King Knish wants to be the new San Francisco treat

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Trying to nudge its way into the crowded Bay Area specialty food market is King Knish, a newly launched operation by longtime caterer and former San Francisco restaurant owner Ramni Levy.

He unveiled his wares at two food events in December, and in January he launched “King Knish On-The-Go,” a pop-up stand across from the Caltrain station.

Open on Thursdays and Fridays at least through the end of this month, and now at various South of Market locations rather than just Fourth and Townsend, the pop-up offers a knish rotation of curried beef, pastrami, and broccoli and cheddar (with two types of sauces). He’s been selling about 50 per day, and giving out hundreds of business cards.

“The mini pop-up has been working out quite well,” Levy said. “People are saying, ‘Oh my, there are knishes in this town. I’ve got to tell my mom.’”

But Levy, who used to own Bistro 1650 in the Richmond District, has bigger goals than the pop-up. He had a confab with a professional sports team last week, tweeting afterward, “Meeting was a success — they ate everything up, and are asking for more! More details to come …” He is also on target for a location this spring in a Financial District shopping concourse that will include three other food startups.

Levy, 52, the son of a rabbi, dove headlong into his knish operation last year, hiring a PR person, starting an Indiegogo campaign, designing a snazzy logo and trademarking the phrase “an old world dish with a new world twist.”

Broccoli, cheddar and potato knish with mango chutney

His offerings are smaller, softer, moister and more scrumptious than all the knishes I’ve ever tried. Options include the classic potato variety (with caramelized mushrooms and onions). But that’s only the tip of the knish-berg. Other varieties include white-chocolate-dipped curried beef with poppy seeds on top, and wasabi and potato with crystallized ginger.

Ramni Levy takes an order at the King Knish pop-up in San Francisco.

For Valentine’s Day, he’s been working on a potato knish that includes strawberries, white chocolate and essence of rose oils.

“These are not the standard knish,” the ebullient Levy intoned. “It’s exactly like my logo says: an old world dish with a new world twist. In L.A. and in New York, you get a knish that’s puffy pastry dough, too much dough usually, and maybe the meat falls out when you bite it. But when you bite into mine, it’s almost like having candy. It just melts in your mouth.”

Adding to the experience are King Knish’s mango chutney and berry compote; they really take the knish to another level.

King Knish On-The-Go

8-11 a.m. and 4-7 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays at various locations in San Francisco (for info: follow on Twitter, or check Facebook or website)

@King_Knish on Twitter;; 407-7292 or [email protected]

PLIGHT AT THE MUSEUM: The café at the Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco is dark once again, but is there a light — a super bright light — on the horizon?

The café known as American Box ceased operations at the end of December after only 13 months, the museum’s second café belly flop in two years. Café on the Square, which opened when the museum did in 2008, closed up shop in August 2010. Each operation was run by an outside vendor.

But now, a new café is in the hopper for the spring, and Daryl Carr, the museum’s marketing and communications director, was practically over the moon when asked about it last week. However, because negotiations were still ongoing, he wouldn’t reveal anything. “It’s going to be extremely good news is all I can say,” he said with great exuberance. “This will be a giant coup for the museum!”

The rumor mill has San Francisco’s Wise Sons Deli taking over the space, but co-owner Evan Bloom told me it’s not true. “Unless we find a big kitchen to bake our bread and make our pastrami, we will not be expanding anywhere for a while,” he said, noting that Wise Sons is indeed scouting for locations and has held various discussions. “The first thing we would do is open for dinner here … hopefully by spring … we have a pending beer and wine license and we want to get that in place first.”

WINE TIME: Passover comes early this year, on March 25, so Gary Freeman, one of the owners of Oakland Kosher Foods, is already getting his Pesach game face on. This week, he attended a huge kosher wine tasting event in Los Angeles, sampling kosher wines for Passover from all over the world (and purchasing some).

“I’ve got 120 different wines in stock right now, and I’ll be getting even more for Passover,” he said last week, adding that he already carries “wonderful” kosher wines from the world over.

