Avedano's Meats: Local People, Local Food

I’ve been to Avedano’s Meats on Cortland several times since its grand opening on July 15, mostly just to poke around, but I could never remember the name. My friends who live in Bernal Heights would say things like, “Have you checked out that new place around the corner?” and, “What’s that place called again?” I’m terrible with names (and evidently in this case, so are my friends), which is a great liability. I have to play word association games to remember anything these days. I knew the place was a meat market, in the sense of selling meat, of course, but I was also aware that they sold much more than that. Did they sell skincare products? Doubtful, unless one considers animal fat an excellent facial hydrating agent. Aveda? No. Now you might understand why I am exhausted all the time.

At least now I won’t forget the name.

Avedano’s is the dreamchild of three women– Tia Harrison, Melanie Eisemann, and Angela Wilson. Harrison, if you didn’t know, is also the chef/owner of Sociale (which happens to be a subject of this week’s Check, Please! here on KQED). And, if she’s not busy enough running a restaurant and a quality meat store, her new baby occupies the rest of her time. That is what I would call energetic. I am shamed by my own lethargy.

The location, 235 Cortland Avenue (at Bocana), has been a butcher shop ever since it opened as Cicero’s Meats in 1901. More recently known as Bleuss Meats, its faded streamline moderne sign leant a charming sense of decay to the Bernal neighborhood for years, but I never saw the door open for business. When the place was (minimally) reinvented as a butcher/ sashimi store, I was filled with hope– one just doesn’t find many good butchers operating independently of a supermarket these days. Sadly, the former owners were using this retail-only space to run a wholesale business on the sly, which isn’t exactly legal. So the mini-blinds were pulled down and the door closed again.

The name Avedano derives from Harrison’s grandparents, whose family emigrated from Asti to the Bay Area in 1906 to what I would consider a dramatic welcome. One hundred and one years later, there’s a fresh coat of paint on the old sign with their name on it and the door is once again open. This time, however, I am more than cautiously optimistic.

You won’t find the refrigerated meat case brimming with animal proteins yet, but what is there is excellent: Grass-fed beef from Estancia and Strawberry Mountain, Mary’s Chickens, and wild, local seafood like Monterey sardines. The trio at Avedano’s is currently working to source more local, sustainable meat and fish for their store, so look for more variety in the near future. Until then, enjoy what they’ve got. Just get there early and take a number.

Someone stole the number 1 ticket, which should not be taken as a symbolic gesture since I have yet to experience being treated like number 2 here.

In addition to quality meats, Avedano’s sells a variety of other items…

Such as rarely seen (in San Francisco) pastas like Croxetti from Liguria…

…stamped with a family coat of arms on one side and a cross (hence the name) or a boat or some such symbol on the other. They look like Holy Communion wafers.

Sea salt: $5.00 a jar…

Cupcakes, cookies, and other sweets from Tia’s other, other business, Lucky Cooky Company…

For those of you without time to cook for yourselves, Avedano’s has fresh soups and sandwiches available, which are perfect for lunchtime. If you want dinner, prepared meals like their popular fried chicken and potato salad…

… or gypsy peppers stuffed with Oaxaca cheese are available after 3 pm. If you are of an age group not known for having teeth, or if you simply have a preference for soft foods, like my friend Patrick, they make their own baby food, too. Just inquire.

Sundays are a special treat– fresh tacos. My friend Mark and I sat on the bench outside the store last week inhaling hot, Berkshire pork wrapped in corn tortillas, dripping with lime juice and pickled cabbage for $2.50 a pop. I gave them a rather messy thumbs up.

If you hadn’t guessed by now, I love Avedano’s. For me, it’s one thing for a place to have good, fresh food. Pack a place with nice folks and quirky (and unselfconscious) detail and I am an instant fan…

Avedano’s has got this Holy Trinity of charm in spades. In fact, the last time I was there, I was so wrapped up in the details (like the fact that these women had the store’s walls painted with colors found in vintage advertising leaflets) that I barely took notice of the meat. I just wish I’d taken a clear photo of the magnet that stated, “It’s okay to put fish in your hair” on their magnet board (the stick figure in the green triangle dress at the top center of the photo below).

And this photo of the floor is now the desktop image on my computer…

There’s a lot going on at Avedano’s, but there’s more in store in the near future. Look for more prepared foods, more locally sourced organic products, and maybe even a small cafe or, say, sausage-making classes in the small storefront next door. We’ll just have to wait and see.

235 Cortland Avenue (at Bocana).
Open Tuesday through Sunday, 11 am to 8 pm

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