Food & Drink

The Heart & Trotter: San Diego's Long-Awaited Whole-Animal Butcher

Published On 03/18/2015 Published On 03/18/2015
Sara Norris/Thrillist

There was a time long ago when meats didn't need to be labeled "locally sourced," "ethically raised," "grass-fed," "sustainable," or "chemical-, hormone-, and antibiotic-free," because they were simply called "meat." Thanks to James Holtslag, Trey Nichols, and the support of a wildly successful Kickstarter campaign that raised about $50k, the carnivores of San Diego can get back to those old-school roots at The Heart & Trotter, the only whole-animal butchery in town. Here's a look at what it's up to.

Sara Norris/Thrillist

Animals are delivered to Heart & Trotter fresh from carefully selected local farms

They're then stored on custom-made rolling racks in a walk-in until they are ready to be broken down.

Sara Norris/Thrillist

James spent months as meat apprentice

Specifically, an apprentice at Lindy & Grundy Meats in West Hollywood, where he learned the craft of traditional butchery. So if you really want to get a look at where your steak comes from, come by the shop in the morning when you’ll be likely to catch him and the rest of the staff in the process breaking down the animals into fresh cuts of meat just behind the counter. Or you can stand on the sidewalk like a total creeper and watch them from big windows that look directly into their prep area. Weirdo.

Sara Norris/Thrillist

Over the course of a couple of hours this hindquarter of beef...

That's some fine-looking hindquarter!

Sara Norris/Thrillist

... becomes sirloin steak, ground beef... 

Plus several other fresh cuts ready for the barbecue. Or the chili. Or the meatloaf. That's up to you, really.

Sara Norris/Thrillist

Making sure that nothing goes to waste, they use of every part of the animal from head to tail

Even the femur in this hindquarter will be cut down and sold as marrow bones (!) for roasting or making beef stock.

Sara Norris/Thrillist

The selection of meat goes way beyond beef

Expect to see pork, chicken, duck, lamb, and occasionally even rabbit. Sorry, Bugs.

Sara Norris/Thrillist

There's a chef on hand taking things to the next level

James and Trey brought on Chef Lhasa Landry to help create items like headcheese, patés, rillettes, and prepared foods like sandwiches and charcuterie boards (coming soon!). Lhasa also makes the shop’s fresh sausages like Italian, bratwurst, and chorizo.

Sara Norris/Thrillist

That next level also includes making their own smoked blood sausage in-house

Where else in San Diego can you find that?

Sara Norris/Thrillist

There's more local goodness than just meat

They have shelves stacked with mustards, honey, La Jolla sea salt, and other meat-friendly items. There's also a cold case full of eggs, butter, cheeses, and more -- all from right here in San Diego.

Sara Norris/Thrillist

James and Trey may look familiar

It's possible (likely, even), that you've seen them demonstrating their skills during events at places like Carnitas Snack Shack, Sea & Smoke, and Alchemy. Soon they’ll be holding small, hands-on classes ranging from sausage-making to cooking courses. You can also help keep the old-school craft of whole-animal butchering alive by signing up to learn how to break down pork, lamb, and other animals.

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1. The Heart & Trotter 2855 El Cajon Blvd Ste 1, San Diego, CA 92104

From James Holtslag and Trey Nichols (plus the support of a wildly successful Kickstarter campaign that raised about $50k) this old-school, whole-animal butcher offers meat delivered from local farms, as well as local mustards, honey, sea salt, and other items to go with your meat.



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