You can see the store’s wine list on its new and quite impressive website at

Russ & Daughters of New York is a very special place, an “appetizer shop” that sells exquisite smoked fish, shmears and other Jewish favorites. In advance of its 100-year birthday next year, Mark Russ Federman, the owner, has written “Russ & Daughters: Reflections and Recipes from the House that Herring Built.” He’ll be at the JCC of San Francisco at noon March 10 for a talk and New York–style brunch featuring the shop’s celebrated smoked and cured fish. Tickets must be purchased by Feb. 28 ($45/$40 for members). For more information, visit

On Feb. 20, Chabad of the Tri-Valley is bringing a taste of New York deli to Pleasanton. Jack Silberstein, co-founder and CEO of Jack’s Gourmet, a kosher meat and sausage purveyor in Brooklyn, N.Y., will lead a talk and workshop on creating authentic, handcrafted deli meats. The event is $18 and for men only, and an RSVP is required. For more information, visit


San Francisco Beer Week events are on tap for Saul’s Deli in Berkeley on Feb. 12 and 13, and Wise Sons Deli in San Francisco on Feb. 13. At Saul’s, there will be “meet the brewers” events with two East Bay breweries, Trumer Pils and Linden Street. There’s no charge to get in, but beer and food pairings, such as schnitzel and latkes, are not free ( At Wise Sons, it’ll be a $60 dinner paired with beers from Shmaltz Brewing Company, makers of He’Brew ( … The glatt kosher RoastShop in Palo Alto, which had a soft opening in December, held its grand opening on Jan. 14 and is getting a good lunch crowd, according to an employee. Mostly a sandwich shop, it’s at 565 Bryant St., one block off University Avenue … Faina Avrutina, owner of Israel’s Strictly Kosher Market, said this week she plans to close the 65-year-old San Francisco institution at the end of March, though no exact day has been set … Starting on Feb. 17, the Deli Board in San Francisco ( will be serving brunch on Sundays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., with items such as smoked salmon, whitefish salad and bagels … The “Purim Follies” at Congregation Emanu-El in San Francisco on Feb. 23 will be catered by the Old World Food Truck … The JCC of San Francisco is having”Purim Unmasked” on Feb. 24 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Among the many food options will be rugelah from Beauty’s Bagel Shop in Oakland … The Ravens’ 34-31 win over the 49ers last weekend earned Attman’s Deli of Baltimore a victory in its Super Bowl bet against Miller’s East Coast Deli of San Francisco (and San Rafael). Miller’s owner Robby Morgenstein will donate $500 to the Jewish Museum of Maryland, and his staff had to work Feb. 5 wearing Attman’s T-shirts and caps … The location of the Jewish deli Shorty Goldstein’s is 126 Sutter St., just across from the Crocker Galleria in downtown San Francisco. A peek inside the former salad bar lunch spot shows a lot of work still needs to be done, but owner Michael Siegel says he is planning for an opening before March. … Always dreamed of becoming a professional Jewish cook? Saul’s Deli is looking to hire a sous chef ( … Sadly, I missed National Pastrami Day on Jan. 14, but there’s still time to compete in Togo’s second annual “Pastrami Pounder Challenge,” which runs through Feb. 19. At Togo’s sandwich locations, patrons can try to consume a 2-foot-long sandwich piled with more than one pound of pastrami – in 30 minutes or less. The prize is paltry (a cap), but the glory is grand (details at

Save room for …

The first ever Hazon Jewish Food Festival is a seven-hour event on March 17 at the JCC of San Francisco. Details at Some highlights:

A shuk. Featuring 20 Bay Area vendors and agencies, and lots of food for tasting and purchasing, it’s free and open to the public.

Workshops and do-it-yourself sessions. Those who register ($36-$54) can attend more than 30. Topics include food issues, wine and spirits, mindful eating and Jewish foods of San Francisco.

Annual event. The plan is to make this a yearly event and rotate it among Bay Area JCCs.

Hardly Strictly Bagels runs the second Friday of each month. For more frequent Jewish food news, Send hot tips and out-of-the-way finds to [email protected].

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.