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Authentic Jewish Deli in Bay Area?

  • k

I am craving a hot dog with sauerkraut and deli mustard, a square potato knish, macaroni or potato salad with some half-sour pickles. Is there a real deal deli in the Bay Area where I can indulge in this treasured New York feast? I live in the East Bay, but I'll travel anywhere in the Bay Area to re-live these tastes. When I lived in Los Angeles, I used to drive 50 miles to Santa Ana to get a decent cannoli, so as long as I don't have to go back to LA, distance is not an issue.

I was born and raised in Brooklyn, so I can spot a pale imitation immediately. As close as the real deal as you can get in California only, please!! My taste buds will remember and worship you forever.


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  1. No promises or guarantees (as I haven't been to this place), but East Coast West on Polk in SF has gotten somewhat respectable reviews. Would certainly love to heard your thoughts if you eat there.

    There's an old thread on this place (do a search) - I believe Andy Raskin a.k.a. chowhoundX was one of the first to mention East Coast West.

    1. Saul's Deli at 1475 Shattuck in Berkeley is supposedly the real deal. All my New York friends swear by it.

      1. East Coast West on Polk is very good. The corned beef, brisket, and pastrami sandwiches are all first rate. They are one of the few places around that has meat knishes as well as potato.

        I wouls also recommend Moishe's Pipick on Hayes Street near Gough. Their sandwiches are also good, and I can vouch for their chopped liver too. The main problem with them is teir hours. They are not open for dinner, and close about 2:00. I'm not sure what their weekend hours are.

        I haven't tried Saul's, but I intend to next time I find myself in Berkeley.

        6 Replies
        1. re: jaweino

          I went to East Coast West and Saul's on consecutive days, so I can compare them pretty well, although I didn't order the same thing at each. I thought they were both good, but that the portions at East Coast West were a little disappointing, given the high price, especially when added to the amount I paid in transportation from Berkeley. However, the pastrami was indeed good. I liked Saul's more, and the original poster might be especially pleased by the Ba-Tampte pickles they serve. My brisket was excellent, too. I can't speak to deli hot dogs, but I will say that I'm a huge fan of Top Dog, which has a few locations, most notably on Durant and Bowditch in Berkeley. They have a dozen different dogs, if you don't count the vegetarian one, which I don't. My favorite is the Hot Link, but if you want a regular dog, you should get the German Frank rather than the Top Dog, which I think is undistinguished. Also, the ideal time to go there is after midnight, although it's still plenty good in the daytime. It's not kosher, of course, but I think Saul's is, although of course it's not glatt. One thing more about East Coast West is that they have Mexican Coke in glass bottles (the point of it being from Mexico is that that means it's made with sugar instead of corn syrup). I'm not sure if they have phosphates or egg creams, but Saul's definitely does. And both have Cel-Ray. Personally, I always either get a Cel-Ray or a phosphate when I go to a deli.

          1. re: David Boyk

            Have to agree with you regarding Saul's having an edge over East Coast West. Both have very good (for West Coast) pastrami sandwiches, but Saul's is just a little more authentic. We weren't impressed with the latkes from East Coast West, but they do have egg creams made with U-bet chocolate syrup (which can be too sweet if there's too much added). We actually bought a jar of U-bet from Saul's, so I'm trying to get my portioning of it right.

            1. re: David Boyk

              Unfortunately Coke bottled in mexico switched to corn syrup about 5 years ago. And I can also say (sadly) that the cokes IN mexico are also corn syrup these days.

              Sad but true.

              1. re: jose

                Really? I didn't actually try it; my friend did. And I didn't bother to look at the label. Still, though, you can't get American Coke in glass bottles bigger than I think 8 oz. So there's still a point to getting Mexican Coke, even if it doesn't taste better. 'Cause I can't stand plastic bottles.

                1. re: David Boyk

                  Its true about the Mexican Coke - that's NAFTA for you. But as I understand it, kosher Coke is still being made.

                2. re: jose

                  I just got back from Mexico, and I can say for sure that the Cokes that my husband and I drank there were all made with sugar, not corn syrup. We checked the bottle every time.

            2. h
              Homain Commody

              Saul's is not very good. Haven't been to Moishe's. East Coast West is the real thing, but Baltimore style. We went there when it opened and found quite a few glitches, but they have straightened them out. I think they underestimated the demand for good kosher style food and had to reinvent a few wheels.

              It is, friends on the inside tell me, the only one which makes most of its own pastries and knishes and gets the meats and fish flown in from New York. The owner's family apparently had one of the more famous deli's in Baltimore.

              The sandwiches are tremendous.
              and it's got all the other stuff. There is no wine or beer, but the last time I asked they told us they had applied for a license.

              Parking is tough, though.

              Link: http://www.sfweekly.com/listings/dini...

              1. I am also Brooklyn born and raised, (Coney Island Ave and Kings Highway)I went to Sauls a few years ago and found them merely adequate. They have expanded and improved their kitchen, so I would try it again. It certainly is close to you. My trip to East West was the first week it opened so I would return to see if improvements have been made. Their chicken soup was watery, and tasted more of boullion cube than chicken! The stuffed cabbage was just okay. (Max's even has a better version!) Their corn beef and pastrami... acceptable ("and they give such small portions!"{said with a Yiddish accent followed by a drumroll}) My vote goes to Brothers Deli, 1351 Howard Ave. in Burlingame. phone 650 343-2311. Good soup , matzo ball, very good kreplach. Good stuffed cabbage, Large sandwiches (I always ask for my corned beef and pastrami..."NOT lean" so definitely more flavorful. (My cholesterol is 121 I can do this...but you may not.) As to your real question about a hot dog, I agree totally with David who mentioned Top Dog (various locations in East Bay) as an excellent alternative. The franks are made just for them and they are good..very good.I'm looking forward to any other opinions about Delis..and if you find Blackout Cake, please let me know!!!

