A real-deal Jewish deli in San Francisco has always been as tough to come by as a California-style burrito in Manhattan. There have been a few fleeting attempts, but none have stuck. Leo Beckerman and Evan Bloom aim to change that with Wise Sons Jewish Delicatessen. The pop-up restaurant, which made its debut in January, is open only on Saturdays, when they take over the Beast and the Hare restaurant.
Mr. Beckerman, 27, and Mr. Bloom, 25, met at the University of California, Berkeley, where they would cook kosher dinners at the Hillel House. Years later, commiserating over San Francisco’s sad pastrami situation, they decided to make their own. “But pastrami recipes are closely guarded secrets — they don’t really exist,” explained Mr. Bloom, whose great-grandparents owned a Jewish deli outside of Boston.
So, after rummaging through their grandmothers’ old cookbooks and conducting deli crawls around New York City, they started tinkering. They began by smoking meat in Mr. Bloom’s backyard, then moved to nearby La Cocina, an incubator for small culinary businesses. From there it was trial and error. The result: tender, perfectly fatty, hand-carved pastrami piled high between slices of house-baked rye, adorned, as it should be, with nothing save spicy brown mustard or (if you are a bit less traditional) Thousand Island dressing.
The brief menu consists of dishes that are almost all house-made, including brunch items and rotating sandwiches. On a recent rainy Saturday, customers waited beneath umbrellas to place their order with a beaming Mr. Beckerman — his dreadlocks tied back in a bandana, the fresh face of the next generation of delis.
Out flew compostable paper plates of still-warm bialys; thick slices of flakey, bittersweet chocolate babka; corned beef scrambles; pastrami sandwiches accompanied by creamy potato salad and barrel-brined sour dill pickles. The matzo ball soup comes with the caveat “probably not better than your grandmother’s,” and is served in noodle bowls from Chinatown. (“You can’t serve matzo ball soup in paper,” Mr. Bloom explained.)
The customers — a mix of East Coast transplants, self-proclaimed regulars and deli first-timers — made quick work of their repast. But there was one woman, standing not so inconspicuously in the corner, with a camera in her hand and tears in her eyes, too excited to eat.
“I’m overwhelmed,” gushed Linda Bloom, Evan’s mother. “You know, he was an architect. But this is his passion. I’m just so proud.” Spoken like a true Jewish mom.
Wise Sons Jewish Delicatessen, wisesonsdeli.com.