So I’m in San Francisco last week, and every single person I meet asks me “have you tried that new deli?”.
I’m a pretty good gauge for when a deli is buzzing beyond its traditional audience (Jews), and this was definitely the case. Wise Sons is hot, and folks, this is just the beginning.
Now, let’s dial it back a little. Over a year ago, I got an email through the site from Evan Bloom, of San Francisco.
“I am currently in the planning stages of opening a traditional Jewish Delicatessen in San Francisco. While I’m hesitant to divulge too much information in this email, I would be interested to know your thoughts. It’s to be in the SF Mission style and an updated take on the classic Jewish deli using quality ingredients, modern technique, and classic recipes. All items, including meats, will be made in house without shortcuts. There is no reason schmaltz cannot become a known culinary ingredient in a city like San Francisco. We hope to build on the DIY, house made charcuterie trends by showing people they are paramount to good deli.”
My ears perked up. This is obviously something close to my heart, and in my opinion, the best way to save the Jewish delicatessen from irrelevance. It has worked beautifully for places like Caplansky’s, Kenny and Zukes, and Mile End, but so far the artensenal deli movement had bypassed San Francisco. True, Saul’s in Berkeley has been sourcing local and quality ingredients for two decades now, but as anyone who visits the area knows, San Francisco and Berkeley, while close, aren’t the same city by any stretch. And until it migrates across the bay, the impact isn’t truly felt. This was good.
Then a few months later, I got an email from another fan, who Evan and his partner Leo Beckerman had solicited for investment. It laid out the concept for the deli, and its name…Treyf:
“Our working name, Treyf (pronounced Tr-ay-f) is the Hebrew word for something un-kosher or not following traditional Jewish dietary laws based on ancient Scripture. It’s a little ironic as we will serve the best quality, pure ingredients with an emphasis on tradition and no pork to be found.” I posted a preview
Thankfully, Evan and Leo changed the name to Wise Sons Delicatessen. Nine weeks ago, working out of a communal kitchen incubator, they began doing a pop-up Saturday deli brunch at a local cafe, serving homemade bialys, knishes, ryes, corned beef, and pastramis on Saturdays from 9 to 2 pm. Most days, they’re selling out of meat by 11 am. It’s a runnaway sensation, complete with lines, mixed crowds, and a fain change in their parents’ tone, from questioning (“why not law school?”) to encouraging.
Now, unfortunately, while I was in San Francisco last week, I wasn’t able to make it to the pop-up deli Saturday. I did however meet Evan and Leo in their kitchen, just as a batch of hamentaschen were coming out of the oven. Leo schmeared a hunk of creamed cheese on a plate and let me tear into his fantastic bialy, one of the best I’ve ever eaten, both chewy and fragrant, and laced with soft onions. The knishes, loaded with schmaltz whipped potatoes, were epic, and I probably had six hamentaschen.
The boys behind Wise Sons (I say boys, mainly because they’re a year or two younger than me), are already looking at spaces for a permanent deli in the Mission, and hope to have it open in several months. Until then, check out their Saturday wares, and watch as a deli renaissance sweeps San Francisco.
Serving Saturdays at 105 Valencia @ McCoppin inside Jackie’s Cafe 9am-2pm.