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May 26, 2013 06:35 PM

San Francisco. sigh.

It really is the pits that in the country's greatest food city, the kosher chow isn't great.

Sabra. sigh. It's right there at the entrance to Chinatown. Tourists can't help stumbling on it. It's probably not the worst Israeli grill in the world. It is certainly the most overpriced.

If you go, keep your expectations modest. They do have fresh (usually) pita. they serve it warm. With hummus. They can grill chicken. They can grill beef. They can cook rice. They can even give you a cooked chicken and fresh challah to take to your hotel for Shabbat. Just don't expect anything more.

There is also a caterer called 12 Tribes that sells sandwiches at the JCC (location unlikely to be convenient for business travelers or tourists) and can send meals to your hotel or meeting. The meals might have been good when prepared were disappointing mostly because the caterer had no clue how to plan a menu that work well when reheated by a restaurant or hotel kitchen. Or how to package food with instructions that a hotel or restaurant kitchen could follow. But the food did seem promising.

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  1. when I've been (a while back) Sabra's grilled whole fish was excellent, the chicken OK, the beef not even worth mentioning, the pita, well I forget, if that says anything. one would think in a city the size, diversity and sophistication...

    but that's happening everywhere, not SF alone. 15 years ago DC had a Kosher French restaurant favored by the Israeli embassy, but closed before I had a chance to try it.

    funny, just as remodeling a home to have a proper Kosher kitchen has been a growth niche market in recent years, restaurants and delis are closing doors or reducing standards to "Jewish-Style" whatever that really means.

    7 Replies
    1. re: hill food

      Chicago seems to be fighting that trend - within the past year we had three really good restaurants open up - Milt's BBQ for the Perplexed, Hamachi and Soul Surfing Pizza - and a fourth if you count the reworking of Bagel Country -

      1. re: weinstein5

        "BBQ for the Perplexed"

        what a great name.

        1. re: hill food

          I like the food at Distrikt Bistro. I remember the French restaurant in Dupont Circle. When it closed (building sold for renovation) Eli's Deli opened. Not sure I see an overall decline. Cities with large populaitons have kosher places (often not downtown) I just wish Sabra was better.

          The Bay Area (San Francisco) community is small and scattered. There are places in Palo Atlo and Oakland. But between the convention center, business travelers and tourists, I would think that Sabra could do a better job and make more money If it did. I and others would eat thee instead of grabbing bread and hummus at Whole Foods or Bristol Farms. And take colleagues. Last time I was there, I went to Sabra only once. Filled a shopping bag a Bristol Farms and ate yogurt, bread, etc. the rest of the days.

          1. re: AdinaA

            Yes but Bristol Farms is so overpriced that you might as well eat at Sabra. Except for the fact that they have a Peets coffee inside, I hate to go in there.

            I often find that I overspend in supermarkets and still feel hungry. I eat at lousy restaurants because otherwise I feel deprived.

            1. re: SoCal Mother

              Yeah. I had resolved to eat lox, cottage cheese, and hummus from Bristol Farms and Whole Foods, but i caved on the third evening and went to Sabra for a chicken dinner. The peaches from Bristol Farms were heavenly. Whereas the salad at Sabra....

            2. re: AdinaA

              SF was nothing special food wise. We ate at Sabra once. Grilled chicken was...grilled chicken. Hummus was edible. Salad was a horror.

              We did what you did for the rest of our trip. Bristol Farms, WF, TJ...

        2. re: hill food

          From what I hear, DC and SF are two very different issues leading to the same outcome. In SF, there isn't a core "Jewish area" and a lot of Jews there seem fine with vegan or vegetarian options which are plentiful in the Bay Area. From what I've heard about DC, the local vaad makes opening and operating a kosher restaurant very difficult and other certifying agencies won't hop into the fray.

        3. I live in a tourist town. It's Sunday of Memorial Weekend. DH and I wanted to grab burgers and the one meat place in our part of town is closed. Memorial Weekend...closed...

          We bought $15 steaks and cooked ourselves a wonderful dinner.

          PS we have a great remodeled kitchen.

          1 Reply
          1. re: SoCal Mother

            I guess the owners were home bbqing too

          2. What about Shangri-La vegetarian chinese- best non meat food I've ever eaten.

            2 Replies
            1. re: latke

              I like the food at Shangri-La, and the fact that the streetcar runs nearby. But I don't always have the time to get out to that neighborhood. There is a shul and there are kosher stores out there, too. But Sabra is near the hotels where most visitors stay.

              Cheesecake is right. The Sabra version of salad is a sort of slaw of mixed cabbage and lettuce drenched in vinegar and way too much vegetable oil.

              If you're hungry, just let them grill you some chicken and serve it with pita and hummus. Then go buy yourself a box of cherry tomatoes.

              1. re: AdinaA

                We actually bought a TON of grape tomatoes while on vacation in SF. Travels well, no fridge needed, no fork/spoon/knife required. I ate with hummus, hubs with cottage cheese.