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In dire need of an East Coast Jewish Deli!

Craving a big fat hot pastrami on rye -- or a thinly sliced corned beef on rye with cole slaw & russian dressing -- or lox (nova of course!) on a Real bagel -- maybe some chocolate babka?

Looking forward to checking out Wise & Son.

Will travel within 2 hours of the Bay Area for any of the above!

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  1. Wise Sons, Saul's, The Refuge, Wood Tavern (lunch only), and Miller's are the current contenders, though don't get your hopes up.


    2 Replies
    1. re: Robert Lauriston

      Why not?
      Which is worth the trip & closest to an East Coast deli experience?

      1. re: randej

        There are lots of reports here on all of them. Opinions vary but in one way or another most fall short of satisfying a craving for an old-school NY-style pastrami sandwich.

    2. I picked up a sandwich at the Millers in San Rafael and thought it was pretty good. It was the Buddha - chopped chicken liver, pastrami, Russian dressing, red onion, lettuce and tomato on marble rye. I subbed corned beef for the pastrami. If they had toasted the bread and included the tomato, I would have been even happier. Big sandwich (and big price, about $12.50) came with a good light sour pickle tasting of clove and some average mac salad. I'll go back -

      Miller's East Coast Deli
      1725 Polk St, San Francisco, CA 94109

      1. There's also Moishe's Pippic in Hayes valley, nice thinly sliced hot pastrami but as Robert said don't get your hopes up. I've been to all the places on the list (not Wood Tavern) he mentions and none of them really compare to the real deal which for me is at Katz in NYC.
        FWIW I did like Saul's when they were using Niman Ranch but I've heard they are now making their own and it's not as good.
        Please report back on what you try.

        1 Reply
        1. re: virtualguthrie

          Seconding Moishe's Pippic, very nice sandwich in a humble setting.

        2. Shmendrick's bagels had a popup across from Bi-Rite market, and I'm not sure when they'll be doing it again. Very good stuff. Next time they do it, I'm going to stop at a Russian store along Geary for cheap smoked herring, pick up some lox, and then make a picnic with their bagels. Be warned that their first pop-up lasted around an hour, and only allowed one bagel per person.


          I haven't eaten any stellar Babka in the Bay Area, but use the search function to locate places with Green's Babka (exported from Brooklyn).

          3 Replies
          1. re: hyperbowler

            The babka Wise Sons makes is good as is the babka sold at Pal's Takeaway.

            New World Market on Geary is what I recommend for pickles, although Bi-Rite's smoked salmon is excellent.

            Refuge has decent pastrami, but nothing here is a real NY deli experience, nor are there many left in NY. Moishe's Pippic is a Chicago deli. Note this has been discussed on many prior threads.

            New World Market
            5641 Geary Blvd, San Francisco, CA 94121

            1. re: Windy

              I liked Refuge's meat a lot, but it was unlike any pastrami I've ever had elsewhere. Reminded me more of tongue. Otherwise, it was the most NY-style sandwich I've had in these parts in a while.

              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                Their pastrami is milder flavored than just about any I've eaten, at least any worthy of note. Because of that, I keep adding mustard to it, looking for that pastrami zing. But its melt in your mouth tenderness (at least most of the time) does make it particularly distinctive. I like it quite a bit, even if it falls short in certain ways.

          2. Today's Marin Independent Journal had review of the San Rafael outpost of Miller's East Coast Deli. Link below. Most interesting to me was the observation that the SR version had authentic NY deli dishes not served at the SF original. I have yet to try but intend to soon.

            1 Reply
            1. re: alfairfax

              My pastrami sandwich from Miller's San Rafael was terrible. Suuuper fatty, and inedibly salty (yes, I know what pastrami is supposed to taste like; my family is from NY). They also forgot the mustard AND pickle. The rye bread was OK. Takeout service was remarkably inefficient. Overall, my grandparents would be spinning in their graves.

            2. So when you say NYC experience, are you talking Carnegie, Katz or 2nd Ave? Wise Sons makes a fantastic Rueben on a swirl rye and their whitefish sandwich is just as good at Russ and Daughters. Pickles will never be as good as NYC (or my dad's) Give them a try. They just opened their permanent location on 24th and Shotwell. The sandwiches are SF sizes, not the monsters you get out East. Then again, they aren't 17-21 bucks either.

              3 Replies
              1. re: Qnofrods

                "just as good as Russ and Daughter's."

                Thems fightin' words.

                1. re: hambone

                  @hambone, just the white fish sandwich. Not the chubs, smoked salmon or sable. I bring home smoked fish every time I go to NYC. I have mastered the fake ice blocks and cooler bags through security LOL.

              2. Truth is, most of the East Coast is in need of an East Coast Jewish Deli.

                25 Replies
                1. re: hambone


                  Wise Sons would be a hit in NY.
                  LA probably has the best delis.

                  1. re: sugartoof

                    Sugartoof- how does it compare to Katz's? That is my benchmark.

                      1. re: hambone

                        It compares to Miles End in NY, which I prefer to Katz's by a landslide personally.

                        So keeping in mind, I'm not the biggest Katz's fan, I'll try to be of some help - The bread at Wise Sons is better than Katz's but the meat while not lean, isn't as fatty or prone to falling apart (I think Katz's fans call that tender). It's a different style prep, with more spicing. Less greasy, and thankfully, no globs of fat I have to leave at the corner of my plate. Both are hand sliced.

                        1. re: hambone

                          It isn't anything like Katz's pastrami. (I'm also not a Katz's fan, but didn't love Wise Sons either.)

