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So, Wise Sons Deli is open ... who's been? Beauty's Bagels? [San Francisco]

They are closed Monday so don't rush down today.

They use Bagels from Beauty's Bagel Shop in Oakland. Has anyone tried these? Supposedly they have Montreal style bagels too. Currently selling at Saul's in Berkeley on Tuesay and Saturday (don't know if Montreal style)

Beauty's Bagel is opening a shop soon in Oakland

Wise Son's address

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  1. I think all the bagels from Beauty's are Montreal-style. I've only had them once, from Saul's, and they were pretty good but pre-cut and thus not super-fresh (I blame Saul's, not Beauty's), so I'll wait till their brick and mortar opens before I issue any kind of verdict.

    Wise Sons has at various points made their own bialys, and those are fairly traditional and quite good.

    1. beauty's also set up at the kensington farmers market on sundays.

      i usually buy them from sauls. I've never had them precut. However, i believe i read an article that they are baked the night before (or baked really early Sat morning) in Addie's wood fire oven, so they're not super fresh. like abstractpoet, now that they have a brick and mortar, i think ill just wait to buy them fresh.

      11 Replies
      1. re: majordanby

        Thanks. I'll wait and if I gIet to Wise this week will probably get something that doesn't have a bagel.

        I've never tried a Motreal bagel. Stale or not, how close are they? I gotta think the whole wood-fired thing, while nice, is changing what they are supposed to be.

        1. re: rworange

          i like them. controlling for time from oven, i certainly like them over berkeley's bagels and manahattan bagels, two east bay comps. and a heckuva lot better than those bagels produced by spot bagel several months ago.

          talking to one of the owners during the kensington market, the wood fire oven and adding honey to the water when boiling are the main differences. i think they use malt flour, but i forget. im not sure if it's a montreal thing or specific to beauty, but i found beauty's bagels to be smaller and more oddly shaped. someone told me montreal bagels are supposed to be chewier than a NY bagel, but i didnt really find that. they do have a somewhat crisper outer texture, probably due to the wood fire.

          when i bought them, i just reheated them and they came out fine. but, of course, a fresh bagel is always better!

          1. re: rworange

            Montreal bagels are known for being smaller, and sweeter (almost similar to House of Bagels sweetness), with a crisper crust and heavier toppings. Think a good bagel, but not a drastically different, revelatory experience.

            I was under the impression they have plans to make their own bagels, and challah in addition to the bialeys and rye. The rye is excellent, though the caraway seeds they use are muted.

            Wise Sons pastrami is also heavily spiced Canadian style, kind of like what might be called smoked meat there, even though the differences can be subtle.

            1. re: rworange

              The first Beauty's bagels I had from Saul's were unbelievably close to those eaten in Montreal and wonderful. I ate one plain walking down the street. Awesome texture.

              The second time, about a month ago, less fresh, not great texture (though not pre-cut). They had to be toasted. Looking forward to the shop opening!

              Montreal bagels are traditionally baked in ovens.

              1. re: Constant Velocity

                I was wondering more about the wood-fired part which could change the taste significantly giving a smokiness.

                i recently bought a chicken roasted in a wood-fired oven and it tasted like smoked chicken rather than roasted. It turned out to be undercooked so i used it in soup. It made one fantastic soup giving it almost a porky nuance. The smokiness from that oven significantly changed the flavor.

                1. re: rworange

                  Montreal bagels should not taste smoky.

                  1. re: Windy

                    Just wanted to correct some info here on Montreal bagels. Traditionally they are cooked in wood-fired ovens and the best of the Montreal bagel bakeries still do that, places such as St. Viateur and Fairmount. I think they taste smokier in the crust because of that than the good places in NY, which all use gas or electric ovens as far as I know. They also tend to be smaller and crisper on the outside, softer on the inside. I don't think they're any more heavily topped. There are plenty of sweet NY bagels, usually from malt in both the dough and the water.

