Paulie’s Pickling offers up good Jewish deli in S.F.

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I don’t make it a practice to steal from other publications, but this headline in the San Francisco neighborhood newspaper the Bernalwood said it pretty well: “Is Paulie’s Pickling the best Jewish deli in San Francisco?”

Well, it’d be pretty hard to top Wise Sons, but I would say this: Paulie’s Pickling is the best Jewish deli in San Francisco that almost nobody knows about.

Paulie’s Pickling is a 2 1⁄2-year-old deli sandwich counter in Bernal Heights. It’s located inside 331 Cortland Marketplace, an incubator in a narrow storefront that gives small spaces to five (soon to be six) mostly food-oriented shops. For all of them, it is their first brick-and-mortar establishment.

Paulie’s Pickling is owned by Paul and Liz Ashby, married since January 2010 and together for 10 years before that. They are friendly folks who live less than two blocks from their shop and love being a part of the neighborhood.

A non-Jew who keeps a kosher home with his wife, Paul, 34, is the pickle man. He pickles mainly cukes (in three main styles), but also does a host of other vegetables, and sometimes tongue. Jars of his pickles can be found in all five Whole Foods markets in San Francisco (and probably soon in all of the chain’s Bay Area locations) and at Bi-Rite Market in San Francisco.

Liz, 38, who was raised Orthodox in Newton, Mass., does the rest, which includes making fabulous chopped liver and other Jewish favorites, notably sandwiches with main ingredients such as braised brisket, egg salad and house-cured lox. There’s also a “Bernalogna” made from kosher beef. Almost everything is made in-house except for the whitefish salad, and just about every sandwich and salad includes some pickled item.

Though the pickle spears aren’t as sour as some deli “authorities” might like, everything I tried was excellent, including a Mexican chocolate egg cream. The one downside is that there are no tables or seats inside or in front. But the quaint neighborhood has places to sit, including two parks within a couple of blocks.

The genesis of Paulie’s Pickling was seven years ago, when Paul began experimenting with pickling. He grew up in Pennsylvania and always loved pickles, especially those made in Amish country. He gave some of his early creations to Liz’s co-workers at the Blue Muse restaurant and to a few caterers, and suddenly there was a demand.

Liz and Paul Ashby photo/andy altman-ohr

Since Liz had spent many years in the food industry, they decided to open a shop.

“We didn’t set out to be the next big deli or the next big anything,” Paul said. “Our goal was to have a business in our neighborhood in which we could be successful. Most of our food is Jewish, but it’s not because we started with that as the plan. Liz grew up eating that kind of food and it just kind of happened.”

“We like to say we’re a Cali-Jewish deli,” Liz added. “We wanted to complement the pickles, and as we started expanding the menu, a lot of it happens to be Jewish deli food.”

Pickle-wise, Paul sells about 200 pounds per week — or 300-400 pounds in a big week — mostly to markets, but also to customers at the counter. Surprisingly, through all the growth, he has kept his day job as project manager for a construction company. But he’s getting ready to quit after 10 years so he can dive into pickles full time, and try to expand a distribution list that also includes a few cafés and bars that use “our stuff in their Bloody Marys and drink specials.”

That “stuff” includes: zesty original pickles, half-sour pickles, garlic-dill pickles, spicy green beans, sauerkraut, pickled cauliflower, pickled herring and pickled jalapeños.

In addition, once a month or so, Paul pickles some beef tongue — a meat he fell in love with as a kid “because my grandmothers and my mother always had it in the fridge.”

When the word goes out on Twitter that the spicy specialty is available, you’d better stand back.

“It sells out fast. There are a bunch of people who are ravenous for it,” said Paul, who includes himself in that group. “I eat a large portion of every batch I make,” he said with a smile.

If all goes well on the distribution side of the business, the Ashbys foresee a move to a bigger space. Right now, they have just a corner in the marketplace and have to do much of their prep work in a commercial kitchen some blocks away.

“Ideally we would have a little pickle factory with a retail shop in it, with a kitchen where I can make all the food,” Liz said. “If we can get a spot in Bernal that has everything that we need, that would be great.”
Paulie’s Pickling

331 Cortland Ave., San Francisco

11 a.m.-6 p.m. daily, except Sundays (until 5 p.m.) and Tuesdays (closed); @pauliespickling on Twitter; (415) 285-0800

HOLEY AND KOSHER: South Bay residents who keep kosher are excited about a new Krispy Kreme doughnuts location in San Jose that has been given a seal of certification by Northern California’s Sunrise Kosher.

“It’s better than going all the way to Mountain View to get your doughnut fix,” noted San Jose resident Pat Bergman, an official with the San Jose Mikvah Society.

The new store is in The Plant shopping center at Curtner Avenue and Monterey Road. It’s smaller than a standard Krispy Kreme store; in fact, its doughnuts are made at the chain’s bigger Mountain View location.

