You’ve probably noticed the proliferation of specialty food shops that focus on selling high-end meats and sandwiches. The latest to set up shop in Newport Beach is Mario’s Butcher Shop & Delicatessen at Jamboree and Bristol, specializing in high-end cuts, wood-grilled and smoked meats, house-made charcuterie, and chef-driven menu offerings including deli sandwiches and grab-and-go items.
“This concept is meant to serve the needs of the community with the convenience and reliability of a high-end neighborhood butcher shop where families can pick up everything they need to enjoy a complete meal at home,” said Chef-Owner Mario Llamas, who has more than two decades experience as a chef and butcher. “Our made-to-order burgers and sandwiches, grab-and-go prepared foods and other market items make this a one-stop shop for everyone who lives or works in this area.”
In addition to offering the highest quality cuts of meat, Chef Llamas wood-grills and smokes meats in-house. These can be purchased on their own or as a sandwich offering, which is served on locally made Bread Artisan breads. He also cures and preserves meats to make charcuterie that guests can purchase a la carte or as an assembled board.
Mario’s offers breakfast, lunch and sandwich menus with items that can be enjoyed on the small patio or ordered for take-out.
Breakfast dishes include a classic breakfast sandwich with choice of meat, breakfast burrito with chorizo, and chilaquiles with green sauce.
The lunch menu features a half-dozen “between-the-bread” options, highlighted with Chef Llamas’ Smash Burger and the highly popular house-smoked pastrami sandwich. Other options include steak with house-made chimichurri, a noteworthy Italian sub and a corned beef Reuben.
The market offerings include seasonal sides, soups, salads, and more, all made in-house.
“I believe that what people want right now is a place where they can not only count on quality offerings, but a neighborhood outlet with an emphasis on service – where they have a relationship with the staff helping them,” explained Chef Llamas. “There are many great culinary destinations in this region, but what makes a place really shine is that consistent attention to the guest and that connection that it develops.”
But why here, and why now?
“I have been a chef for 20+ years, and I got burned out from working late hours,” admitted Llamas. “It’s a young man’s work. It’s hard. You’re home late, I have kids and I wanted to see my kids more, but I couldn’t with those later hours. I wanted to be home at a decent hour.”
Llamas said he always loved the process of breaking down meats, but butchers break down meats differently than chefs. That’s why three years ago he got a minimum wage apprentice job at West Coast Prime Meats to learn how to properly break down meats.
“Every week we were allowed to buy meat at a special price, so I bought everything. I wanted to try everything,” recalled Llamas. “I had personal favorites from different farms, and I gained all this knowledge of meats and charcuterie.”
He was working in a restaurant in L.A. when COVID hit and he got furloughed. Llamas was deliberating on what to do next when a friend told him to open a butcher shop.
“That’s a great idea,” agreed Llamas.
He worked on a concept for a few months, got some partners, and – despite being from L.A. – decided to look at property in Orange County.
“When the pandemic hit, I wanted to be as far from L.A. as possible,” said Llamas, who now lives in Laguna Beach.
He found a perfect spot in Newport Beach, among office buildings and not far from family neighborhoods, and opened for business a couple of months ago.
A local daily newspaper raved about his pastrami sandwich, which consists of house smoked pastrami, mustard, coleslaw, Swiss cheese and pickles, served on rye. Llamas said he went from 10 pastrami sandwiches a day to 80. It was the power of the press, or maybe the power of the palate.
I tried the pastrami sandwich, and I have to admit it was excellent. Llamas suggested I also try the mortadella sandwich with a side of potato salad, so I did. Not surprisingly, it was also excellent, and the potato salad was one of the best I’ve ever had. Hard to say why, but if you order it, you’ll know what I mean.
Mario’s Butcher Shop is in Plaza Newport, located at 1000 Bristol Street N. in Newport Beach. Current hours are 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
For more information and online ordering, please visit https://www.mariosbutchershopdeli.com.