                    More often, I think people just distinguish a bagel as "Montreal-style" outside Montreal to indicate that it's done more in a old school NY way, actually -- a bit more dense, hand-rolled, more flavor in the dough, etc, since pretty much every bagel in NY is now rolled by machines resulting in something bigger and softer than what people would have called a bagel 100 years ago.

                    The only place I've seen doing a true Montreal-style bagel outside of Montreal is Eltana in Seattle. I think they replicate what Fairmount and St-Viateur are doing EXACTLY. Personally, I prefer old school NY bagels to Montreal-style bagels, but Eltana will definitely transport anyone who has experienced true Montreal bagels and loved them.

                    1. re: extramsg

                      A lot of places are now advertising "hand rolled" bagels in NY, for what that's worth. Some other part of the process is probably still machine made however.

            2. re: majordanby

              Have you seen Beauty's at Kensington recently? That's not on their current list.


              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                I don't think there were any bagels yesterday at Kensington. Lots of baked stuff but not bagels.

                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                  havent been to kensington since the last week of Dec. my guess if we extrapolate from Wally's report and the facebook page, with the new brick and mortar opening soon, they've dropped it. thanks for the correction!

              2. Haven't been yet..was going to go this morning...but happily I called first...and did find out that they aren't open on Monday......I am a Brooklyn boy and from what I have heard... Montreal bagels are supposed to be somewhat sweeter than NY Bagels..but I also will withhold judgment until I taste one warm from the oven...Montreal is also known for their smoked meats...pastrami etc. but I've never tasted their version either...something to look forward to....

                3 Replies
                1. re: ChowFun_derek

                  Just to clarify. Wise is only buying the bagels from Beauty. The rest isn't Montreal-style deli at Wise.

                  However, from what I've read Beauty wll have sandwiches but no clue where the cold cuts will be from or if they will be Montreal style.

                  1. re: rworange

                    ..."a consummation devoutly to be wished".........ya gotta give 'm hope..

                  2. re: ChowFun_derek

                    Ordinarily, they won't be open Mondays, but they were open today. I know because we ate lunch there today. Apparently, we weren't the only ones who knew - there was about a 20 minute line to get food. We were lucky enough to get a table. We had the pastrami (fabulous), the tuna (not to my taste), the pastrami cheese fries (very good, but I didn't think they were quite as good as they sounded, and the kugel (very good - like a noodle pudding). Unfortunately, they ran out of the matzoh ball soup before we ordered. Considering they hadn't really opened yet (the official opening is tomorrow), I think everything operated as smoothly as could be expected. The staff was super nice.

                  3. I went on Sunday morning. They definitely have quite a following for not being officially open yet - at least 20 minutes before we ordered and sat down and another 20+ for the food to arrive. Since I'd had their pastrami before I wanted to try the corned beef and had it on a reuben. Unfortunately the corned beef was nothing special - a bit tough and surprisingly bland for my taste. The rye bread, which they make, was fantastic.

                    We ordered cured trout on a bialy, but they ran out of trout and gave us sable. It was unfortunately not very good - too fishy and a bit dry. The bialy, however, was great - again it seems like their breads are their strong suit right now.

                    We also had the Matzoh ball soup which was tasty, though I have no real comparison points for the dish.

                    Not planning to rush back until the lines die down, but worth a stop for the bread at least and probably the pastrami. Agreed with Martin above - very nice staff and cool space.

                    1. Just had my 1st ever Wise Son's pastrami sandwich, purchased at their stand at the Tuesday Ferry Building Farmers Market. I would rate it a B or B-. The pastrami could use a little more bite and the rye bread needs to be sliced just a little bit thicker.

                      8 Replies
                      1. re: DavidT

                        I agree with David. I had the pastrami sandwich (only once mind you) and it was good but something was lacking. It was a good sandwich but it didn't wow me, the pastrami needed more flavor. I'll have to give them another try.

                        1. re: virtualguthrie

                          I too had a pastrami sandwich at the Thursday farmers market and found it lacking. As virtualguthrie said, it just didn't have much flavor. It seemed like they were aiming for something a bit more refined than your usual pastrami, but it need more kick, and more fat. Lean pastrami just doesn't work, a case in point being the pastrami that Saul's in Berkeley has been turning out since they started doing it themselves.