                3 Replies
                1. re: derek durst

                  I agree that LA delis are superior (food AND atmosphere) than ours in the Bay Area. My experience is based on growing up in Chicago. However, although not in the same league, I was sorry to read that Max's Diner on Third St. in SF will be closing at the end of this year. It's my favorite of all of Dennis Berkowitz's "Max's.

                  If you're looking for a fairly good approximation to a Chicago hot dog, try the place on Grand Avenue a few doors down from the Grand Lake Theater. Steamed rolls, neon green relish, sport peppers and a dog that snaps when you bite into it....the works.

                  Frishman's on Solano Ave. at Peralta in Albany doesn't have the gestalt but at least imports it's stuff from New York.

                  1. re: Mike
                    ChowFun (derek)

                    Just went with a friend to Millers East West Deli on Polk, to see how the new ownership would affect its offerings...others have reported positively....
                    Went for lunch..we had Matzo ball soup, chopped liver, Smoked Sable fish appetizer, and Brisket plate.....(yes we shared!)
                    The soup was VERY good, I had just had dissapointing versions at the Second Ave. Deli in Ny, Brothers Deli, Max's (trying to fight a cold)
                    Millers was full bodied without a hint of those artificial boullion cubes...the matzo ball was a "sinker" good, but I prefer somewhere between sinker and floater.
                    The chopped liver at the East West Deli had always been one of the best things and I worried that Miller would make it "Mousse"-like rather than chunky..I am happy to report that Chunky still rules!
                    The Sable was one third the price of New Yorks, for a nicely sized plate...very velvety fish and a superior bagel!
                    The Brisket had wonderful, moist non-stringy texture.good gravy , although I would prefer more spice...over home made mashed potatoes, and lightly steamed vegetables...all very good...the Rye bread was crusty ( I think they import, partial baked breads and finish baking there...
                    The place was packed for lunch! A very good experience over-all. I hope they will be consistent though.

                  2. Hey Kim, where did you go in Santa Ana for a decent cannoli? I go down there to see family semi-regularly and am always looking for new placed to eat (Little Saigon is usually a highlight). Thanks in advance.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Calvinist

                      ... can be found at an Italian deli closer to Anaheim called Cortina's. The address is: 2175 W. Orange Ave., Anaheim, (714) 535-1948.

                      The place was recommended to me by a car salesman who also happened to be an Italian from Brooklyn a long way from home. I was bemoaning the lack of decent Italian deli food, particularly cannolis and fresh mozzarella in SoCal. To complete the Italian theme, it was an Alfa Romeo that I was purchasing from him!

                      The cannolis are great. I prefer mine with no dried fruit or nuts in the cream and that's exactly the way they make them. Tasty, substantial shell with perfect crunchy texture and some powdered sugar sprinkled on top. They're worth the trip.

                    2. I must thank each one of you for taking time to hook up my tastebuds with the promise of deli food to come. I'm trying to get to Saul's tonight. It was mentioned that Saul's serves egg creams. That was the deciding factor for me. The last time I had an egg cream was probably a shared one in Brighton Beach with my grandmother.

                      Surprised to see that Saul's got bashed pretty well in the reviews on Bay Area City Search. No matter. I'll see for myself. And if I can't make it there tonight, then I'm going to try Top Dog. YAH!!

                      Thanks again,

                      1. For authentic pickles, go to Rainbow. They always have a tub of sour Gus Pickles, which are the real thing, from Essex Street in NYC. There is no better pickle (at least that I've tasted).

                        Also, if anyone wants to know how to make a real New York Egg cream I will be happy to divulge the secret for a very small fee (actually, I'll just tell ya).

                        1. As a transplated Brooklynite, I haven't yet found a deli that matches what we had in the NYC area. Corned beef, well done french fries, fat potato knishes, sour pickles, hot open roast beef sandwiches, grilled hot dogs finished on the broiler, oy, i'm killing myself just thinking about it. I go so far as to have deli flown in from NY on a regular basis. With all the transplanted NY jews out here it's amazing nobody's duplicated the style of a Katz's or Stage - even though there are many better delis in NYC, they had the 'basics'.

                          My kingdom for a hot pastrami on corn rye!

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: mandmsf

                            where do you order from on the East Coast? Just curious if my cravings can warrent the cost...

                          2. I enjoyed East Coast West's knish, but as far as I've tasted the best half-sour 've had out here was out of a jar (actually too salty). East Coast West satisfies my craving until I go back to New York to visit relatives.

                            1. Brents deli in Los Angeles is also excellent and worth the fed ex charges to get it up here to the bay area. They are used to shipping food up here.

                              I havent had any decent deli here yet. I am going to try Sauls in Berkeley even though I hate Berkeley and swore I would never go there even for food.

                                1. I've been to a bunch of these places and I think the best place for a matzoh ball soup fix is actually Max's. Skip the knishes everywhere.

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: katya

                                    Holy Land in Berkeley makes great matzoh-ball soup.

                                    1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                      Amen to that! I practically lived on it all last week while I was sick. My only complaint is that they make the matzoballs so huge that you only get 1/4 of one in an order. It just feels weird getting a piece of a matzoball, rather than a whole one.