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Jun 20, 2008 12:00 PM

Where to buy tenderleg of lamb in SF

I need to buy a tender leg of lamb from a San Francisco butcher who will bone and butterfly it. The last one, from a neighborhood butcher, had quite a few tough gristly parts. It was about 6-1/2 pounds with bone, and I had marinated it in wine, then broiled and convection baked it for about 30 minutes. Also, should I roast or broil it? I'd like it to make a good impression on my dinner guests with very tender meat. P.S. I don't want to travel outside the City to buy it. Thanks for suggestions.

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  1. I have very good luck buying the boneless leg of lamb sold at Trader Joe's. I have never had a bad one.

    You can buy it marinated or not marinated. Usually, I buy it not marinated and marinate it myself. I have a grilling basket that flattens it out so I can cook it evenly on an outside grill.

    1 Reply
    1. re: DavidT

      I also have had good luck with the Trader Joe's lamb. Unfortunately, for the last several months I have not seen the unmarinated version. The marinated one isn't bad, but you could probably do better yourself.

    2. Costco has very good boneless leg of lamb. Australian, so its smallish (3-4 lb). I spread it out and marinate overnight with red wine, garlic, olive oil, herbs, s&p. Rosemary is very compatible. I prefer it grilled, but you could broil or roast it. If your last lamb was 6 + lb, it was American. There is a different taste with Australian and New Zealand lamb...grassier

      1. Buy at Bryan's and ask them for cooking advice.

        Costco and Trader Joe's have very good lamb for the price.

        You might also ask for advice on the Home Cooking board.

        Bryan's Quality Meats
        3473 California St, San Francisco, CA

        1 Reply
        1. re: Robert Lauriston

          If I wanted something beyond Costco and Trader Joe's, I would go to Mollie Stone Tower Market or Avedanos.

          Mollie Stone Tower Market
          635 Portola Dr, San Francisco, CA 94127

          235 Cortland Ave, San Francisco, CA 94110

        2. I think the best lamb I've gotten in SF recently has been from Queen of Sheeba Market at Sutter and Larkin. The owner gets whole lambs in from Stockton and cuts them up for her customers. Its a fantastic place full of the grains, herbs and spices of the region. The bones on the lamb racks are as small as a chopstick. Its been about $5.00 per pound.

          Queen of Sheba
          1100 Sutter St, San Francisco, CA

          2 Replies
          1. re: Ericruo

            I buy lamb from another from another halal butcher (Indus Foods in Berkeley), but I hesitate to recommend one for someone who wants a butterflied leg or rolled roast. Seems like they either roast whole with the bone in or cut into chunks for kebabs or stew.

            1. re: Ericruo

              Salama Halal on Geary and Jones is my local source for lamb. The cuts are always very fresh, but I don't know the details of whether or not they will butterfly a cut for you or what specific cuts they sell. 474-0359 if you want to call and ask.

              Salama Halal Meat
              604 Geary St, San Francisco, CA

            2. Whole Foods on Franklin has excellent lamb, and it was incredibly cheap when I bought it. Little City can get you a really nice lamb and prep it any way you need, but pricing is a bit silly, and I would be sure to mention you're looking for a tender piece.

              Now I've only ever cooked leg of lamb on the bone, but as a rule, I find that New Zealand lamb is usually the best, even it's sold frozen. I believe most butchers are using the same sources for lamb, and much of what is sold in the Bay Area that's billed as being fresh was frozen at one point. My reasoning in thinking this is based on a lot of time driving around the city looking for good lamb (same problem with briskets too) and talking to butchers. Few butchers break cattle at all anymore for example, and sadly I've even had better luck just special ordering from Safeway. Otherwise even old butchers like the Molly Stones Tower location or standards like Bryan's are going to be hit or miss and you have to do the leg work (sorry for the pun) and decide what looks good on that particular day. A butchers reputation can be meaningless these days. I once bought chicken livers from Golden Gate that ended up being a half frozen vacuum pack of soupy smelly who knows what. It has become common at even the best butchers to spot something in a case that looks like it should be in the garbage instead which I think is why you're getting so many suggestions for chains/supermarkets that at least do heavy volume of sales. I miss the days of real butchers.

