Al Valadez’s nickname is the “Carne King.” He grew up around meat and wine and loves preparing it. He fondly remembers his dad always had a glass of wine with dinner. Eventually, Valadez’s love for preparing and marinating meats drew encouragement from friends and family to start his own business.

Soon, Valadez will open his new butcher shop, Meat & Vino, on the corner of Myrtle Avenue and Wardlow Road in California Heights. It will offer aged cuts of meats from Harris Ranch, which Valadez refers to as the Mercedez-Benz of meat, a fine wine selection and lots of suggestions for pairing bottles with cuts.

Valadez, 47, said he hopes to create an old-school butcher shop vibe where everyone feels welcome, which is why he selected a location that was embedded in a neighborhood.

“This is a family-owned business,” Valadez said. “I want to be the local butcher.”

The shop’s meat display is set in front of a wall of white subway tile and a big black sign that reads “Making the Cut.” A cow’s skull mounted on a gold base hangs over the case, peering over the day’s selections and the shelves stocked full of dry-rubs, sauces and specialty snacks like champagne popcorn and Dirty Worms.

Valadez’s wife, Diana, who has helped design friend’s homes in her spare time, said she put her creative powers to work to make a place that had more of a boutique feel, one that is Instagrammable.

“People are drawn to things that look nice,” she said, adding that she expects people would probably take pictures in front of the shop’s main display.

She said she’s happy to see the shop finally on the verge of opening because it’s been a dream of her husband’s for over 14 years.

The shop will have all the traditional American cuts of meat, but also crab, lobster and Mexican cuts like the carne asada that helped earn him his “Carne King” nickname. All of the steaks Meat & Vino will sell will be aged 21-24 days, Valadez said.

The store will also include “Don Alfonso’s Shrimp,” a special family recipe for garlic shrimp created by his dad. Meat & Vino will sell it by the pound and Valadez recommends pairing it with either a Chardonnay or light lager. Everything the store will sell is based on how it pairs with other things, Valadez said.

That’s why every purchase will come with a pamphlet on how to marinate and cook each type of meat and what wines or craft beers are suggested for pairing.

“Even the chips we’re going to sell are wine chips and they say which chip pairs with which wine,” Valadez said.

Valadez recently won approval from the Long Beach Planning Commission for permit that will allow him to pour one-ounce tastings for customers who are unsure if they want to buy a full bottle of a certain wine, a common practice at fine restaurants and wineries that makes such an important and expensive purchase less mysterious.

Meat & Vino has the green light from the city to open shop but Valadez said he’s still waiting for the his alcohol license to be approved so the vino can join the meat in the store before they are officially open. He’s hopeful that will happen in the next few weeks.

The pandemic helped Valadez make the jump from wine salesman to a soon-to-be butcher shop owner in Long Beach. But it also created a curiosity for meat consumers who became limited on what and where they could eat outside of the house.

“When all the restaurants shut down, it decimated a good steak,” Valadez said. “It was hard to find one, and people had to try to make them at home and were trying new ways to prepare them.”

Meat & Vino will be located at 901 E. Wardlow Rd. in California Heights.

Jason Ruiz covers City Hall and politics for the Long Beach Post. Reach him at [email protected] or @JasonRuiz_LB on Twitter.