While the pandemic has been tough on the restaurant industry, some industry categories thrived, including old-fashioned neighborhood butcher shops, which kept meat on the table when supermarket shelves were bare in the early months of the pandemic. Here’s a look behind the counter at five local butcher shops that have debuted in the past few years.
Wise Ox Butcher & Eatery
Opened: September 2020 in North Park
Background: Trust Restaurant Group owner Brad Wise took over the Heart & Trotter butcher shop last year, expanded its product mix and added a popular hot sandwich line. All meat and poultry products are broken down in house and smoked, cured, aged (30 to 45 days) and ground into sausage onsite. The shop also sells wine, salads, seasonings, side dishes and offal. All lunch meats, including mortadella and pastrami, are also made there. A second Wise Ox location will open this fall in Carlsbad.
Top-sellers: Bone-in rib eye, New York and Denver cut steaks, and the No. 1 hot sandwich is the double cheeseburger.
Details: 2855 El Cajon Blvd., North Park. (619) 564-8976. thewiseoxsd.com
Swagyu Chop Shops
First shop opened: August 2020 in Imperial Beach
Background: When the pandemic shut down chef Steve Brown’s $200 Japanese A5 Wagyu dinner series in March 2020, he began selling off his Wagyu (a highly marbleized beef) inventory on his Instagram account. It was so successful, he bypassed the restaurant model to open his first Swagyu Chop Shop in Imperial Beach six months later. New shops have followed in Pacific Beach and Poway. The shops sell locally and ships nationally four varieties of Wagyu beef from the U.S., Japan and Australia, as well as his company Cosecha SD’s brand of Arrington Ranch Wagyu from Montana. Each shop also has a Swagyu Burger hot sandwich side business, offering Wagyu burgers and “nitro” fries, which are dipped in liquid nitrogen before frying.
Top-sellers: Custom meat packages like 4-ounce burgers, dinner kits that come with seasonings and side dishes and fresh-cooked Swagyu burgers.
Details: 1002 Palm Ave., Imperial Beach; 966 Felspar St., Pacific Beach; 14149 Twin Peaks Road, Poway. swagyu.square.site
Blue Box Butcher
Opened: March 2021 in Little Italy
Background: A..J Tangsoc couldn’t find meat in his neighborhood, so with business partner Rick Wright, he opened Blue Box Butcher last spring. It’s a tiny hut-like market that sells Brandt Beef and Mishima Reserve American Wagyu, as well as lemon pepper chicken breasts, fresh vegetables and jarred house chimichurri sauce. It’s also an online market offering pre-packed butcher boxes. On the weekends, it does burger and hot sandwich cookouts in the parking lot.
Top-sellers: The Burger Box, with different types of beef patties and fixings for four gourmet burgers, and larger boxes offering a mix of raw meat cuts with vegetables.
Details: 2102 India St., Little Italy. (619) 393-8511. blueboxbutcher.com
Opened: May 2019 in Carmel Valley
Background: This Orange County-based premium and exotic meat market chain opened its first San Diego County location two years ago in the One Paseo shopping center, offering one of the largest and most diverse meat selections in the region. The store sells a wide variety of beef, pork, bison and poultry products along with special order items such as elk, venison, veal liver, frog legs, ground lamb and more. There’s a large gourmet market offering deli cheeses, wines, breads, sauces and other items, and a hot and cold sandwich counter.
Top-sellers: Marinated Angus steak tips, house-ground burger patties, Snake River Farms American Wagyu products and Salmon Creek Farms heirloom pork chops.
Details: 3720 Caminito Court, Suite 200, San Diego. (858) 345-1524. butcherymeats.com
Ranch 45 Local Provisions
Opened: November 2018 in Solana Beach
Background: Married restaurateurs Pam and chef Aron Schwartz run this restaurant and meat market that specializes in both cut-to-order and pre-packaged steaks, burgers, beef hot dogs and dry-aged cuts from Brandt Beef, an all-natural cattle ranch in Brawley. There are also wines for sale and cooking classes. Its restaurant sources ingredients from Brandt as well as organic Mary’s Free-Range Chicken, Chino Farms and Eben-Haezer Egg Ranch. An upcoming renovation will quadruple the space, allowing for an expanded meat counter offering chicken, seafood and lamb, as well as custom meat-cutting.
Top-sellers: To-go beef grilling kits, Brandt burgers and steak-centric breakfast and lunch dishes.
Info: 512 Via de la Valle, Solana Beach. (858) 461-0092. ranch45.com