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Jan 15, 2004 02:07 PM

What happened to all the good deli's in SF

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What happened to all the good deli's in SF. There was a good one on Geary called Herman's and one on Noreiga St. called Gilbert's. Gilbert's makes huge sandwhiches and had very good homemade pickles.

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    ChowFun (derek)

    Gilberts closed many years ago as the neighborhood became less "Jewish" (there used to be a Jewish book store and bakery) and more Asian.
    Shenson's is the deli I think you are referring to on Geary...basically the same story...the natural evolution of the city...changing neighborhood (there was a book-giftstore, a kosher restaurant etc, etc.) The kosher butcher and Bagel bakery seem to be the last of a dieing breed.
    But , all hope is not lost! A new and constantly improving deli "East coast West" has opened at 1725 Polk street,(between Washington and Sacramento I think) to generally favorable reports...give it a try!

    19 Replies
    1. re: ChowFun (derek)

      Nope, it was Herman's, a GREAT deli with the best potato salad in the world and really good sandwiches and other salads. I was really sorry to see Herman's close.

      Shenson's was another good deli on Geary -- also closed.

      1. re: Nancy Berry

        Is there a recipe out there for Herman's potato salad? It was wonderful and I would attempt to make it in a heartbeat.

        1. re: Nancy Berry

          I grew up out in the Sunset and we always went for the Hermans Potatoe Salad. I just found a potatoe salad at a market in LaQuinta, CA, called Sprouts. Their salad is called San Francisco Potaoe Salad, and it is the same as Hermans.
          Do any of you old timers remember the "Golden Brown Bakery" on Irving Street? They had the best Almond Whreat Cake.

          Irving Street Cafe
          716 Irving St, San Francisco, CA 94122

          1. re: SunsetSusie

            I certainly do remember the golden brown bakery.aww the good old days growing up in s f.

          2. re: Nancy Berry

            I just stumbled on to these posts of Hermans on Geary. From 1969 to 1971, when I had money, I would go there for Some of that deliciously cold and tangy potato salad...with a cold beer of course. Now that I'm 65, retired, with some money. .no more sad

          3. re: ChowFun (derek)

            Most of the Italian deli's have been flushed out of North Beach as well. Panelli Bros., Florence Ravioli Co. and at least two others are gone. Only Molinari remains. However, I recall reading that a new Italian deli was going to open soon in North Beach.
            As the ethnic compositions of neighborhoods change, the foodstores and restaurants in those neighborhoods will reflect those changes as well.
            There is a relatively new deli/food store on outer Clement Street (near 32nd Ave. I think) that features Russian and Eastern European foods.

            1. re: DavidT

              if the new deli that is opening in north beach is CAFE VERDE dont bother going. we went this saturday.ITS PRETTY BAD. i Dont think its even italian ,although it claims to be.

              1. re: joe

                It's a deli, not a cafe. It's called Palermo, on Stockton St. between Green and Union. I believe it's open, but I haven't checked it out yet.

                1. re: Gary Soup

                  cafe verde was on green street across from cafe sport.

                  1. re: Gary Soup

                    It didn't look open yet when I went by it last night. I am DYING for it to open!

              2. re: ChowFun (derek)

                Hermans it was on Geary nr 3rd Ave. Shensons is something else and further west. Hermans was famous
                for its potato salad and big sandwiches. Now
                it is a Gap.

                1. re: dukedee


                  1. re: martin

                    Unfortunately I don't have the recipe for Herman's Potato Salad. (wish I did...I miss the deli's in SF too) But my Father swears that it is the "San Francisco Potato Salad" at Lunardi's Stores.

                2. re: ChowFun (derek)
                  RWCFoodie (Karen)

                  Many years ago the Western Addition (Fillmore-McAllister) was the center of all things Jewish in SF. I remember riding the bus with my Mom to the delis (Shenson's, etc), bakeries (Ukraine) and dried fruit/pickle store (Drabkins I think it was). Drabkins was my most fun stop because they had a big pickle barrel and always let me pick out my own pickle; a big deal to an 8-yr old. From what I remember, the goods were mostly in burlap bags or other bulk containers. I loved that store. The delis were something else; my most vivid memories are of riding home on the bus with the most wonderful aromatic packages of goodies. It was about an hours ride to our house and when we got home we would open the packages of meats, smoked fish (salmon of course and sturgeon when Mom was feeling flush), pickles (cucumber and green tomatoes), fresh light rye bread(without seeds) and all kinds of pastries and dried fruit for dessert. Alas, those days are long gone (but there's always dim sum!) I've pretty much given up on Jewish deli in this area.

                  1. re: RWCFoodie (Karen)

                    Just how many years ago are you talking about? I have lived in SF since 1970, but it sounds like you are going back way past that!

                    1. re: DavidT
                      RWCFoodie (Karen)

                      Well, let's just say that I remember the first TVs (we had one...) The era I'm remembering would be about 20 yrs before you got here; in other words, almost the dark ages! It was back in the time of getting dressed up to go downtown (white gloves and hats).

                      1. re: RWCFoodie (Karen)

                        people still get spiffed up to go downtown.....get a new body piercing, touch up the purple dye job in their hair, make sure their pants sag enough .... etc....

                      2. re: DavidT

                        Born and raised in SF - The last remnants of Jewish Filmore neighborhood were some used furniture stores (aka antiques) and the Ukraine bakery in the 60's. David's and Solomon's, on Geary in the theater district were not great. We recently went to the East Coast West Deli, and I really enjoyed a smoked fish plate. Unfortunately, SF hasn't had a Kosher or Kosher style deli like those I've enjoyed in New York or Detroit.

                        1. re: Burt

                          Frankly, I cannot recall a really good Jewish deli in SF...ever. LA, yes. David was OK when he first opened (when you stood behind the occupied stool to take the seat). Then he got stingy. Solomon's was good competition, but not first rate. I hear good things about East Coast West. I think the problem is that SF is not very demanding...Chinatown, on the other hand, you sink or swim. Mediocre will not survive (except maybe House of Nanking).

                  2. The original comment has been removed
                    1. hi, my name is deborah. i was the cook at Gilberts, for a couple of years, along with the owner, anna, who was the daughter of the founders of the deli. what happened was that the owners sold gilberts to a chinese woman named bette. she had no restaurant background, and to say the least, no people skills. it lasted maybe a year after the sale.
                      if you want some of their recipes, i think i have some saved. you can e-mail me at:

                      1. I just looked at the Mel's Drive In menu and they show that they serve Herman's Potato Salad with their sandwiches. Does anyone know if this is true? I know Herman's has been closed for years.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Robert Dahl

                          No, it is not the same at all. My sister and I thought that is must be the same and met there for lunch a few years ago but were very disappointed. Perhaps Mel's bought the name, but the recipe is completely different. As someone said in a post above, the closest potato salad to Herman's is the San Francisco style that you can find in Lunardi's and some Safeway stores. It is not the same - too much mayo - but it is reasonably close. Herman's also had a deli in Sunnyvale, on Saratoga-Sunnyvale Road, but it must have closed at the same time.

                        2. Was Herman's the place that advertised "Dutch salads"?

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: Robert Lauriston

                            "Herman's Delicatessen—Out there at 7th & Geary from the 1920s until the 1970s. I still remember the dark blue ceramic tiles on the lower front façade, and the deep rich smells of the meats, cheeses, salads, and the pickle barrel. There's nothing quite like it anymore."