                          1. re: TopoTail

                            I had the pastrami as well on Saturday. I also found it lacked fat and flavor. I did like the pickles and potato salad. I'll go back and try some other things soon. Unfortunately they were out of bagels when I got to the front of the line..

                            1. re: TopoTail

                              I had some lean pastrami @ Saul's a couple of week's back.

                              They told me it can be variable even within the same hunk of meat so next time to ask for a sample of the pastrami before getting seated and to also specify to the server that I wanted a fattier cut.

                              1. re: drewskiSF

                                I requested "jucy" (which used to be an option on the menu at Saul's) the last time I went there, and it was still dry. I didn't even finish the sandwich.

                                1. re: drewskiSF

                                  My understanding is that traditional pastrami was made from just the navel end of the brisket. If Saul's is using whole briskets, then some of it would be dry.

                                  I ate plenty of pastrami in New York in the 80s and it was consistently fatty and good.

                                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                    I once had pastrami at Katz's in New York that was TOO damn fatty. It must have been two-thirds fat: huge hunks of hand sliced chunks of fat. I found myself trying to pick through it to eliminate some of the fat, which was only created a huge mess. I had to abandon the whole thing.

                                    1. re: TopoTail

                                      I'm not a Katz's fan either. Best pastrami I've had in the past year or so was Langer's (LA) followed by Kenny & Zuke's (Portland).

                                      I thought the tongue at Wise Sons was better than the pastrami when I was at the popup.

                          2. While we are on the subject of pastrami,my source is Roberts on Bryant. Apparently their domain name has not been renewed as of this moment but I called and they are still there and open and will soon get that straightened out. I like their navel cut which is now somewhat above $5/lb.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: wolfe

                              Gestalt, the beer bar on 16th. always seems to get the fatty pastramis from Roberts. Very toothsome..

                              1. After getting shut out of corned beef or pastrami options when I went "late" (12:30) for lunch, I got there at 11:00 just in time for the lunch menu to start. Got a corned beef sandwich and a corned beef reuben to go. The corned beef was excellent in both, but the reuben was better if only because it had more flavor and they didn't pack any mustard for me to add to the plain sandwich. I had already had their corned beef from the pop-up days at Heart, so the quality of the corned beef was not a big surprise. Next time I need to dig deeper into their menu - gotta try their hash for sure. Nice that they have their own digs now. Assuming the crowds let up a little bit, and they adjust to the demand for their meats, this place looks to be a keeper.

                                1. Wise Son's menu.
                                  Love the "quality foods since 5771"
                                  "A (wise) Man's Got to Know his Limitations "
                                  "Dirty" Harry Callahan

                                  1. I too went in to try the pastrami rueben on a week day during lunch hours and they were out of pastrami. The counter girl suggested the smoked trumpet mushroom version. OH MAN. Delicious and meaty and packed with flavor. I want to go back and try the pastrami, but I think I may make the mushroom rueben a very bad habit. Also, the pickle spears were a party in my mouth.

                                    1. I've been a big fan of the Ferry Building stall for months, and finally got to try the sit down restaurant. This place is great.

                                      Sun morning at 11 was about a 10 minute wait to order + 10 minute wait for table and food. Not bad at all.

                                      Very impressed by how they manage the crowds. Normally when a place is popular, small, and order at the counter you have to fight for tables and risk having food but nowhere to eat it. Wise Sons actually has a "hostess" who makes sure people actually get tables on first come / first serve, doesn't let people grab a table before they order, and doesn't put in your food order until you are seated. Really well done.

                                      Food was excellent. I think the pastrami reuben is first rate - great flavor, not too salty, very tender, love all the fixings. They also do an awesome chopped liver with bits of crispy chicken skin. Also enjoyed the special of a trout skin salad with horseradish dressing.

