It’s safe to say that if there’s one influence lacking in San Francisco’s food, it’s that of traditional New York Jewish Deli. Possibly due to the difference in California water (or lack thereof), few and far between are the fat bagels with cream cheese and lox, the decent mid-range pizzas (though SF has plenty of high-end pizza options), and the sandwiches leaking slaw and horseradish and pastrami.
The aforementioned dilemma is precisely the reason Wise Sons Jewish Delicatessen deserves its name. Its two creators, Evan Bloom and Leo Buckerman, have attempted to fix this problem. What began as a popup restaurant whose mission was to bring authentic Jewish food to a deli-deprived area transformed first to a stand at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market and eventually, in 2012, to its own brick and mortar store on 24th and Shotwell St in The Mission. Only a few weeks ago, Wise Sons took another step in its metamorphosis: it leaves behind its labels of afternoon sandwich hub and all-day breakfast joint, and opens its doors for dinner.
After tasting its food, I understand the quick progression. Though the food is disclaimed to be, “Not as good as your Bubba’s, but made with love just the same,” these two sons are onto something big. Sine 2012 it’s been packed with people searching for a taste of the old country, or the city on the Hudson from which they moved west. Its all day brunch – with items like challah french toast, corned-beef hash, pastrami and eggs (um, yum!) – is a true crowd pleaser. The half-soup, half-sandwich lunch deal for $13 is also hard to beat and kindest on your wallet.
Dinner makes no exceptions. First things first, it would be totally unacceptable to dive into your meal without their pull-apart Challah rolls. In fact, thanks to the honey drizzle on top, you’ll have to have someone force you to stop eating them so that you can eat your meal. As additional starters we had the seasonal vegetable plate of squash, beets and hazelnuts and the cabbage wedge salad.
The new dinner menu items include classic plates of Schnitzel, Brisket and Latkes. We skipped the Latkes, but both of the meat dishes were ah-mazing. The Brisket’s smoky flavor was perfect. Wise Sons makes everything in house, from the different types of bread to this ground pastrami burger patty. It’s important to them that the meat they use is all humanely raised.
I had the patty melt, a delicious beef patty with ground pastrami. This, along with the regular burger on a challah bun, is a lunch menu favorite that’ll stay for dinner.
This challah shortcake was delivered to us for dessert via magic. At first judge, I wanted chocolate. But at first taste it was perfect. The challah is browned in butter and sugar, making it worth a bite even on its own. The whipped cream was light and didn’t steal the show.
Wise Sons is off to a great start towards becoming as busy for dinner as it is during other parts of the day. There’s lots more on the menu I want to try and due to the quality of what I did try I have high hopes for the rest. One of the only additions that could make the Deli more attractive to a nighttime crowd is more alcohol options. Two wines and three or four draught beers is not quite enough for the San Francisco dining crowd. I think a wider beer and wine selection and maybe even a cocktail list would faire grandly. And then, the wise sons will need to expand again. May the deli-gods salute you for a job well done. You’ve made New Yorkers – and your Bubbas – very proud.