                          1. re: hambone

                            It doesn't, and like most I am not a Katz fanboy but still Katz's is better than anything in SF. Wise Sons goes for the style but misses in the texture, the amount of meat and the fact there are more hipsters cooing about how authentic it is.(the last one is totally a personal bias). I don't care whether you call it tender, moist or fatty but I think you need a bit of that.

                            I also think Miles End is better than Wise.

                            1. re: tjinsf

                              Miles End is better than Wise, I agree.

                              No idea what you mean about authenticity, but both MIles and Wise cure their own meat which doesn't appear to be the case with Katz's.

                              I'd take a couple places in LA over any of these options.

                              1. re: sugartoof

                                Katz's pastrami is from Empire National. I've read that they do customize the process for their larger clients.

                                1. re: drewskiSF

                                  Really? I know that Empire National makes for several other delis. Do you have a cite for that, and if so, does Empire cut, cure, and smoke the pastrami for Katz's? This might certainly have changed since then, but Katz's owners evasively claimed to make their own in 2003:


                                  FYI, a recent Chow article on Pastrami:

                                  1. re: hyperbowler

                                    I think you're misreading that NY Times article.

                                    "... Alan Dell, who owns Katz's with a partner, Fred Austin, told me he still cures his own pastrami in the store, before sending it out to be smoked. Two weeks later, Mr. Austin expressed some surprise at that claim. Katz's pastrami, he told me, is made in Brooklyn from scratch."

                                    1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                      They say earlier in the article, "Deli owners are reluctant to reveal their sources for pastrami, in some measure because there are so few of them. Instead, they remain vague and tell you that someone -- unnamed -- is making pastrami for them, ''exactly according to my specifications.''

                                      Whether Dell and Austin's contradictions are intended to mislead, or outright lie, I don't know. Either way, I'm curious who makes theirs.

                                    2. re: hyperbowler

                                      i may be wrong. i thought i was remembering the NYT article that you linked, but i guess not.

                                      i'm sure i read it somewhere. i'll dig around some.

                                      1. re: hyperbowler

                                        A Bronx outfit in Hunt's Point was also said to have made pastramis for Katz's but I don't think anyone is willing to confirm or deny where exactly it's made. 2nd Ave. is said to use the Hebrew National stuff, but fans will refuse to believe that.

                                        Curing in house is not common in New York, let's just leave it at that.

                                        1. re: sugartoof

                                          DeSola in Hunt's Point supplies the navel cut pastrami sold at Roberts Corned Meats.

                                          Roberts Corned Meats
                                          1030 Bryant St, San Francisco, CA 94103

                                          1. re: Melanie Wong

                                            Could very well be the place which has been mentioned in connection to Katz's.

                                            Not that I fully understand Roberts in this case, since they do some curing in house.

                                            1. re: sugartoof

                                              Yes, Roberts does most of its own curing. But it also sells DeSola pastrami, navel cut. It's shrink wrapped with DeSola's name and address on the label.

                                    3. re: sugartoof

                                      Miles End- Around the corner and I hate to admit but I have not tried it.

                                      1. re: hambone

                                        Stop by their takeout window one afternoon. It may not replace Katz's in your mind, but you might be pleasantly surprised.

                                        1. re: sugartoof

                                          I had every intention of going yesterday but had to do some birthday shopping. (My little Hamhock turned 7.)

                                          If they are still open, tonight.

                                          1. re: hambone

                                            Went yesterday. It was good. A lot more smoke than Katz's but a lot less spice from the rub. The meat is certainly leaner -- that is about the cut. For the same reasons I never love brisket, I didn't love the Miles End sandwich. The mouth feel of the brisket isn't there for me. It is too soft.

                                            In that neighborhood, the Waterfront Alehouse ON A GOOD NIGHT has great pastrami. They do all their own smoking. It is not hand cut and the problem is, sometimes it is just too damn dry. (The ribs there have never let me down.)

                                            1. re: hambone

                                              the thing to remember about Mile End is that it's modeled after Montreal Jewish delis--not NY Jewish delis...so the meat is supposed be more akin to the smoked meat at Shwartz's than a NY pastrami.

                                              1. re: hambone

                                                From what I've heard it's virtually impossible to make great pastrami every single day. There's too much variability in the meat, marbling, etc. This recent panel discussion touched on the issue:


                                      2. re: tjinsf

                                        Miles End is in Philadelphia, and the replies here are getting confusing.

                                        1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                          typo in earlier post. Mile End (no 'S') and in Brooklyn.

                                          never heard of the place in Philly. it's a Deli too?

                                          1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                            It's in NY and relevant to discussion on Wise Sons, as they are quoted in the Chow article as emulating Mile End.

                                  2. i recommend cashing in frequent flyer miles, hopping on a plane, and going to Langner's in LA. Their pastrami is the best on the west coast.

                                    4 Replies
                                      1. re: escargot3

                                        Agreed. Langer's is the best pastrami on rye I've ever eaten. Tongue is great too.

                                        Kenny and Zuke's in Portland is also worth a trip.

                                        1. re: Windy

                                          And you can order for overnight delivery from Langer's. Don't forget to order a loaf of their rye bread too.
                                          http://www.langersdeli.com/langers-by... for details

                                          1. re: anyhow

                                            yowzah! this is wild. i didn't know they would deliver overnite.

                                        1. I think a dire need for an East Coast Jewish Deli is also a dire need for a time machine. Things have changed a whole lot in the past 30-40 years.

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: Tripeler

                                            It's true but we still buy pastrami just like we still buy Sourdough, so why should it change towards an inferior product? If were nostalgic for the way something used to be done, it's great when people attempt to pick up the lost craft and provide that taste in some vague form.