The very idea of a vegan delicatessen is oxymoronic. Yet, that’s exactly what The Butcher’s Son aims to be. Recently opened in Berkeley, California, it has the potential to become a mecca for vegans in the Bay Area who are tired of everyone thinking they only eat tofu.
Modeled after traditional East Coast delis, The Butcher’s Son offers vegan meat and cheese by the pound as well as sandwiches, salads, and baked goods for those who prefer a sit-down meal. They also have a liquor license, so enjoying a beer with your lunch is a popular option.
With menu options ranging from a hot roast beef sandwich to a bagel loaded with cream cheese and pickled herring, this twist on the traditional delicatessen sounds almost too good to be true.
The Butcher’s Son makes its meats mainly using seitan, a derivative of wheat gluten. Their cheeses, too, are not made from soy but are nut-based — they’re made from cashews or almonds — and often involve coconut oil.
With so many options, it was hard to choose, but we ultimately decided to order the Philly cheesesteak and the pulled pork sandwiches.
The Philly cheesesteak sandwich came piled high with The Butcher’s Son’s version of Sriracha pepper steak and Swiss cheese, as well as picked jalapeños, grilled peppers, onions, and mushrooms. Although pricey at $10.35, the large portion justified the cost. The “steak” itself was chewy and a little crispy around the edges, with a peppery aftertaste. The “cheese,” too, was amazing. Oozing out of the sides as if really melted, it was creamy while still managing to hold together and imitated a cheesy texture. We loved the addition of the pickled jalapeños for the added heat and crunch.
The pulled pork sandwich was less messy, but no less delicious. The ciabatta roll was stuffed with “pulled pork” dripping in sweet barbecue sauce. The spicy coleslaw mounded on top added the crunch and tanginess that otherwise would have been missing from the sandwich.
The Butcher’s Son also had a tray of house-made raised doughnuts and gluten-free carrot cake baked by Alicia Smiley, a local chef. They also often sell house-made cannoli, so keep an eye out.
The ambience of the deli was an experience in and of itself. I kept expecting to see the white subway tile traditional of many old school East Coast delis, but the red brick walls and exposed wooden beams added a rustic feel. The large windows looking onto the street allowed sunlight to pour in and illuminate the eclectic crowd within.
Having opened less than a month ago on February 22, 2016, they are still getting everything running smoothly. Their blackboard menu remains blank, but don’t let that stop you from going and getting a delicious sandwich.
Right now, they are open from 10 am to 3 pm, and plan on extending their hours soon.
Vegans and meat lovers alike will enjoy what this new addition to the Berkeley community has to offer.