New S.F. lunch spot has sights, smells of old-style deli

They are staring up at a sign that promises egg creams, seltzer, chopped liver, potato knishes and even matzah brie with applesauce.

How many, one wonders, can appreciate how rare it is to find Fox's kosher U-Bet chocolate syrup in use — especially outside New York City?

No matter. They come hungry, they leave happy — or so it seems.

This is an old-style Jewish deli in a town that reputedly doesn't have one: It's 9-month-old Kirshbaum's, a father-and-son endeavor that was born of a desire for change.

Noah Kirshbaum, 26, and his pop, Jeff, 53, attended the Culinary Academy together.

Jeff used to run Aramark linen service in Los Angeles. A couple of years ago, he decided to pack it in and head north.

"I didn't want to be 60 and miserable," he told his wife and son.

Now, though he arrives at the restaurant at 5:30 a.m., he's not griping. His specialty is baking bread — corn and rye.

"I'm seeing a whole new side of my dad," said Noah, who sleeps in and gets to work at around 6 or 6:30 a.m. "He gets out there, shmoozes with people, jokes around — this is completely new."

Noah majored in history, attending University of Tel Aviv, and tried living in Boston for a while.

Forget it.

"I'm a Californian," he said.

Sort of. But this is no beach boy. "We run a production kitchen," he said. "It has to be. Yesterday, we were short two people and the cook cut his finger. We had to keep it moving so people could eat, enjoy their food and still get out of here in time to get back to work."

The small, glass-front deli on Pine Street at Belden Street has a classic elegance that will ring true to New York transplants.

But those who can't come in to enjoy the black and white checkerboard tiles, walnut cupboards and art deco glass can still get their fill of the seductive-smelling food by calling Dine One One, a restaurant delivery service.

Kirshbaum's fills challah orders by phone. They also cater, offering things choices from platters to fancy-schmancy dinners.

One can even order Passover dinner for the entire seder table.

"We'll bring it all: Tsimmes, kugel, charoset — everything, you name it," said Noah. Everything but the wine: Kirshbaum's is awaiting a license allowing it to serve beer and wine.

If business keeps up the way it's been going, the Kirshbaums will expand their business, creating restaurant seating upstairs.

"We found a local purveyor of pastrami that is better than ours, and we get knishes from Brooklyn," Noah said. "The thing is just to get the best product available. We sell out of our [house-made] matzah ball soup every day."

Rebecca Rosen Lum

Rebecca Rosen Lum is a freelance writer.