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Feb 12, 2010 09:04 AM


So there isn't really a genuine Jewish deli in SF, or really the Bay Area outside Saul's (though mediocre at best). Do you still get your deli favorites piece-meal? Where do you go for pastrami, good rye, babka, etc?

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  1. Niman navel pastrami. Pure Grain, Esther's German. Acme makes a good corn rye but I'm not sure which days of the week.

    Pure Grain Bakery
    600 Eubanks Ct Suite A, Vacaville, CA

    Esther's German Bakery
    987 N San Antonio Road, Los Altos, CA 94022

    Esther's German Bakery
    570 Showers Dr, Mountain View, CA

    Pure Grain Bakery
    11 Town Sq, Vacaville, CA 95688

    1 Reply
    1. re: Robert Lauriston

      Recently, the NYT ran an article describing lye-dipped pretzels/rolls: . Though more Germanish than Jewish, I suspect that Esther's laugenbrezen ( ) are as good, if not better, than the ones described in that article. If I'm not mistaken, lye is also one of the ingredients in kansui, which is often used to make ramen noodles.

    2. House of Bagels makes a good rye bread in 3 varieties (plain, corn & marble).

      Geary Blvd. between 14th & 15th Avenues, SF

      1. As referenced by Robert Lauriston, Niman pastrami is good. I get my fix of it at Saul's, actually. Bagels from House of Bagels. Lox--well, nothing is really right, but the wild salmon lox from Trader Joe's is tolerable. Babka I wait until I'm back east for, and that's true for lots of the rest. A few things I make myself (noodle kugel in the freezer right now, for example) but that doesn't really answer your question!

        1. Robert's Meat at 1030 Bryant. You have to finish it yourself but 5lbs of pastrami from "da Bronx" will cost about $30.

          Oh yes and cold smoked salmon from La Bedaine, Berkeley.

          1. Not parts and pieces, but you should check out the pastrami sandwich at The Refuge in San Carlos. I'm a big fan of Katz's in NY, and I think that the pastrami here is equally good in its own way. Here's the photo.

            15 Replies
            1. re: Melanie Wong

              I think a significant difference in pastrami here and in NY, most good NY delis steam the entire pastrami clod before slicing. Here, it is usually sliced and then steamed...seems to make a difference.

              1. re: OldTimer

                The Refuge reportedly cures its own.

                A West Coast crime is to use beef round for dry lean meat. The Refuge uses navel cut.

                1. re: Melanie Wong

                  Yeah...I agree with your prejudices toward lean pastrami. Unfortunately, the anti-fat crusaders are ruining pastrami. Smart and Final carries both lean and fatty sliced pastrami. If I ever bought fatty, I would live in fear. Thank God there are places that respect navel cut and fatty.

                  1. re: Melanie Wong

                    Melanie, I used to love the pastrami at The Refuge, when it first opened. The pastrami was fatty in the best sort of way. Now it is extremely lean, which seems to be what the young people who frequent the restaurant prefer. Metroactive's Stett Holbrook characterized the current version as the leanest pastrami he had ever had: I agree. I had fattier pastrami at Subway the other day. And I don't know what to make of the "heart of the navel" doublespeak described in Stett's article. Supposedly this is "a small section of brisket". But everything I've read about good pastrami says that it is made from the plate, not the brisket: Of course, even the current version of the pastrami at The Refuge is better than the Niman Ranch (sans Bill Niman who left the company in 2007) brisket that they sell as pastrami at Saul's (that bit about it being brisket is right off of Saul's menu). I like Saul's alot, as an experience restaurant. Where else can you get a Cel Rey? But let's not kid ourselves. Now that The Refuge has decided to go lean, there is probably only one great pastrami sandwich on the Left Coast. I've had the navel that they serve at Langer's in LA. Bacon is indeed the apt food metaphor:

                    1. re: Dave.Pitinga

                      This was the saddest news I've read in quite a while. Have you tried asking for a fatty slice?

                      Yes, navel cut comes from the plate, but it's quite similar to brisket and in the neighborhhood.

                      1. re: Melanie Wong

                        Melanie, below is a sligthly redacted copy of the email I sent to The Refuge on December 23, 2008. I never heard back from them. Please note that this was well before your visit in March, 2009. So in all likelihood, you were eating the pastrami that we considered to be too lean. The photo you posted seems to corroborate that hypothesis. To me, the pastrami in that photo is very lean pastrami. In fairness to The Refuge, they stated early on (i.e., May 8, 2008) that they were having sourcing problems with respect to getting plate for their pastrami: .

                        From: David Pitinga
                        Date: Tue, Dec 23, 2008 at 12:51 PM
                        Subject: Pastrami question

                        Dear Refuge:

                        Your restaurant has become something of a destination restaurant for several of us over the last few months.

                        Recently, we have noticed that your pastrami is considerably leaner than the "heart of the navel" pastrami we enjoyed in our earlier visits. We much prefer the latter.

                        Is there some way we can order to ensure that we get the fattier pastrami, i.e., "make it fatty"? Or have you switched to leaner grades and/or preparations?

                        Thanks and happy holidays,
                        Dave Pitinga

                        1. re: Dave.Pitinga

                          Interesting. When I look at the larger size of that photo, i see fatty marbling shot through the open webby meat, much like Langers, and not the tight grain of lean meat. That's the beauty of the navel cut. When it's well-marbled, it can be sliced thick like this and still be easy to bite through. I agree that it is trimmed a bit too aggressively around the edges, I would prefer more of a fatty rim.

                          1. re: Melanie Wong

                            Trim is trim, but the pastrami we had was not particularly easy to bite through. That's why we sent the email. Anyhew, here's a related video posted on The Refuge's Facebook page: I do believe that a lot of The Refuge's customers would be happy with lean, long-steamed brisket, whether or not that's what's being served. Nouvelle pastrami.

                            1. re: Dave.Pitinga

                              Three days after we had this exchange, I got a pastrami sandwich to go from the Refuge.
                              Yes, I agree with you that this one was quite terrible. Dried out, devoid of flavor, tough.

                              1. re: Melanie Wong

                                Thanks for the update, Melanie. I don't know what's going on over there. They seem to be more interested in marcom than turning out good pastrami these days: . I made it down to Langer's again last spring, where I indulged in some gluttony and had two No. 19's. I have yet to try Orson's in SF. Have you tried it?

                                1. re: Dave.Pitinga

                                  Nope, haven't tried Orson's yet. Reports seem to be wide ranging.

                                  I posted on the housemade pastrami at Alexander's Steakhouse in Cupertino. That was my reminder that I hadn't gotten back to you about the Refuge.

                                  Alexander's Steakhouse
                                  10330 N. Wolfe Road, Cupertino, CA 95014

                      2. re: Dave.Pitinga

                        I believe Wood Tavern's great pastrami is navel from Niman Ranch, so don't blame them for other places choosing to make it too lean.

                        1. re: Robert Lauriston

                          Robert, is Niman Ranch still making pastrami from navel, now that Bill Niman is raising goats? That's an open question in my mind. I don't think you can buy pastrami from their website any more. And Saul's recently dumped Niman Ranch, although the stated reason was sustainability:

                          1. re: Dave.Pitinga

                            Behold the Langer's "bacon": It is instructive to compare that photo with Melanie's photo of The Refuge's pastrami.

                            1. re: Dave.Pitinga

                              Wood Tavern's pastrami hasn't changed that I could tell.

                              Bill Niman is no longer involved with Niman Ranch. His current brand is BN Ranch.

                              Wood Tavern
                              6317 College Ave., Oakland, CA 94618