I must confess that I started this post several times already, and repeatedly held back. For you see, though I do endorse Drewes Bros, I cannot do so unconditionally. There have been the occasional incidents that have set me off about the place. But I have overcome them, and now I can evangelize the place by way of including a guide to navigating it. Consider me your Drewes Bros sherpa.
There is much to like about Drewes. It is, in fact, one of the longest-running independent businesses in the city of San Francisco, dating back to 1889 (and believed to be the oldest meat market in California). It’s a neighborhood joint, frequented by neighborhood folks, and still retains the down-home feel of Baja Noe, which is on the very brink of serious gentrification. It is, unapologetically, a meat market. You go here for meat, meat and more meat. They sell a few other things, but whatever. Just buy the damn meat.
And the meat is good and plentiful. Whatever you’re looking for, they’ve got it — once through the barnyard. Much of it is local and/or organic, like the Petaluma Poultry Rocky and Rosie birds, which are recommendable. They sell some value-added items like a pretty darn good burger mix and some lovely stuffed porkchops. A small freezer case off to the side sports convenient half-pound bags of ground beef, pork and lamb, as well as some less savory bits for the family pets. There’s even a seafood case, and recent experience has taught us that their crab cakes are respectably tasty, though they are more accurately called fish cakes since they are at least as much cod as crab. Still, they’re good.
The owners are two brothers, albeit not named Drewes. (They’re Josh and Isaac Epple.) They’re young, handsome and clearly very serious about their business. Unfortunately, there is some arrogance that comes with that. On more than one occasion, I’ve called or gone in and said, "I want ____." To which they ask, what are you doing? I explain, and they counter that I want something completely different. We talk around the issue for ten minutes or so, until they finally say, "Oh! You want ____." Which was the thing I asked for in the first place. Why we need to play this game eludes me.
Now, there are three or four others who work there, older men, all curiously diminutive and all exceedingly friendly chaps. Rather than calling your request into question, they provide you what you ask for, and provide helpful cooking tips as well as amiable banter about television shows, movies, whatever. These are the ones to deal with.
So, the mild attitude of the owner brothers aside, Drewes is highly recommendable. It’s a throwback to old-school neighborhood business yet well adapted to modern sensibilities. In an age when supermarkets and, worse, WalMarts have eliminated the relationship between the butcher and the customer, Drewes keeps the old vanguard alive. The prices remain reasonable. And it is mere steps from one of my favorite produce stands.
Drewes Bros. Meats
1706 Church St (at 29th St.)
Edit: Per Anita’s comments, I decided to downgrade them from butcher to meat market, since I cannot say with any certainty that they do serious butchering.