              Queen of Sheeba is a really good example of a place I'd really look at the meat and decide before buying it, rather then just go by a recommendation. It's exciting to hear he's cutting down fresh lambs, but a lot of what I saw in their case looked like it had been sitting.

              12 Replies
              1. re: sugartoof

                I am sure we hounds are quite curious to know how much you paid at Whole Foods for "incredibly cheap" lamb. Are you serious about the butcher picking out a "tender piece" for you. Has any butcher ever purposely sold you a tough piece of meat?

                1. re: OldTimer

                  "I am sure we hounds are quite curious to know how much you paid at Whole Foods for "incredibly cheap" lamb."

                  Care to explain why you're questioning it?
                  Whole Foods was almost half the price on special of anywhere else I had checked at the time, including Little City, Bryan's, Golden Gate, Safeway, Molly Stones, Adronicos, and the Ferry Market. I love lamb, and this was one of the best I've had lately so I suggested it. Like I said, it was "incredibly cheap when I bought it" so maybe it's back to $6 a pound now. I don't do regular shopping at Whole Foods to know,. Hope that takes care of the curiousity for "you hounds".

                  "Are you serious about the butcher picking out a "tender piece" for you. Has any butcher ever purposely sold you a tough piece of meat?"

                  A real butcher who knows his meats should be able to pick you up a good piece.
                  That's especially true if he carries different types of leg of lamb (bone in, deboned, New Zealand, etc). Also, if he's prepping it for you, and he spots large tendons or too much fat, a reputable butcher will trim it, or start over with a new piece of meat. Yes, some butchers will sell low quality meat intentionally, because they're trying to move the product and that's all they have in stock. I can't imagine this is shocking to anyone.

                2. re: sugartoof

                  I think Golden Gate's reputation comes by association with the other purveyors at Ferry Plaza. They're a full-service butcher, which is rare these days, but about the least sophisticated of the ones I know.

                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                    Well they have been around since the 70's, and they claim to providing meat to half the city, but I agree with you. I also prefer Prather Ranch if they have the cut I'm looking for.

                    1. re: Robert Lauriston

                      Could not agree with you more. Golden Gate meats are passable but seem fairly pedestrian compared to some of the other butcher shops around town. Many will claim that they service half the city but that does not make it good - for instance, McDonalds sells more hamburgers than anybody else but that does not equate to quality. Bryan's has some very good and small - most likely younger lamb.

                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                        How did they land the spot in the first place if they had no reputation?

                        1. re: Xiao Yang

                          I may be mistaken, but I believe this is the first retail location - they started as a wholesaler.

                          If you stop and think about who had a reputation before the FB opened it's clear that wasn't the biggest element of their leasing criteria. That, and there were a number of vacancies the first year they reopened it. Golden Gate was probably courted to fill that butcher slot, and share the space with Rockridge Fish Market and the produce vendor.

                          1. re: Xiao Yang

                            Most of Golden Gate's products don't fit CUESA's mission of promoting a sustainable food system, but they do distribute some organic and free-range stuff.

                            1. re: Robert Lauriston

                              I doubt Peets, Ciao Bella, Mijita, Mastrelli's, Miette, Delica, etc. entirely for CUESA's mission either.

                              Luckily Prather fits the bill. They're not the best if you're hunting for a specific cut, and the frozen meat thing takes some getting used to, but the stuff tastes good. No poultry though.

                              1. re: sugartoof

                                The question at hand is about a specific cut. Does Prather have butterflied leg of lamb? As I recall they sell only packaged, frozen items, and aren't set up to bone and butterfly a leg.

                                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                  They might have a half bone or bone out option at best.

                              2. re: Robert Lauriston

                                Does CUESA really have anything to do with the shops inside the Ferry Building? I would have thought Steve Carlin had a lot to do with the original space awards, and his "mission" was at least partly related to Equity Office's bottom line.