d heard a lot about the bone broth egg drop soup ($6), but I was disappointed in the complete lack of seasoning. The dinner menu offers hearty fare, including a roast heritage chicken, country pork chop, and nightly selection of grass-fed steaks.
For me, the best thing about Belcampo is the butcher shop. Not only do they offer unusual cuts, the guys behind the counter are friendly, knowledgeable, and happy to help, whether they’re explaining what the cut is or how to prepare it. I took home a pork coppa roast, which is the same shoulder cut used to make coppa salumi. In Italy they call this “coppa fresca,” and you’ll find it in grocery stores for roasting and braising. In the U.S. it’s incredibly hard to come by, so I was thrilled to find it at Belcampo. After searing the coppa roast in a cast iron pan with just olive oil and sea salt, I cooked it in the oven at 400 degrees for 30 minutes and, after a 10-minute rest, served it medium rare over roasted rosemary potatoes and garlic sautéed baby spinach. Another night I took home a “secreto” (flank steak of pork) and, while it wasn’t as spectacular as the acorn-fed Iberico secreto from Spain, it was pretty darn close. The dry aged, grass-fed 80/20 ground beef turns a homemade burger into a restaurant burger, so that’s a must, as are a dozen of the fresh, pastured eggs.
The best surprise of all was the “dog grind” — a blend of ground beef and organs especially for your best furry friend. Since I cook for my rescued pit bull, Skylar (she has an extremely sensitive stomach), this was a fantastic find. Not only is it the best quality ground beef in town, the organ meats add extra nutrients and antioxidants, and, of course, Skylar loves it. Priced at a reasonable $3.99 per pound (that’s cheaper than a can of dog food these days), the containers are kept in the freezer so you’ll have to ask for it — just tell them Skylar sent you!