                                      We've been in need of a good Jewish Deli that uses local / organic ingredients and makes everything in house for a long time. Not at all surprised that this place is so popular.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: Morton the Mousse

                                        >"hostess" who makes sure people actually get tables on first come / first serve,
                                        >doesn't let people grab a table before they order
                                        awesome. now cheeseboard needs to do the same and make sure people return the cheese/pepper dispensers to the central location.

                                      2. Went to Wise Sons last Thursday. They were busy which is good. No attitude yet. I had the Reuben and my buddy had the Pastrami. He liked the potato salad, I thought it was not interesting. The rye was not up to the task. The pastrami was dull and without much flavor. I am not sure if anyone who has made a Reuben has ever tasted the model. This was not it. Dull. The pickles were great.

                                        Unless there is some sort of passover of the Corned Gods there is no reason to go back and overpay for mediocre food. Wise Sons on this visit is the ulitmate example of the foodie hype. What a rip. Overpaid. Underindulged.

                                        2 Replies
                                          1. re: theomordha

                                            Where can you find a better Reuben or pastrami sandwich in the city?

                                          2. Lunch today, had the smoked Steelhead on a bialy open faced with cream cheese and it was marvelous. Have had their pastrami at other times and it is the only decent pastrami around here. In fact it is the only pastrami in the Bay Area that a New Yorker would recognize as such. As good as the Carnegie which I used to frequent well after 3 AM as a graduate student. (The Carnegie then closed at 3:45 and opened at 5:15AM.) Pickles are just like the Carnegie's.

                                            I talked with one of the owners and he says they are so busy that they can't yet cope with opening for dinner. But he understood that late night is the time for pastrami and they seem to be working toward evening hours. They make all their stuff in house, including fish, pickles, pastrami.

                                            Amazing that a place that was closed for Passover allows for a slice of Swiss cheese on a pastrami sandwich and serves Reubens. Guess when in Rome, need to accommodate local tastes.

                                            4 Replies
                                            1. re: Thomas Nash

                                              They closed for Passover, but the fact that they held seders with printed menus and advertised a few open seats to the public makes me wonder if the closure was less for religious reasons and more to beta-test some special dishes with a group of their peers: http://twitpic.com/96z4wv

                                              On the Jewish deli panel I linked to in a different thread, there's a couple minutes where all the panelists - including the Wise Sons guys - agree that the Kosher meat business in the US is basically a big scam. So I think it's pretty clear that any religious obligation is taking a back seat to trying to make good tasting food.

                                              1. re: bigwheel042

                                                A big scam how?

                                                Wise Sons was offering a full Passover seder dinner by reservation to the public, and for takeout. They had hand made matzoh, and other kosher for passover items. It's not a kosher kitchen it makes perfect sense to shut down and take a vacation, or do some repairs during that week.

                                                1. re: sugartoof

                                                  Inferior quality meat + insanely high prices seemed to be what they were getting at in terms of the kosher meat industry. That is, using religious requirements as a pretext to massively gouge customers for a service that is not only not all that costly, it produces a WORSE product rather than the advertised better one. But there may have been something else hinted at too like the companies that produce this meat getting rabbis to approve meat as "kosher" right at the moment of slaughter, even though its status as truly kosher is questionable because of the cattle being treated like any other factory-farmed animal up to that point. I'm not interested enough in the finer points of halacha to bother to investigate further, but it sure sounded like all the panelists were pretty disgusted at the way industrial koshering in the US operates.

                                                  1. re: bigwheel042

                                                    Sounds like an interesting off topic - topic, but not that interesting.
                                                    Considering they're not kosher, I'd take their understanding of that industry with a grain of salt.

                                            2. Today they rolled out their babka cereal. I'd be surprised if a borscht belt comedian hadn't already appropriated this idea from Bill Cosby's "chocolate cake" routine, but leave it to Wise Sons to make it. They toast babka, and toss it in milk along with strawberries and toasted almonds. The babka surprisingly stays crunchy, and as you can imagine, the chocolate, milk, and strawberries taste delicious together. The spicing ranged from perfect in certain spoonfuls to too subdued in others, but this was their first day so I think they'll have time to achieve an optimal balance. A nice perk of the dish is that, unlike boxed cereals, the solids leave crumbs rather than dissolved sugar in the milk. This makes it ideal for drinking the leftover milk without it being sickeningly sweet.

