Located on a busy corner Polk Street corner on the edge of Russian Hill, Belcampo Meat Co. is the brainchild of Todd Robinson and Anya Fernald, who have pioneered a business model for butchery from their farm at Mount Shasta to several Northern California locations, including their first table-service destination in San Francisco.
This farm-to-fork approach means that all cuts are completely traceable back to grass-fed herds and heritage-breed hogs, poultry and rabbits. All meats are organic and humanely raised, and overall waste in the production process is minimized.
In addition a full-service butcher counter that opened in June, the Polk Street location features a 34-seat restaurant with custom-leather banquettes crafted from Belcampo’s own steer hides. The restaurant is open daily for lunch and dinner service and brunch on the weekends.
Recently we sat down with Chef Chris Gerwig, whose debut at Belcampo marks his return to the Bay Area—he previously worked at A16 before taking jobs in New York (Plino’s, Il Buco) and LA (Village Idiot, the Black Cat).
“At A16, we did whole pigs and lambs, so that’s where I got introduced to whole animal butchery,” Gerwig says. “I learned the basics there, then when the executive chef and I went to New York, we did whole animals including cows—pretty much everything we could.”
Finicky eaters may shy away from unfamiliar animal parts, but therein lies the inspiration for Gerwig.
“What’s fun to me is getting stuck with something that seems undesirable, like pig’s feet,” he says. “Trying to come up with a way to make pig’s feet delicious is a challenge, but I like that kind of thing.”
In crafting the menu for the Russian Hill location, Gerwig tries to balance clean, simple flavors while expanding clients’ palettes.
“I’ve been trying to slowly implement some organ stuff,” he says. “We have a duck liver pate, and we’ve been messing around with kidneys, tongues, lamb brains—that’s the direction I want to go in.”
Yet for every dish like heart and gizzard skewers and braised goat, there are also staples like the cheeseburger, which has already generated buzz in the local food blogosphere, and New York strip steak. The chef’s current favorite is the beef navel, in an iteration inspired by a green papaya salad.
“I salt it pretty heavily overnight, then confit it for 12 hours, then deep fry it,” he says. “It’s really crispy on the outside, and then we slice it and serve it on top of this slaw-type salad with jicama, broccoli and carrot with a dressing that’s got Thai chilies, lime juice, garlic and honey.”
After his time away, Gerwig is happy to be back in the Bay Area, where customers appreciate their food for what it is.
“San Franciscans will sit at a table that’s undesirable just to eat the good food,” he says. “In New York they want to sit in the middle of the dining room. The same with LA—it’s much more of a scene. Basically, SF is a food city and NY is a dining city, where going out to eat is a very big event. People get dressed up and do all these things, whereas in SF fine dining is dying in a way; no one requires a jacket or a tie. To this day there are restaurants in New York where you can’t even get in the door if you don’t have a tie on.”
Belcampo is open seven days a week. Lunch available Monday through Friday, 11:30am – 3pm, brunch on weekends starting at 10:30am. Dinner available from 5:30pm to close.
[Photos courtesy of Belcampo]