Anya Fernald is far from an unknown. She’s GOOP-approved (“a bit of a badass”); she’s been profiled in the New Yorker (“the exuberant energy of a team of wayward ponies”) and Food and Wine (“globe-trotting, glam CEO”); and she’s been a guest judge on shows like Iron Chef America.
But since opening her northern California-based farm and butchery Belcampo Meat Co. in 2012, she hasn’t penetrated New York City until this week, when a restaurant will open on the fourth floor of the Shops at Hudson Yards. Though New York’s no stranger to whole-animal butchery and grass-fed meat, the city has nothing quite like Belcampo — a company that’s the farm, the slaughterhouse, and the cooks, all rolled into one.
It will manifest here as a brightly lit restaurant with counter-service ordering, which people can either take to-go or to eat in an 80-seat dining room. Diners who sit down will get some service; staff will refresh drinks and take extra orders there. Bone broth will be on tap. Dishes will range from a breakfast sandwich and a chicken cobb salad to a half-pound, 28-day dry-aged burger with white cheddar cheese and a more indulgent 100-day dry-aged burger with raclette. A separate bar with cocktails, beer, and wine by the glass will have full-service form a bartender, where specials like a poutine or carpaccio will be available. (See the full opening menu below.)
Fernald’s delay in NYC is partly a matter of logistics. Belcampo’s whole thing is vertical integration for responsible meat consumption: The company owns nearly 50,000 acres of farmland with an ethos of humanely raised cows, chickens, pigs, and other animals, and it processes and packages them as well. Her goal is to make humane, sustainable meat available at a much larger scale, an ambition that continues today. Press came quickly after — “It’s a woman-led company; it’s a meat company. I was tapped as ‘you’re promising and interesting,’” she says — and fast-casual restaurants followed.
There are now six locations in the Bay Area and LA, and in time, they became well-liked for their burgers, bone broth, steaks, and vegetable bowls topped with proteins such as roast chicken, spiced lamb, or dry-aged beef. “Like all things, you slowly and painfully move from sucky to mediocre to capable,” she says. Eventually, “I started to feel good about the potential for us to come to New York.”
Many of the big players at Hudson Yards are intended to be destination dining, like Thomas Keller’s restaurant or David Chang’s, but Fernald doesn’t expect her restaurant to be quite like that. The new restaurant isn’t opening as a full-service deal; like her farm, scale is the point. She doesn’t think the new Belcampo will attract a ton of tourists — “They might be more of a Shake Shack audience,” she says — so Hudson Yards means a built-in audience of local office workers and residents. With bowls starting at $14, it’s a touch more expensive than even upscale fast-food players like Sweetgreen, but the target is people who potentially care about health, wellness, the environment, and organic products for regular consumption, not just as a special occasion.
And though a butcher shop won’t be at this location — “Who’s going to walk around that fancy mall with raw meat?” Fernald says — a special case in the middle of the restaurant will showcase some of the finer cuts of meat from the farm, available for a slightly spendier dinner at the restaurant. To start, it will feature pork chops from acorn-finished Ossabaw pigs, a “super-marbled” meat that she likens to an Iberico. It will cost close to $40 a pound, and diners can pay an extra $20 to have the restaurant cook it to eat in the restaurant. “Anything super sexy and fun like that, I’ll put in the case,” she says.
New York is the next big step for Fernald in making Belcampo more ubiquitous. The big question with a sustainable meat company like hers, of course, is that sustainability and mass market don’t always go together. But she’s not looking to swallow that much more farmland, and she’s not looking to open a huge chain restaurant, she says. At most, her vision only calls for about 10 locations. In the future, she instead wants to certify other farmers, essentially making the “Belcampo” partnership a moniker that’s akin to official organic or humane ones. Grocery store products will be a bigger play.
“The landscape of your available meat is really crappy. We’re settling. Ninety-nine percent is from feed lots; it’s from animals kept inhumanely,” she says. “It’s bad for human health, and the impact for the environment is terrible. And I don’t want us all to eat genetically modified fake burgers. I want to be a real option, not just a sideline player.”