                                              I also had their bialy with smoked salmon which was outstanding. The thickness and texture of the components are perfectly matched. Their smoked salmon was firm, smooth, and had just the right amount of smoke and salt. On top of the salmon and cream cheese are a scattering of capers and paper thin red onions. The onions are very mild and don't taste of vinegar, so I suspect they've been blanched or soaked. The bialy, which must have been toasted, stayed crunchy an hour after after I got the sandwich, and had lots of flavorful chopped onions in its center. It's an order of magnitude fresher and better than those crap bialy's they sell at Kossar's in NY. On the technicality that Russ & Daughter's has lousy bagels & bialys, Wise Sons might have the best sandwich of this type that I've eaten.

                                              1. Fabulous Babka with veins of choc under a thick crumb topping.

                                                And, at last what seem like real bialies. Been so long since I had a real one and theris was toasted on the outside.

                                                So many bagel bakeries fake bialys from bagel dough. Saves time. Nobody knows the difference, exept for a few who don't matter.

                                                The smoked steelhead is amazing on a Bialy. Have not yet tasted the Beauty bagels they serve.

                                                1. The chicken schnitzel sandwich they had as a special the other day was very good — the chicken was breaded with rye bread crumbs, which gave it a nice crunch. They get a lot of mileage out of that rye, huh?

                                                  I actually thought the pastrami, while good, was not as amazing as I remembered it being when I first had it several months ago. A bit drier and less fatty — maybe just the part they cut for us.

                                                  Also tried a chocolate phosphate for the first time ever. Anyone grow up on the stuff? I thought it was interesting. Like carbonated Yoo-hoo.

                                                  8 Replies
                                                  1. re: abstractpoet

                                                    I first had it at the ferry building, and thought what I got over there was better than the shop...so I agree there's been a slight decline in what I first tasted and considered really good. It's still good, but I won't rush back or dream about it.

                                                    I also tried that schnitzel sandwich, which should have been pounded down before breading/frying. I thought it had good spicing, and enjoyed their challah. Couldn't taste any rye bread crumbs, but maybe that's what I thought was spicing?

                                                    Oh, and anyone who doesn't like mustard flavor should avoid both the cole slaw and potato salad.

                                                    I noticed a lot of the owners time was taken up by a steady stream of really demanding customers, kvetching about who knows what. I felt bad for them getting the once over from a crowd who seem to think they're hardcore deli experts. Meanwhile, SF hasn't had real deli in many years to begin with, and I get the feeling Wise Sons wasn't really planning on targeting that crowd.

                                                    1. re: abstractpoet

                                                      Are you talking about a Chocolate Egg Cream"? or is the phosphate a separate animal?

                                                      1. re: ChowFun_derek

                                                        A chocolate phosphate is just seltzer and chocolate syrup.

                                                        An egg cream includes milk and traditionally Fox's U-Bet brand chocolate syrup, which at least in its modern, non-kosher-for-Passover incarnation includes HFCS and other artificial crap.

                                                        1. re: ChowFun_derek

                                                          Wise Son's only list Chocolate Egg Cream on their menu. The only place in SF, to my knowledge, that has phosphates is Ice Cream Bar in Cole Valley (I asked about their egg-creams and they don't use Fox's U-Bet).

                                                          1. re: hyperbowler

                                                            They had both the egg cream and the phosphate (listed separately) when I was there last weekend. So the one has milk instead of seltzer? I believe they did mention that it was Fox's U-Bet.

                                                            1. re: abstractpoet

                                                              An egg cream has seltzer and milk. Without the seltzer it would be chocolate milk.

