A Sharp Couple

Many of the knives at Bernal Cutlery are handcrafted in Japan. The Ashi Hamono double-bevel knives at far left represent a Western style, while the entry-level Tojiro shirogami yanagiba single-bevel knives on the right are a traditional design

Above, at work on the Japanese whetstones is lead Oakland sharpener Lisa Weiss with Taylor Johnson on her left. Owner Josh Donald (center at right) loves to discuss the history of knife design. Donald says he often asks the Clove & Hoof butchers to help test out new knives.

Bernal Cutlery and Clove & Hoof

By Kristina Sepetys | Photos by Scott Peterson

At Clove & Hoof, butcher Colin Haydu often draws a crowd as he breaks down an Emigh Ranch lamb.

Clove & Hoof owner John Blevins wraps up the freshly cut chops.

Bernal Cutlery, the beloved San Francisco culinary knife shop, has opened an outpost in Oakland right next door to Clove & Hoof Butchery and Restaurant. The location isn’t accidental.

Josh Donald, owner of Bernal Cutlery and author of Sharp: The Definitive Guide to Knives, Knife Care, and Cutting Techniques, with Recipes from Great Chefs (Chronicle Books, June 2018), says he’s known Clove & Hoof owners John Blevins and Ana Gosnell for many years. “They always had a kid-in-a-candy-shop vibe visiting our shop and checking out our restored vintage butcher knives,” says Donald. “Thomas McEntee, their director of operations, has been a customer since 2011. He’s a really talented butcher and a super nice guy.” 

The admiration is mutual.

“We used to send staff into San Francisco to get knives sharpened, and we’ve always talked about collaborating,” says McEntee. “We had this space next to our restaurant, and in considering who might be complementary tenants, we thought of Bernal Cutlery.”

A short hallway connects the butchery/restaurant to Bernal Cutlery’s new shop: a small space lined with wooden cabinets filled with shining new, vintage, and rare knives. A red wall and old, Asian lantern-type light fixture help evoke an era when wares like these were always handcrafted. The majority of the shop’s knives are by Japanese bladesmiths, but plenty of exemplary European and American pieces are found here as well. Chefs and cooks who appreciate traditional Japanese whetstone sharpening come to Bernal Cutlery to renew their worn blades, and some patrons also come for the knife skills and sharpening classes.

Craftsmanship is on display as well at Clove & Hoof, where butchers work with the whole animal, making use of offal, bones, and all the cuts, not just the choice ones. They source from local farms that raise livestock responsibly and humanely without antibiotics or hormones. The butchery and its sit-down restaurant are housed in a small, lively, and comfortable space with wood floors, wrought-iron stools, and two walls of windows looking out on the corner of Broadway and 40th Street.

Menu favorites? Try the hamburger: two four-ounce beef patties, caramelized onion jam, pimento cheese, bacon, chopped romaine, pickles, and pickle mayo layered into a potato-pepper bun. Or the cheesesteak sandwich: Slathered in a beer “cheese fondue,” it’s stuffed with onion confit, pickled mushrooms, and matchstick turnips. Sides include updates on American classics like hand-cut beef tallow fries, pork and beans, chicken wings with blue cheese slaw and pickles, and outlier items like Cajun Boudin Balls. A summer watermelon dish with cherry tomatoes and herbs gets an umami shio koji twist.

“Having Bernal Cutlery next door makes for a cool marriage,” says McEntee. “They offer helpful services to our business, and we look forward to introducing them to our customers.” ´

Clove & Hoof, 4001 Broadway, Oakland is open W–Su 11am–9pm and Tu 11am–3pm. The Oakland Bernal Cutlery location at 308 40th St (near Broadway) is currently open Sa, M, & Tu 10am–6pm and Su 11am–5pm, but hours are expected to expand once the shop is established.

Read book editor Kristina Sepetys’s review of Josh Donald’s Sharp on the Edible East Bay blog. A writer and consultant living in Berkeley, Kristina covers the intersection of food, farming, energy, land, water, and sustainable resource use. Reach her at kmsepetys(at)yahoo.com.

A man of many hats, Alameda-based photographer Scott Peterson is a multimedia producer, banjoist, fiddler, cook, cyclist, gardener, dad, and husband. His videos have won two EDDY awards.