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Oct 20, 2008 06:12 AM

David's (Jewish food), SF off Union Square - any good?

Saw a mention in the Bay City Guide about David's. Since 1952. Soups: w/ matzo balls or kreplach. Dinners: brisket of beef, goulash, stuffed cabbage, etc. Open 7 days a week. Off Union Square.

474 Geary

Any reports?

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  1. along with joe's overpriced cabled car burgers, that place is on my
    permanent black ball list because it is more or less guaranteed to
    be overpriced and highly likely to have bad service or some other
    problem [dirty, something else annoying etc].

    i suppose they have some things that taste ok, but giving them
    my business annoys me so much, i cant bring myself to eat there ...
    i wouldnt eat here even if i won the lottery ... "on principle".

    there were some bakery togo items which were ok but again
    ridiculous, impossible to ignore, prices.

    many, many yelp reviews of this place.

    19 Replies
    1. re: psb

      I think it's funny. In reading the reviews, last October 17 Nobody liked it and since then everybody hated it.

      1. re: wolfe

        There are many memorable meals I've had in my life ... a chicken dish and a tomato plate at Chez Panisse ... some pea soup at The Dining Room of the Ritz.

        Add to that the pickle at David's. I'll never forget it. For once, I can honestly say deli-wise, David's beats out every East Coast deli ... every last one. There are deli's like this on the East Coast ... the bad ones.

        Yes, David's wins the category of the worst deli I've ever been to surpassing the rankest the East Coast has to offer.

        The pickle was soft, squishy and probably made when the deli opened in the 1950's ... or at least tasted it.

        For those Yelp reviews saying it was probably better 20 years ago ... nope ... I had that pickle decades ago ... it is legendary in my mind. There was not one thing I liked there many, years agoi.

        Somewhere around 2001, I ordered something from Waiter on Wheels from David's .. I could have been wrong, ya know. Nope. Obscenely overpriced and under-delicious. I remember a stale flavorless cookie.

        David's Deli
        474 Geary St, San Francisco, CA

        1. re: rworange

          In all fairness, it was "better" 20 years ago.... but better doesn't mean it was ever good. Max's was at least good for a while. Davids? Maybe for a Macaroon or something that can sit for a week and still be edible. I'd avoid Max's and Millers East whatever it's called now like the plague.

          1. re: sugartoof

            is there something about max's or miller's that i don't know about? that's a pretty harsh indictment of either establishment...

            1. re: kitchenstink

              I believe Miller's uses packaged meats, which they display cold in a refrigerated glass counter.

              Max's changed management, and perhaps even owners at the Opera Plaza location which was once pretty decent. The food just isn't fresh, they don't know how their classic sandwiches are supposed to be prepared, the pastrami is often overcooked, they're serving coleslaw from an uncovered dish....and the last time I went to take out, the case was empty aside from olives, and dried looking presliced meats. Max's used to slice their meat fresh on order.

            2. re: sugartoof

              It went downhill considerably between 1967 and 1973. There were actually decent cookies in 1967 and the sandwiches weren't bad.

              1. re: wally

                I believe it, but that was back when San Francisco had a number of real Jewish delis. Schenson's comes to mind. Gilbert's is another name that pops into my head.

                1. re: sugartoof

                  I grew up going to Shenson's. Harry would give me the ends of the salami, and then years later, he did the same with my daughter. I liked Gilberts too, but Shenson's was the best. David's .... as my aunt would say 'FEH'.

                2. re: wally

                  That squares with my recollection that it wasn't bad in the early 60's when I still had the deli habit I brought with me from New York. It was a tad pricey, but it was theater-district pricey. To do better, you had to go out in the Avenues on Geary to places like Shenson's.

                  1. re: Xiao Yang

                    Shenson's! I struggled the last few years to remember the name, what I consider the last good deli in the Bay Area. Don't get me wrong, I often eat at Saul's in Berkeley, and I like it, but it's not a deli. East Coast West, or whatever it's called on Polk. leaves me cold--good chopped liver though. Haven't got to the kosher deli near downtown SF yet.

