Ah, a classic New York deli – fresh-sliced meats sold by the pound, custom stacked sandwiches piled high with toppings, rich cheeses and gourmet condiments. What could be better? A deli that sells only meats and cheeses made out of plants, of course. The Butcher’s Son is the latest plant-only butcher shop/delicatessen to arrive on the food scene, this time in the peaceable surroundings of Berkeley, CA.
Co-founder Peter Fikaris is a long-time vegan who says he started the shop because of the dearth of "good sandwich and deli meat options currently available"; he greatly missed the experience of walking into a New York deli and ordering a sandwich, munching on sour pickles, and grabbing a cream cheese-slathered bagel. So instead of resigning himself to eternal self-denial, he and his sister Christine decided to create a new, all plant-based version of this beloved institution.
When they opened The Butcher's Son this past February, they set out to replicate every part of a true deli experience: upon walking in, you meet a rustic brick-and-wood interior, simple square windows, stretching display case and hand-written chalkboard menu. Their menu features a solid array of deli classics, from hot prepared sandwiches and fresh-brined pickles to artisan cheeses, bagels and even meats sold by the pound.
Peter, who previously worked with plant proteins at the Source restaurant in San Francisco, is a certified kitchen virtuoso, working magic with wheat protein and other basic ingredients to achieve complex meat and dairy flavors and textures from his food.
They are especially proud of their donuts - they sell hundreds by the day, and are one of the few shops in the country that hand-rolls their donuts instead of cutting them.
The plant-meats, says Fikaris, are "cooked in various different ways to gain the right texture, for example, steaming or roasting. Our cheeses are cultured and all made from cashews, almonds and coconut oil."
The mozzarella is especially a sight to behold – it’s hard to believe these perfectly smooth, white fresh-formed balls come from simple nuts.
Fikaris seems to enjoy pushing the culinary boundaries of plants to take them where few have gone before: part of his motivation in recreating beloved meat and cheese dishes is to inspire everyday diners to enjoy these foods in a new and more sustainable way through plants.
The public seems to love it: since opening several months ago, the Butcher’s Son regularly sees a packed house with lines sometimes stretching out the door, and frequently sells out of their most popular menu items. One of the top sellers is the fried mozzarella and meatball sandwich - a luscious offering of breaded mozzarella and seasoned house meatballs served on a crusty baguette with peppers, onions and mushrooms; a sandwich that never fails to impress even the most skeptical omnivores.
And Fikaris isn’t satisfied with an ordinary fixed menu: he continues to boldly experiment with new creations, and on any given day you can find a range of rotating specialties, including farmer-style beef bologna, pineapple-glazed teriyaki roast, hot pastrami, roast beef or cured salami, in addition to an extensive selection of exotic cheeses. They also offer some pretty amazing pastries including cherry chocolate cannoli donuts, bacon cream cheese croissants, and pickled herring and dill-topped bagels, a New York favorite.
So if you’re in the Bay Area and hankering for an authentic East Coast treat, check out the culinary sorcery happening at The Butcher’s Son, where high-quality plant meats and cheeses are now part of the best deli experience.