A former sandwich shop pick-up counter now serves uncooked steaks and chops.
It used to be a Grab & Go Subs shop, conveniently located between the freeway and the airport, making it easy to pick up sandwiches on your way to catch a flight. Now it’s a grab and go butcher shop.
2102 India St, San Diego
While I doubt anyone will be picking up steaks on the way to the airport, the central Little Italy location of Blue Box Butcher does make it an easy place to pick up cuts of meat when you’re on your way home from someplace. A small number of parking spaces surrounding its stand-alone shack makes it an easier place to stop than any other location in the busy neighborhood.
You can stop on a whim, and step inside, where you’ll find a glass counter featuring steaks, chops, and sausages. When I dropped in, the undisputed centerpiece was one of the finest meats in the world: an A5 grade cut of Japanese wagyu ribeye about the size of a birthday cake, which appeared to have more marbling than the U.S. Capitol. It’s a rare treat at only 99 dollars a pound.
A beautifully marbled wagyu ribeye sits at the center of this butcher counter.
Okay, so most of us won’t be dropping in for something quite so special. Fortunately, there are plenty of more down-to-earth cuts for the likes of me. Like $9 burger patties (a brisket and chuck blend), a $12 prime sirloin cap (8 ounces), and a $30 one-pound boneless ribeye, for special, yet still of this world occasions.
These are reasonable prices for a selection of mainly choice and prime meats, sourced from purveyors including Brandt Beef, known for raising natural (meaning no hormones added) cattle. Blue Box’s professed aim is to provide restaurant quality cuts of beef, chicken, and pork. So you may easily find cheaper meats in the grocery store, but you won’t often find better.
One of the signature blue boxes, packed and ready to pick up
And some you won’t likely find at all. Hanger steak, for example. Not as well-known as filet mignon or ribeye, it rivals the former for tenderness, and the latter for flavor. In other words, hanger is a best of both worlds cut, earning its nickname, the butcher’s steak, because butchers are said to keep the narrow strips of steak for themselves. Blue box offers two strips — amounting to one pound — for about $22.
You can order a burger box for $35, which features cheese, buns, and the usual toppings along with beef patties for four. A wagyu version of the same goes for $45.
The $64 weeknight power box features vacuum sealed (left to right) hanger steak, duroc pork, lemon pepper chicken, and "butcher bites" (top).
But my money went toward the weeknight power box. For $64, this included hanger steak, a one-pound duroc pork chop, two pounds of marinated lemon pepper chicken breasts, and a pound of butcher bites. I was mainly in it for the hanger steak, but the pork and chicken were both of good quality, and the butcher bites turned out to be more fun than expected. The nugget-sized, assorted trimmings of the shop’s prime and choice steaks yielded a much better than average beef stir fry.
With tip and fees, my total came to about $69, which is more than I’d usually spend on four proteins. But I ate well that week, and by prepaying the blue box in advance, I was able to pull in, grab my box of meat, and be gone in less time than it usually takes to round a Little Italy block, not finding an open parking space. I take it the whole process is even easier if you live relatively nearby: you can have your meats delivered.
Meaning this newly opened shop would have been the best thing ever about one year ago.