New owner plans facelift for old kosher-style deli

In fact, the entire Richmond District restaurant will get a little freshening up before new owners Alan Steinberg, Jeff Kirshbaum and Noah Kirshbaum assume the helm from departing deli maven Alexandra Allen.

The former proprietor sold her business of 10 years after recently publicizing a literary contest that offered up the eatery as a prize.

Allen received an undisclosed number of contest entries from around the globe. New owner Steinberg, 50, of San Francisco submitted one of them.

The Washington, D.C., native became more serious about acquiring Shenson's as the five months of the contest dragged by. When it became apparent that Allen would not receive enough entries to conclude the contest — she needed 1,500 entry fees of $100 each to earn the appraised value of the business — he made a purchase bid.

Steinberg also is a longtime regular of the Geary Boulevard restaurant. He lives 2-1/2 blocks away.

While stocking up on Shenson's cold cuts before Sunday football games on television, "I always thought `Boy, this would be a neat place to have,'" he said.

Steinberg will continue his vending machine business on the side. At Shenson's, he plans to promote a catering service and possibly redesign the interior. He promises to keep the popular menu and recipes intact.

"We'll let the customers tell us what's good and not good."

While Steinberg focuses on the business end of things, father and son partners Jeff and Noah Kirshbaum will be responsible for the day-to-day deli operations. Both Jeff of Marin and Noah of San Francisco are Culinary Academy graduates and experienced restaurateurs.

Jeff Kirshbaum is the brunch chef at Casa Madrona Hotel and Restaurant in Sausalito. Noah works in the youth center kitchen at the Jewish Community Center of San Francisco .

Meanwhile, Allen plans to stay on through Passover to show the ropes to the new team, and introduce them to regular customers.

Passover business already is vigorous, Allen reports. In a couple of weeks, she predicts, customer lines will snake from the cash register to the front door.

"If I don't pick up the pace, I'm going to be in trouble," jokes Steinberg, who worked behind the counter with Allen last week. "I don't even slice the bagels correctly. I've been corrected all along the way."

The lack of familiarity with his new turf has not discouraged Steinberg.

"I want to make Shenson's the destination deli for the best corned beef sandwich in the city," he said.

"It will be guerrilla marketing," he promised. "If we build [the sandwich], they will come."

Lori Eppstein

Lori Eppstein is a former staff writer.