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The Family’s Butcher

By Katie Sweeney

Walk into Avedano’s Holly Park Market, and it feels as if you’ve stepped back in time. Not to a specific point in history, but to a place that is simpler, where life is slower, where one visits the butcher on a regular basis. During that visit, the butcher inquires after your mother and shares that bavette — a more affordable steak cut — is just as delicious, grilled with a bit of shallot-thyme butter, as the expensive filet mignon your partner loves. The beef (well, all of the meat, from ground pork to whole lamb legs), is pasture-raised on small farms not too far from the shop. The butcher uses the entire animal — slicing it with a handsaw, meat cleaver and boning knife — ensuring that nothing goes to waste.

And yet, despite its old-fashioned techniques and other-worldly vibe, Avedano’s is very much rooted in the now. With a gay woman at the helm, Avedano’s is a modern butchery boutique for the savvy San Franciscan shopper. Angela Wilson opened the storefront 11 years ago on Cortland Avenue in Bernal Heights. Before Wilson took over, the space housed other butchers dating back to 1901. Today Wilson serves a loyal clientele sustainable local meats — everything from rabbit breasts and goat chops to housemade sausages and cured pork, fish, produce, specialty items like housemade marinara sauce and delicious sandwiches.

There’s a no-nonsense quality to Wilson — she’s unfussy but warm and friendly at the same time. She’s exactly what one wants in a butcher.

“Being a butcher is like being a bartender or a barber,” Wilson says. “I see the same people over and over again. I know when personal stuff goes down in their life. I know who’s had a baby, I know whose father died, I know who broke up with who, I cried when I break up with somebody through my customers.”

There’s a no-nonsense quality to Wilson — she’s unfussy but warm and friendly at the same time. She’s exactly what one wants in a butcher. “Being a butcher is like being a bartender or a barber,” Wilson says. “I see the same people over and over again. I know when personal stuff goes down in their life. I know who’s had a baby, I know whose father died, I know who broke up with who, I cried when I break up with somebody through my customers.”

Wilson also recognizes that education is crucial to her success. “If you pay $30 for a pasture-raised chicken with the head and feet on them, you’re not going to throw away one bit of that chicken,” she says. “You’re going to make stock with the bones and eat every little morsel. Why? Because you put a value on it. If you go get a chicken from Safeway and spend $6 for it, chances are half of that chicken’s going in the trash.”

Wilson believes that carnivores need to eat less (better quality) meat and change the way they think about it. “Change your mentality. You should pay more and eat less meat for a lot of reasons: a. for your health; b. for the environment; c. for the animal. There comes a time where too much meat is not too good.” By eating more vegetables and whole grains, the conscious consumer can afford to spend more on meat because in the end, they are buying less.

Wilson is incredibly knowledgeable on all subjects related to butchery, so much so that she was recently the subject of a documentary. Angela Wilson: A Butcher’s Story, a short film by director Gaby Scott, debuted earlier this summer at Frameline42, SF’s International LGBTQ Film Festival. Wilson is portrayed as an honest, hard-working and passionate preacher of sustainable, small-farm raised meat.

Her genuine enthusiasm is contagious, and it’s hard not to want to support her by adding the housemade prosciutto to your cart or signing up for one of her classes. Yes, Wil-son is also quite literally educating the masses on meat. “We do a sausage making class and then a beginning butchery class, where seven people will break down a half hog and a whole lamb. Its $325 per student and you take home $100 of meat.”

Meat lovers should take note that they don’t have to make the trek to Bernal Heights to inter-act with Wilson. She recently opened a second location of Avedano’s in Pacific Heights. Located inside the high-end spirit shop Maison Corbeaux, on the corner of Sacramento and Divisadero, the deli counter features hot and cold prepared items. Think smoked trout salad with little gems and confit potatoes, smoked turkey panini with jalapeño jam and swiss cheese, and revitalizing cups of piping hot bone broth. “What we want to do eventually is special orders, like meat boxes, and CSA kind of boxes, and then eventually do home delivery over this way and try to see how that works out,” Wilson says of the satellite shop.

She’s looking toward the future positively hoping to expand Avedano’s beloved following to another part of the city and continue fighting the good fight.

“This is a labor of love for me, and I feel like we’re in a fight for our food system,” she says.

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