                                                          2. re: ChowFun_derek

                                                            I was introduced to the chocolate phosphate at the late Brothers Deli in Burlingame. Inevitably, whenever one of the regulars there would see me drinking it with my pastrami sandwich lunch, I'd be asked if I grew up in Cleveland.

                                                            Had a chocolate phosphate a few months ago at Langers in LA and it was not nearly as good as my memories of Brothers' version. I wouldn't order it at Langers again.

                                                            1. re: Melanie Wong

                                                              I remember Brothers fondly....even when the Asian family bought it and improved the Kreplach...they began tasting more like wonton! You'll have to get a phosphate at Wise sons and do a comparison........

                                                        2. Finally had my first Wise Bros. sandwich today. Corned beef with cole slaw and Russian dressing @ the Ferry Bldg.

                                                          Perhaps I was expecting too much, comments above notwithstanding.

                                                          Bread a tad thin. And corned beef very uneven. Some great, juicy slices. Some tough/sinewy. I think the cole slaw/Russian business didn't do it any favors (I had recently been talking to a friend about a Sherman's Sure Choice sandwich @ Zingerman's in Ann Arbor; and so that was on my mind...). I liked the pickles.

                                                          The service was friendly. But inefficient. Clearly they're doing it all by hand, to order; and I have no complaints there. That said, it was a long wait, w/ protracted periods of time in which two of the maybe six workers were standing around at the front, not doing anything.

                                                          Had fantasies of leaping over the counter and re-organizing them. Then, when they yelled out "Nathan!"--his order was ready--and the woman waiting behind me for her order turned around and yelled "Nathan!," I thought : a lot of us Jewish mother-types having trouble minding our place!

                                                          1. Saturday I finally had a chance to try out Wise Sons. Unlike the rest of the Mission, abandoned for the weekend by the burners, this place was busy at brunch time. I ordered the special of the day, Schlubby Joe (photo in this post about the pickles).

                                                            Loved the well-toasted, chubby challah roll. Also loved the picante tomato gravy and even the spot of creamy stuff dolloped over. But the shaved pastrami was completely overwhelmed by the Joe gravy and could have been cheap canned ham.

                                                            So I'll need to return another time to try the pastrami.

                                                            1 Reply
                                                            1. re: Melanie Wong

                                                              ...and try the incredible bialy with smoked fish (usually salmon)! (Open face gets 2X fish.)

                                                            2. Tried the $12.50 brisket sandwich for breakfast the other day and was wowed by the flavor packed into relatively few slices of meat (0.5 in?). Brisket was perfect, not too fatty or lean with a slightly smoky tinge that left me craving more. Rye bread was worthy complement and never surrendered to the coleslaw within. The sum was greater than the parts. I haven't had a sandwich this good in a long time. Now I'm really curious about the pastrami and corned beef esp. after the mixed reports here. Those meats aren't available until lunchtime (11a) however. BTW Wise Sons is conveniently located across the street from Knead Patisserie and Philz, making the location a breakfast triumvarate in my book.

                                                              2 Replies
                                                              1. re: rubadubgdub

                                                                I've had the corned beef a couple times. The meat itself was really nice, flavourful with some fat which I personally like but not too much. Far less dissappointing was the portion. so tiny (and I am not a large portion eater) for the 12 dollars. Also they make a big deal about it being organic and "humanely" raised but I couldn't taste any different not even a whiff of smugness. Also I found the bread not to be up to snuff, it was made well but it was heavy enough. It's probably one of the best corned beef sandwiches I've had in SF but far less than many neighborhood corned beef sandwiches I've had at real Jewish delis in Toronto and New York City. I feel lucky I've got to go to thsoe places when I was a little kid and there was more of them open.

                                                                1. re: tjinsf

                                                                  Put another way: I've never had brisket that tasted like this. I ate half a sandwich right away, felt sated, waited until lunch and ate the other half. It's quite rich. That said, I'm one of those who doesn't need Katz-size portions to feel well fed. I could see the cost of the sandwich going into all of the compostable takeout ware, handcrafted food, worker/space costs and didn't feel like it was unreasonable.