We try not to delve too deeply into restaurant backstories in our reviews. Why? Because for most people, ourselves included, taste wins out over narrative.
A dish or chef can have a compelling history — perhaps the chef was raised by wolves, and learned to cook amongst them, or the soup recipe was passed down from Charlemagne, lost, and rediscovered, National Treasure-style — but the food might still not taste good. This is a particular problem with humane/organic/vegan/gluten-free/paleo cuisine. The most responsibly-raised green beans in America often have less flavor than frozen peas from Costco.
Which brings us to Belcampo. Belcampo may indeed serve the most responsibly-raised meats in America. Their website advertises their production of “The Best Meat” (literally! the best!) over more utilitarian information, like the times or locations where one might be able to buy said meat. A glowing New Yorker profile of the company’s founder similarly raised the protein’s profile.
So the key question is: does this unbelievably humane way of slaughtering animals produce more delicious food?
Kinda? Sometimes? Our answer is unsatisfying, we know. But it is the truth.
The meat definitely tastes different. It’s gamier, like someone subbed in venison for your ground beef. There’s less of it, and it’s more expensive, so you feel compelled to pay attention and try to enjoy it more. But, in the end, is it clearly better? Not always. The Philly cheesesteak and meatball sub at the butcher-shop locations are surely the best versions of those two items we’ve ever had. But the cheeseburger, Cuban sandwich, and tartare at the larger Belcampo outpost are very far from the best versions of themselves.
As for the space? It’s a suitably casual temple to meat, with the freezer window and butchery equipment to match. It’s perfect for lunch, but might be too chill for anything but a low-key dinner. (Unless your idea of date night is an endless parade of red protein, in which case, we salute you.)
We’re glad that Belcampo is on a carnivorous crusade to make the meat we eat better. We just wish it were unambiguously more delicious, today.
Let’s get this straight: we f*cking love steak tartare. It’s a must-order from any menu. But this one was...a little weird. A bit too slimy, if that’s a word we can use? The beefy flavor did not persevere through the iffy texture.
Unremarkable, which may be the first time we’ve ever said that about a Cuban sandwich.
Approximately a mediocre Shake Shack burger. We’re not sure which version of this is blowing minds, but it sure isn’t any of the ones we’ve eaten.
Remarkable. Perfect meat, gooey cheese, appropriately soft bread. Only available at butcher-only locations, as far as we’re aware.
However you take your meatballs, get them here. These fall apart a little bit, but it’s worth it for the mad flavors. Perhaps even better on bread.
Not up to McDonald’s standard of crunchy salty fattiness, which is admittedly a very high standard.