By Frank Sabatini Jr. | Restaurant Review
Their goal was to take the mystery out of meat by showing consumers how regionally sourced free-range livestock is broken down for consumption, with few parts excluded.
After generating revenues through crowdsourcing, Trey Nichols and James Holtslag opened their dream business, an educational butchery named The Heart & Trotter in North Park.
They also sell sandwiches, which is an underplayed perk for visitors perusing deli cases filled with everything from lamb spare ribs and coveted cuts of beef coulotte, to strip steaks, bone-in rib eye, poultry, pork and more.
Some of the beef is 100 percent grass-fed. Otherwise it’s grass-fed and grain-finished. That meat, along with all others they carry, is free of hormones and antibiotics.
There are also house-made sausages and cold cuts, the latter of which get stuffed into hoagie rolls for a memorable Italian sandwich using salami, pepperoni and pistachio-speckled mortadella. Lacking the junky fillers and preservatives of commercial cold cuts, these offer the flavors of pure meat and various spices that we detected right off the bat.
Hubby and I grabbed the only two counter stools inside the gleaming, white shop, to also sink our fangs into a grass-fed burger and a cheesesteak sandwich using grain-finished rib eye.
In the absence of butchery classes taking place during our visit (their monthly schedules are posted on their website), the scent of raw and cured meats hung heavy nonetheless. We didn’t mind, although should the fleshy smell become an appetite killer, the patio seats about 10 customers.
The noticeable gaminess of grass-fed burgers was camouflaged to my liking in this one due to its airy brioche bun and luscious condiments: bacon jam and garlic aioli. Bedded on a layer of fresh arugula and capped with melted white cheddar, it fell squarely into the category of must-have burgers.
The other burger offering is a “classic” garnished with lettuce, tomatoes, onions, pickles and American cheese.
A focaccia roll was used for the cheesesteak, which misses the mark only if you’re expecting it to taste Philly-style. The freshness of the chipped meat is what alters the flavor as it dominates the customary grilled onions and Provolone cheese also tucked inside. It’s seriously beefy compared to any cheesesteaks I’ve had locally or back East.
We ordered a couple of house-made pickle spears to accompany our sandwich feast. Bravo! They were exceptionally sweet, tangy and spicy at the same time. And they’re the only sidekick available in lieu of potato, macaroni or green salads.
The sandwich list is limited to a few other options — roast beef with pickled onions and horseradish cream sauce; smoked chicken salad with walnuts and golden raisins; and a breakfast sandie capturing local eggs, American cheese and a choice of house bacon, ham or bologna.
Breads and rolls are sourced from Con Pane bakery in Liberty Station.
The quaint, ultra-clean shop also sells canned beer, assorted meat butters, stocks, rubs, honey and other sundries.
But it’s first and foremost an earnest butchery on a mission of supporting sustainable ranchers while showing us how to purchase, cook and consume meat, which according to the owners, also means educating people on limiting their meat intakes.
—Frank Sabatini Jr. is the author of “Secret San Diego” (ECW Press), and began his local writing career more than two decades ago as a staffer for the former San Diego Tribune. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.