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

Avedano’s Meats: Local People, Local Food 9 April,2008Michael Procopio

  • Anita

    Funny you should mention it, but we were actually treated -just- like “number two” (in the preschool sense) when we stopped in. We told the your women behind the counter how happy we were they were finally open, and welcomed them to the ‘hood. We got a sniffy “oh, thanks” — there was a distinct air of “yes, we know” about it that a couple of my neighbors have also commented upon. After the snub, the women returned to their open and vocal running down of one of their male colleague’s taste in food, all in plain earshot of the handful of customers. Ew.

    I also was really put off by the vast number of imported ingredients, especially in a store with “local food” on their windows in 200-point type. Maybe I can see the value of something exotic, but the Bay Area is home to fantastic producers of both exotic honey and heirloom beans. Why the heck would I want to eat Italian versions?

    I love the space, and am probably smack-dab in their target demographic. But given the crappy welcome we got and the lukewarm dedication to local purveyors, I’m not terribly anxious to return.

  • Anita

    not sure where my fingers got the idea that they were “your women” πŸ˜€

    I think I meant to type “the young women”. πŸ˜€

  • sally

    I have been to Avedano’s many times and have always been treated very well! funny, I was in the store at the same time as our unhappy customer and am shocked to read such a snarky review! The owners were speaking with another customer about traditional food of the Yucatan which I hardly think is “ew” worthy. Wierd that they should be talking about food in a market where they sell…food. I wonder what kind of welcome would have made our judgmental little friend happy? I have lived in Bernal for years and am happy to finally see this shop open. Some people are just unhappy……. how sad:(

  • Anonymous

    I don’t care about the service or the foods at avedano’s. the reason i patron the shop is to talk with that amazingly handsome bearded man that works there in the evenings.

  • Tana

    So where is the meat from? Do we know?

    I gotta say, I’m with Anita on this:

    “Maybe I can see the value of something exotic, but the Bay Area is home to fantastic producers of both exotic honey and heirloom beans. Why the heck would I want to eat Italian versions?”

    Not that I want them out of business, but I think it worthwhile to support people who are selling clean, local meat.

  • Michael Procopio

    Jeepers, such comments! (Keep ’em coming…)

    Anita, Avedano’s produce selection is sparse, I’ll admit, but the last time I was there, local organic peaches, eggplants, potatoes and yes, beans were on offer.

    The focus of this place IS meat and that meat is locally sourced and, as I mentioned in my post, they are working on establishing working relationships with more local organic providers. They’ve been open less than two months. Give it time.

    And I, for one, don’t mind the Italian honeys (like the hazelnut and almonds preserved in the stuff that they offer). We can find the local versions easily at the farmer’s market. I think it’s perfectly fine to augment their inventory with interesting imports, especially since many of those imports in question seem to be from northern Italy, which is where the Avedano family comes from.

    I am sorry to hear you had a bad experiences there. There is no need for snarkiness when one is offering words of welcome. Perhaps a Sunday taco filled with locally and humanely raised Berkshire pork with homemade pickled cabbage might soothe you next Sunday. πŸ˜‰

    Sally– Do you know Anita? Please tell her that, though we may be in stiff disagreement about Avedano’s, I still find her charming regardless.

    Anonymous– bravo on your approach to shopping! I’ve never been in the place in the evening. Would you please send me a photo of the bearded man in question?

    Tana– I know your strong feelings about and interest in local produce. Perhaps you might offer them suggestions in order to build some retail bridges?

    I thought I named names in giving examples about where some of the meat comes from (Estancia, Mary’s Chickens, etc.). Maybe I should have given a complete listing, but my attention span is too short. πŸ˜‰

  • Anita

    Sally (and Michael): I’m pretty sure we weren’t in the store at the same time as you were (or anyone else was, for that matter). Two young women behind the counter were talking to themselves; there were no customers in the conversation, and no mention of Yucatecan food.

    Just in case I wasn’t clear, my “ew” was in response to the owners running down (as in ‘openly criticizing in a vehement fashion’ not as in ‘reciting a list of’) their co-owner’s palate. It was snarky and ugly, and it would have been bad enough to hear coming out of anyone’s mouth, much less the owner of a business in frontof her clientele.

    We’ve lived in Bernal for years, too, and we were so anxious to have Avedano’s as part of our ‘hood. I told the owners as much, which was what prompted the sniffy response.

    What would have made me happy? I dunno, a genuine welcome, an environment where the owners weren’t stabbing one another in the back on opening weekend? I probably would have overlooked a lot given those two things.

  • Anonymous

    Wow, I would rather hear more about what the food was like and how the meat was(if any of these critics actually tried or purchased anything from the shop) than someones personal opinion about the character of people who she knows nothing about.

  • Chris

    Why can’t people put down or discuss food/people’s palates in the US? In the rest of the world food is the most important thing and it is common to get into heated arguments about food with a shop owner or at a dinner table. This place is great. Yes there are some great local producers, but some people prefer imported or are used to a specific label from home that they can’t find here. Local brands I am sure you can find quite easily at the Ferry Bldg.


Michael Procopio

I am terribly fond of martinis, Edward Gorey, and sleeping with many pillows.
You are more than welcome to follow me on Twitter: @procopster

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