Hardly Strictly Bagels | Deli takes action after its bread plans go a-rye

Sign up for Weekday J and get the latest on what's happening in the Jewish Bay Area.

Is the opening of Wise Sons at the Contemporary Jewish Museum the biggest Jewish deli news in downtown San Francisco these days?

Of course. But there’s another newsworthy deli development only five blocks away: After months of complaints about the rye bread it was using for its sandwiches, Shorty Goldstein’s now is making its own rye (and challah, too).

Shorty’s, which opened in March in the Financial District, started out by serving a rye from a San Francisco bakery that was hardly up to Jewish rye standards. Reviewers and food bloggers called it “dull,” “unsturdy” and “fluffy,” adding it “hardly tastes of rye” and “the overly soft slices almost disintegrated in your hands.” Eventually, the deli switched to another bakery, but the moaning didn’t abate much.

So three weeks ago, Shorty’s began baking its own rye, anywhere from 20 to 40 loaves per day. Owner-chef Michael Siegel describes it as a classic Jewish rye, made with caraway and nigella seeds. It is double-baked, which gives it a super crispy crust, and while it’s still a bit soft in the middle, it has a stark, seedy flavor — the way a rye should taste.

Pastrami on the old rye bread

Corned beef on the new rye

“We’ve had a great reaction,” Siegel said. “I haven’t heard one complaint.” (He admitted hearing lots of complaints about the previous rye.)

Siegel always wanted to bake his own bread, but he knew such a workload would be a difficult to handle during the restaurant’s launching period. Moreover, Shorty’s has a tiny kitchen.

“It’s still a tight space and very challenging, but at the same time we’re making it work,” he said.

Shorty’s also is selling plain and seeded challahs on Fridays and making all of its own pastries, too. (Note to self: must return for another “Friday Pie-Day”!) Unfortunately, the rye is still the only bread choice for sandwiches, but at least it’s a much better rye than it used to be.






AN OPEN BOOKA: It’s not an Israeli restaurant, per se, but the new Booka Restaurant and Bar in Aptos certainly has a lot of Israeli street cred.

The three owners are all from Tel Aviv: Atar Barkai and his wife, Eti, and Sharone Maron. All have lived in the United States for at least six years, but Atar and Sharone were childhood friends in the south, when Atar lived on a kibbutz and Sharone on a moshav.

In addition, the restaurant’s two chefs are from Israel and worked at a variety of high-end restaurants in Tel Aviv. One was the sous chef for star chef Jonathan Roshfeld at the highly regarded Tapas Ahad Ha’am, Sharone said.

The owners describe Booka as “fine dining but casual” with a fusion cuisine (it is not kosher). Open for two months, it has an international menu that includes many Israeli touches, such as matbucha (roasted peppers and tomatoes), chicken schnitzel, and calamari with masabacha (a fancy hummus). Other dishes feature labneh, baba ghanoush and zatar, and at Sunday brunch you’ll find challah and items such as shakshouka served Israeli-style in its own little skillet.

Israeli favorites are going to be part of a special Israeli brunch starting at 11 a.m. on Sunday, July 28, with Israeli music playing on the sound system. Call the number below for reservations.

Booka Restaurant and Bar

8041 Soquel Drive, Aptos

5:30 to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday; 11 a.m to 4 p.m. Sunday; closed Monday

(831) 685-9500




KOSHER CLOSURE: Well, it’s happened again. A certified kosher restaurant on the South Peninsula has shut down. Fourteen months ago it was the Kitchen Table in Mountain View, and now it is RoastShop in Palo Alto, which closed in June after only six months in business.

“It’s a shame, because it’s another nail in the coffin of kosher restaurants in the Bay Area,” said Rabbi Yosef Levin of Chabad of the Greater South Bay. “It gives the impression that kosher can’t make it.”

RoastShop was a kosher sandwich shop with a great location, less than a  block off busy University Avenue. But the restaurant had all kinds of problems, from food to service to a non-updated décor (it was in a former Chinese food restaurant).

I don’t have the space or the inclination to spell out all of the woes, but pondering the closures of the Kitchen Table and RoastShop, one can’t help but notice one link: management. FK Restaurants and Hospitality ran the Kitchen Table down the homestretch, and it also ran RoastShop.

Frank Klein is the CEO and owner of FK, which also ran a café in the Contemporary Jewish Museum that closed after only 13 months. He said he’d like to find a kosher operator to buy the RoastShop site and operate it as a kosher eatery, but if that doesn’t happen, “then we will proceed with other interested parties.”



Pastrami at the museum

Wise Sons Deli is opening its new café at the Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco on Friday, July 26.

For details, including menu highlights, see my latest j. story.






Save room for …

Missed the Jewish Food and Cultural Fair in Aptos last month? Here are some upcoming Jewish food events to put on your calendar:

Jewish Food Fest. Sunday, Aug. 18. At Congregation Shomrei Torah in Santa Rosa, second annual. $5 tickets online; sales will halt at 1,300. www.shomreitorah.org.

Jewish Food Festival. Sunday, Aug. 25. At Congregation Beth Israel in Carmel Valley, 26th annual. Free admission. www.carmelbethisrael.org.

Jewish Food Faire. Sunday, Sept. 22. At Congregation Beth Shalom in Carmichael (near Sacramento), 36th annual. www.foodfaire.cbshalom.org.




In the very early planning stages — not expected to open until 2015 — is a kosher deli-catessen in a U.C. Berkeley building near the corner of Haste and Bowditch streets. If it comes to fruition, word is that the café will be university-run and mainly for students, but also open to the public … Authentic Bagel Company of Oakland is working on a second location, a few blocks from 12th Street BART. The owners just signed a new one-year lease on their Second Street spot near Jack London Square, but need a larger location for their production kitchen and want to make it happen soon … Oakland Kosher Foods co-owner Gary Freeman and Rabbi Simcha Green of Berkeley worked hard to try to get the Oakland A’s to include some kosher food at Jewish Heritage Night on Tuesday, July 30. Freeman was offering good prices on hot dogs, buns and knishes, but the A’s food partner, Aramark, ended up going with Hebrew National hot dogs, which won’t be kosher as served … At the San Francisco Giants’ Jewish Heritage Night on Aug. 6, kosher food will be available for purchase at the pre-game party from 5 to 7 p.m. outside the park on Seals Plaza. Items include hot dogs, hummus with vegetables, and beer and wine. — andy altman-ohr


Hardly Strictly Bagels will return to its regular spot, the second Friday of the month, in August.

For more frequent Jewish food news,

Send hot tips and out-of-the-way finds to Andy Altman-Ohr at [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.