McCALL’S REDUX

IN JANUARY OF 2010 KAREN AND NATHAN McCALL OPENED THEIR NAMESAKE BESPOKE BUTCHER SHOP ON HILLHURST.  THE COUPLE HAD CHEFED AT SONA, DAVID MYER’S MICHELIN-STARRED RESTAURANT ON LaCIENEGA, WHICH CLOSED IN MAY THE SAME YEAR.

HAVING ESCHEWED FACTORY-FARM MEAT, I’D TURNED TO NIMAN RANCH, WHICH IS STILL EXCELLENT BUT PRICEY BECAUSE OF THE SHIPPING.  THE McCALLS LITTLE BUTCHER SHOP WAS/IS A JEWEL:  WHITE SUBWAY TILE, GLEAMING VITRINES REPLETE WITH PORK, LAMB, BEEF, AND CHICKEN FROM SMALL PRODUCERS.  KAREN HAD BEEN THE PASTRY CHEF AT SONA, SO ONE CASE WAS DEDICATED TO HER CROISSANTS, PASTRIES, COOKIES, AND BAGUETTES.  THE STUFF WAS EXPENSIVE, BUT SO IS GELSONS AND IT DIDN’T TAKE LONG FOR McCALL’S TO BE A HIT.  WHEN THE ADJACENT SPACE BECAME AVAILABLE, THEY EXPANDED THE SHOP AND ADDED FISH.  THE SELECTION WAS LIMITED BUT BECAUSE NATHAN SOURCED FROM THE SAME WHOLESALERS THAT SUPPLY THE SUSHI CHEFS WHATEVER HE SELECTED WAS PERFECT.  BETTER THAN SANTA MONICA SEAFOOD OR FISH KING OR WHOLE FOODS.  SINCE McCALL’S CAME INTO MY LIFE, I NEVER BUY FISH ANYPLACE ELSE.

WHEN COVID HIT, NATHAN ADAPTED.  THERE WAS ONLINE ORDERING AND ONCE THE VACCINE ARRIVED, HE ADMITTED A LIMITED NUMBER OF CUSTOMERS AT A TIME.  I NOTICED, HOWEVER, THAT NATHAN WAS NEVER IN THE STORE BUT ASSUMED THIS WAS BECAUSE OF THE PANDEMIC.  SO I MISSED THE HAND-OFF TO THE NEW OWNERS WHICH OCCURRED IN DECEMBER OF 2021.

MICHELLE AND DAVID SARRAF

THE SARRAFS HAVE BEEN IN THE FOOD BUSINESS FOR 25 YEARS AND OWN TWO BUSINESSES, ONE WHICH SUPPLIES SNACK FOODS TO SUPERMARKETS; THE OTHER PACKAGES AND SHIPS FOR WHOLESALE COMPANIES.  THOSE ENTERPRISES MUST BE HUMMING ALONG QUITE NICELY ON THEIR OWN BECAUSE THE SARAFFS HAVE MADE McCALLS A FULL-TIME JOB AND INDEED I’VE NEVER BEEN IN THE STORE WHEN ONE OR THE OTHER IS NOT FUSSING WITH DISPLAYS OR CONFERRING WITH OLIN SCHNEIDER, THE HEAD BUTCHER AND STORE MANAGER.

OLIN SCHNEIDER

McCALL’S HAS CHANGED SINCE THE SARRAFS TOOK OVER.  NATHAN INSISTED ON QUALITY AND THE SARAFFS WERE SMART ENOUGH NOT TO CHANGE WHAT WASN’T BROKEN.  BUT “WE FELT THE STORE NEEDED TO BE MORE OF A ONE-STOP NEIGHBORHOOD GEM AND THAT IS WHY WE EXPANDED THE PRODUCE, CHEESE, RETAIL, AND ADD TO-GO SANDWICHES  AND UPDATED THE STORE FRONT AND SHELVING TO INCREASE RETAIL SPACE.”  THEY SEEM TO KNOW THEIR STUFF SINCE THEIR CURATED COLLECTION OF OILS, VINEGARS, PASTA, SPICES, BEANS, AND SALUMI IS EXPENSIVE BUT IMPECCABLE.

 

 

 

 

 

 

McCALL’S IS JOLLIER THESE DAYS.  NATHAN WAS AN EXCELLENT CAPTAIN BUT HE RAN A TIGHT SHIP.  THE STAFF TURNOVER WAS HEAD-SPINNING.  “AS FOR STAFF,” MICHELLE SAYS.  “IT WAS [OUR] PRIORITY TO KEEP OUR STAFF IN TACT AND CUSTOMER SERVICE AT A PREMIER LEVEL.”  CUSTOMER SERVICE, IN FACT, IS MARKEDLY IMPROVED.  IN THE PAST, IT WAS HARD TO TEAR ONE OF THE TEN STAFF MEMBERS AWAY FROM BREAKING DOWN MEAT OR FISH TO WAIT ON YOU.  NOW, THREE PEOPLE IN WHITE COATS, BLACK APRONS AND MASKS RUSH THE COUNTER ASKING “HOW CAN I HELP YOU?”

PRICES HAVE RISEN, BUT THAT’S TRUE EVERYWHERE.  STILL, WHERE ELSE IN L.A. CAN YOU FIND SWEETBREADS OR PORK CHEEKS?  THE BREAD IS NOW FROM THE BREAD LOUNGE.  I LOVE THE DEMI-BAGUETTES WHICH YOU CAN PAIR WITH A SMART BUT DISCERNING SELECTION OF CHEESES OR CUSTOM-SLICED PROSCIUTTO AND SPECK.

IF YOU LIVE ON THE WEST SIDE, DON’T DESPAIR.  THERE’S A McCALL’S COMING TO SANTA MONICA IN 2022.

 

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