At first glance, you would probably not guess that Belcampo Meat Co. in the Town and Country Shopping Center offered more than most butcher shops. From the outside, the building looks long and narrow, and from the entrance, you can only see the arrays of meat displayed in cases to greet customers.
During lunch, however, a long line of students trails out the front door. A chalkboard sits at the back end of the store just above the cashier so that once in the shop, you can easily see a short, two-column list of sandwiches, salads and other meat-containing food items for sale written in chalk.
According to Kiley Boettcher, the general manager of the store, Belcampo identifies as both a butcher shop and restaurant. Besides this duality, however, something even more noteworthy distinguishes Belcampo from other Town and Country shops.
“We have a 10,000-acre parcel of land up in Siskiyou County near Mount Shasta,” Boettcher said. “We raise all of our own animals there. We’re pasture raised, USDA [United States Department of Agriculture] certified organic, grass-fed [and] grass-finished.”
But that’s not all: the company’s do-it-yourself attitude extends past just the ownership of the farm and livestock.
“We also own our processing facility, which we built from the ground up. So we own the farm, the processing facility, and the locations — that sets us apart from most restaurants. Most restaurants are going to be getting [produce] from some other source … so that definitely sets us apart from everyone else.”
This is neither the first nor only Belcampo. Other Belcampo locations can be found scattered throughout the Bay Area and Southern California, some of which offer sit-down dining.
Included on the Belcampo menu are the pulled pork bun, braised lamb belly bun, chili, steak salad, meatball sandwich and smoked jalapeno and cheddar sausage, all of which fall somewhere between $5 and $13.
I ordered the Philadelphia Cheesesteak, BBQ Chicken Bun, and Belcampo Hot Dog student special. The cheese steak, one of the most expensive item on the take-out menu at $12, was phenomenal. The meat was juicy and tender and the cheese perfectly melted, while the hoagie bun was lightly toasted with a softer center. I especially loved the generous helping of meat in the sandwich, as well as the noticeable freshness of the vegetables.
The chicken bun and the hot dog, both parts of Belcampo’s student special, were equally impressive. The meat tasted fresh and the bun in particular had a good ratio of meat to barbeque sauce, which had a perfect sweet richness to it. The only drawback was the portion size — for $5, I had expected to get something a bit bigger than the hockey puck-sized sandwich. Even as part of the student special, the chicken bun is comparable to Lulu’s student special in terms of price, but only offers a fraction of the serving size, even though it also comes with a side of fries.
The hot dog deal seemed a better deal in terms of amount of food, and was only $6, but the food was a bit more plain — it really was just a hot dog, bun, and side of fries, which I found to be extremely average in crunchiness and general taste. The lack of condiments available at the store was also a turn-off as I felt that they could have added some needed flavor to the fries.
Overall, while Belcampo certainly offers high quality food, hungry high school students might avoid it for the small serving sizes. However, Belcampo still remains an excellent alternative to the other restaurants of Town and Country and should not be judged too quickly. Perhaps the most exciting prospect for the majority of high schools students is a plan to rotate items on the student special in order to let students experience the entire menu.
In the future, Boettcher also says to look out for additions to the menu unique to Palo Alto.
“Eventually we’re going to put out some specials and some things that are a little bit off to the side, like kind of secret menu items,” he said.
Boettcher also expressed the possibility of expanding the site to include catering.
“We have a great opportunity here in Silicon Valley to provide our food to different companies in the area for luncheons or for conferences and meetings, so we’re definitely trying to reach out to them at some point once we get the catering side of Belcampo up and running.”
At the moment, however, he said that Belcampo Palo Alto is focused on simply getting more exposure.
“We definitely want to get our name out there and let people know that we’re here, that we’re providing a great service [and] a great quality product,” Boettcher said.