If you were going to film a movie about a butcher in the 1920s, A & F would be your dream location. The pressed-tin ceilings and walls, burnished wood shelving and sawdust-strewn meat locker date back to the original tenant, Nagele's Fine Food, Wines and Liquors, and remained unchanged when it was taken over in 1957 by Andy and Flo Donaldson (A & F).
In 2004, Ken Aguilar bought the store from the Donaldson's nephew, Russell Carson, and he has assiduously maintained its vintage look, as well as its commitment to prime meat and customer service.
You won't see many steaks or roasts in the display case: Most of the meat is hung in the meat locker and cut to order. You will see such intriguing items as lamb "saddle loin chops," two loin chops joined at the vertebra, for a supersized serving ($14.99 a pound); skewers of beef porterhouse tails or tri-tip ($12.99 a pound). Another case contains dozens of take-home items made on the premises, and the shelves are stocked with enough high-end groceries to make visiting the supermarket superfluous.
Most customers are greeted by name. The store also has a brisk delivery business, dispatching orders four times a day to patrons who can't (or prefer not to) make the trip.
One recent morning, Aguilar's chief butcher, Mike Mistretta, was fulfilling a request for chicken cutlets: slicing breasts, dipping them in egg and then into homemade bread crumbs, finally wrapping them carefully in butcher paper so they didn't stick together.
Aguilar was cutting up chickens at a breakneck speed: 57.8 seconds for each bird. "We get a lot of doctors in here," he said. "They always tell me, 'You should have been a surgeon.'"
Mon-Sat: 8 a.m.-6 p.m.; Sun: 9 a.m.-3 p.m.
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