Of the five Krispy Kremes in the Bay Area, four are certified by Sunshine Kosher: San Jose, Mountain View, Daly City and Union City. Krispy Kreme also counts a location in Concord among its 70 kosher locations nationwide, but it has not been certified by Sunrise.

Celebrating its 75th anniversary this year, Krispy Kreme has 230 locations in the U.S. and more than 700 worldwide. The chain prides itself on running a kosher operation; its website notes that all of its doughnut ingredients are kosher and its two mixing plants have been certified kosher.

BIG STAGE: Followers of the Jewish food scene will no doubt notice some coverage in the coming days of an event called “The Future of Jewish Food.” Set Saturday, Oct. 13 in New York, it is co-sponsored by Tablet magazine and tickets are a none-too-cheap $50.

Evan Bloom, co-owner of Wise Sons Deli in San Francisco, and Peter Levitt, co-owner of Saul’s Deli in Berkeley, are half of a panel titled “Looking Ahead from Behind the Counter.” They’ll be joined by the owners of Kenny & Zukes in Portland, Ore., and the Mile End in Brooklyn, N.Y. — replicating the much talked-about “Deli Summit” panel held in Berkeley in May 2011. David Sax, author of 2009’s “Save the Deli,” will be the moderator.

Other events at the New York gathering:  the panel “An Argument for Traditional Jewish Foods in the Modern Jewish Home” and a tasting of pastrami, smoked meat and pickles from each of the participating purveyors.


Save room for …

Three TV features on local Jewish food operations that you can watch for free online:

Old World Food Truck on KPIX Channel 5’s “Food Truck Fridays.” 4 minutes, 41 seconds.

Paulie’s Pickling on “Food Rush” with host and celebrity chef Ryan Scott on the Live Well Network. 5 minutes, 30 seconds.

Schmendricks Brooklyn-style bagels on Bloomberg TV. 3 minutes, 21 seconds.


Because being closed on Shabbat and Jewish holidays was negatively impacting Holy Land’s business, the Oakland glatt kosher restaurant has decided to discontinue kosher supervision. “There were no breaches or specific kashrut concerns that led to this decision,” Rabbi Judah Dardik of nearby Orthodox Beth Jacob Congregation wrote in an email … Robby Morgenstern, owner of Miller’s East Coast Deli in San Francisco and San Rafael, said he is looking to add a third, and maybe fourth, location to his current lineup. Preliminary scouting is targeting the Santa Rosa area, followed by the Danville-Pleasanton area in the East Bay, and the Peninsula as another option. “But our short-term goal is to get [the San Rafael location] bedrock and steady,” Morgenstern said … Community Table, the new café at the JCC of San Francisco, is open for business. New furniture and décor greet visitors, as do a new soup-and-salad bar, frozen yogurt bar and large menu (one item is a BBQ sandwich with root-beer sauce). Open daily from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. (6 p.m. on Sundays) and during selected JCC events. Get more info at  … Wise Sons Deli in San Francisco recently was cited by Bon Appétit magazine as one of the four “Best New Jewish Delis in America.” The others were Mile End Deli in New York City, Stopsky’s Delicatessen on Mercer Island, Wash., and Rye Delicatessen & Bar in Minneapolis … Insider tip: Follow Oakland’s Authentic Bagel Company on Twitter (@BagelCo) and Beauty’s Bagel Shop (@beautysbagel) and you’ll get afternoon or evening tweets about impromptu half-off deals on bagels left over from that day … Authentic near Jack London Square is now open 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, offering up shmears, a few sandwiches and half-sour pickles … Beauty’s is up and running, but it’s still the sole supplier of bagels to Wise Sons. As such, bagels aren’t available every day at Wise Sons, but “when we don’t have bagels, we make our bialys in-house,” co-owner Leo Beckerman noted … Trying the amazing hand-rolled Brooklyn bagels from Schmendricks isn’t easy due to the pop-up’s limited hours, but a good opportunity is coming up Oct. 28. From 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., Schmendricks will be participating in an Open Studios event at Studio 17, 3265 17th St., S.F. ( … Nice to see our local Jewish food trucks catering some Jewish events recently. Pastranomy in Napa was at a launch party for the book “Napa Valley’s Jewish Heritage” in August, and the Old World Food Truck was at Urban Adamah’s Sukkot festival in Berkeley on Oct. 7 as well as at the Oshman Family JCC in Palo Alto for a very Jewish-leaning Litquake in August … Tremendous marketing idea: A kosher deli chain back east is offering flu shots at its six locations. The shots aren’t free, but with each one, you get a free bowl (or take-home pint) of chicken noodle soup. Which brings up a question: If you don’t get the flu, was it the shot or the soup?

Andy Altman-Ohr

Andy Altman-Ohr was J.’s managing editor and Hardly Strictly Bagels columnist until he retired in 2016 to travel and live abroad. He and his wife have a home base in Mexico, where he continues his dalliance with Jewish journalism.