It’s easy to assume that the Jews of San Francisco have been culinarily deprived. Unlike New York and Los Angeles, San Francisco doesn’t have an abundance of delis serving tongue-on-rye sandwiches or boiled bagels. But after tasting bowl after bowl of matzo ball soup at establishments across the Bay Area, I can assure Jews and Judeophiles alike that we aren’t that bad off. Whether you crave a delicious and moist knish or that dessert of racial integration, the black-and-white cookie, you’ll find what you’re looking for at one of these go-to Jew food locales.
As soon as you enter this Chicago-themed deli, you become a part of the Moishe’s Pippic family. Which means you’ll be privy to matzo ball soup almost like Bubbe used to make. Moishe’s variety, perhaps the best in the city, features seasoned dumplings floating in a perfectly salted broth with huge chunks of carrots. Also worth noting are sandwiches piled so high with whatever meat you want including rare roast beef or, on Fridays, warm brisket with horseradish that they might as well scream, "Eat! Eat! You’re too thin!" They offer kosher hot dogs and sausages, too, but sadly, few desserts.
425-A Hayes, SF. (415) 431-2440
HOUSE OF BAGELS
The quaint Geary Street eatery goes beyond lox on an onion bagel. Some of the flavors seem downright sacrilegious chocolate? Corn? Whole wheat? but all are delicious with regular or specialty cream-cheese spreads like honey or strawberry. Aside from bagels, the House offers a selection of deli sandwiches and various knishes wrapped in warm doughy crust. Best of all are the free mini challahs and dessert samples on the counter, ready for noshing while you wait. The black-and-whites are the perfect cakey confection; and Jewish favorites like kugel, latkes, and hammentaschen round out the menu. But skip the matzo ball soup the matzoh balls fall apart and are as soupy as the unappetizing broth.
5030 Geary, SF. (415) 7526000, www.houseofbagels.com
MILLER’S EAST COAST WEST DELICATESSEN
Bleu cheese and bacon on a burger? Oy! Miller’s may not be the most kosher of delicatessens, but the meat-stacked sandwiches do a good job of adhering to the Jew-food tradition. Also, unlike the café Jack Nicholson visited in the Seven Easy Pieces, Miller’s is flexible with its offerings: do you want cream cheese and lox on a slice of toasted challah? It may not be on the menu, but you can surely get this lovely combination. It’s my usual that, plus a cup of the matzo ball soup, which has a good consistency and lots of veggies (though the broth could use some salt and a bay leaf). Get a big bowl of soup with a half-chicken and make a meal out of it, or turn it into a feast by adding latkes accompanied by an applesauce that’s like pie filling.
1725 Polk, SF. (415) 563- 3542, www.millersdelisf.com
MAX’S OPERA CAFÉ
This place seems a bit confused about what kind of restaurant it is, with deli-style items, diner decor, and a laminated menu that gives off a Denny’s vibe. But once inside, all that matters is the matzo ball soup, chock-full of vegetables, noodles, and generous cuts of lean chicken. Supplement it with traditional delights like corned beef, pastrami, or brisket with one of five mustard options, or try modern sandwiches like turkey with roasted pear and Brie. Another hearty option is the chicken potpie. Just beware: the servings are large and in charge.
601 Van Ness, SF. (415) 771-7300, www.maxsworld.com
TEL AVIV KOSHER MARKET
This is the place to be if you’re in need of some tasty kosher treats. They stock all of the essentials and beyond whether it be matzo meal, Passover desserts, challah, meats of all kinds, gefilte fish, turkey meatballs, wine, Israeli candy, or Bazooka bubble gum. The Jew-food fun never ends. They also have a pre-made section hosting a scrumptious medley of carrots, eggplant, challah dogs, knishes, hummus, tahini, and falafel that you can enjoy on-site at one of their two tables. The challah is downright addictive and made locally. And delights imported from the Holy Land are just as good and fun, like the dessert-in-a-box mix for chocolate balls dipped in sprinkles. (Follow the directions on the back, if you can read Hebrew.)
2495 Irving, SF, (415) 661-7588