                    Shenson's I only discovered about 6 months before it closed without warning. The agony! Of course, that was before Chowhound.

                    1. re: j_b

                      The funny story with Shenson's is they had already sold by that point, to some of their Chinese workers, if I recall. The change over was slow, and they kept it running exactly the same for a while before things got erratic. It may have sold more then once towards the end, but it really took a while before a lot of their steady clientele figured out it had changed hands.

                      There were some distinctive differences between West Coast Jewish deli, like using chicken livers for the chopped liver instead of beef liver like you see in NY.

                      Does anyone remember any of the Jewish delis around Western Addition, or FIlmore/Fulton?

                      1. re: sugartoof

                        I thought Shenson's was raffled away or sold or won in an essay contest on why they wanted to run a deli.

                        Okay, I had to look it up. Here's what I found:

                        The contest was called off and someone else bought it outright. An interesting article however.

                        Any way, I use to live in the Richmond and I'd go by once in a while. While it made a good sandwich, it wasn't outstanding or wasn't a destination type deal. Also, it was more a sandwich shop and not a full deli with waiters, least what I experienced. It also seemed to close early, which to me left it in the lunch realm. I also never saw a breakfast menu...but perhaps it was too late by then.

                        1. re: ML8000

                          Yeah I have no idea about any of that. I had no idea the place was open that long, but I was family friends with one of the families who owned it, and it's very possible they took the business back at some point. They did a lot of catering and prepared meals for holidays, and yeah it wasn't so great by the 80's-90's (the last time I had it). Everything kind of had that Shenson's taste by then. It was a great deli at one time though!

                          1. re: sugartoof

                            That's the time frame I lived in the Richmond so I missed the heyday and probably experienced the post-ownership change. I do recall changes between he late 80s and 90s...but I wasn't a regular and didn't know what it was like before so there's no context for me.

                            1. re: ML8000

                              Did the Shenson family retain the rights to the corned beef still sold or did someone just buy the name?

                            2. re: sugartoof

                              During the 50's, 60's and 70's, not sure of the exact years, Shenson's was owned and operated by Harry Golden. Harry had a deli in the Fillmore and lost one eye during a robbery when the thieves threw acid at him. He was such a good, kind and often funny man, I miss him. His son-in-law (I think), Lee Calendar worked there for years and took over when Harry retired. I don't know if Lee is the one that sold it. Harry helped Bea and her husband (I've forgotten his name) open the House of Bagels. They moved to a new location from Shenson's on Geary and showed their gratitude by not only selling bagels, etc, but sandwiches also. Harry was naturally upset. Shenson's was always a sandwich type of deli, never served breakfast or dinner. A lot of his business was selling the meats, pickles, lox, take home, and the sandwich service was only a part of it. I miss Harry and his green tomatoes.

                              1. re: Canthespam

                                Yup, that sums it up perfectly. Great post. Thanks!

                          2. re: sugartoof

                            I vaguely remember the delis in the Western Add but more so the Eastern European bakeries (and the used furniture stores) around Fillmore and McAllister. The Ukraine Bakery in particularly was a destination for me for rye breads (both dark and light).

                            1. re: sugartoof

                              Just a reminder that Chowhound's focus is on where to get great chow now. While nostalgia for long closed restaurants can be fun, it doesn't help anyone eat better. If you've got an update on the current places, or know where some of those old recipes are being made now, please share them. But just reminiscing about old places is off topic.

              2. Went there once, hoping for what you describe. Found the food literally inedible. Not the cleanest of places either.

                1. I have never been anything but totally disappointed with ANYTHING I have tried there...I always 'hope' that things somehow have miraculously changed, because they have been there 'since time immemorial' but the food is truly lousy!

                  Brooklyn Born and Raised

                  1. I've always been turned off by the ridiculously high prices. When craving corned beef and pastrami, I'd rather go to Max's (nearby) or Miller's East Coast West on Polk and Clay.

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