Hardly strictly bagels | San Francisco getting a new Jewish deli

A new Jewish deli is coming to San Francisco, and for fans of overstuffed corned beef and pastrami sandwiches on top-notch rye bread from Detroit, it can’t happen soon enough.

But right now, it’s hard to say when the new place will open. Maybe by the end of the month. Probably in July.

Here’s what’s happening: Adam Mesnick, who owns the successful (though not-quite-a-Jewish-deli) Deli Board in San Francisco, and a small offshoot called 1058 Hoagie, is changing the latter sandwich shop into the Rye Project.

The new place will be a classic, Jewish-style delicatessen, albeit on a much smaller scale. Mesnick has been doing a test run by operating a small-scale Jewish deli pop-up at 1058 Hoagie on Thursday evenings for the past few months.

“Everything is going to be very simple in terms of the changeover,” he explained, hinting at a new awning and maybe a paint job. “Not a tremendous amount of changes to the space, no permits, no red tape.”

The space is small: only about 10 seats. Thus, the Rye Project will operate mainly as a takeout lunch spot, with initial hours of 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Corned beef sandwich at the Rye Project

Mesnick was raised on classic Jewish deli in Cleveland, from Corky & Lenny’s to Slyman’s, where the corned beef is piled so high they use two slices of rye on the bottom for support.

Five years ago, Mesnick had dreams of launching such a deli in San Francisco. However, because he wasn’t able to find a local rye bread he “could tolerate using,” Mesnick instead went in another direction at the Deli Board, using Jewish deli meats as building blocks in a lineup of combo sandwiches on soft French rolls.

But now that he’s had success, Mesnick is setting out to do what he really wanted to do in the first place.

The Rye Project won’t be kosher, though there will be no pork. Its calling cards will be pastrami, corned beef, lox and smoked fish, and maybe all-beef salami. There will be matzah ball soup on some days, as well as other soups, salads and sandwiches. Rye will be imported from Detroit, bagels flown in from New York. Pickles will be half-sour without “artsy” spices.

There also will be innovations. Mesnick is something of a saucemeister, and he has created new ones that he’ll break out at the Rye Project. He also wants to create grab-and-go packages, like the sushi packs at markets and delis. Mesnick wants to put sandwich bites or cream-cheese-and-lox bagel bites in the packs, an idea he’s playfully calling “Jew-shi.”

Part of the deli’s interior

The output at the Rye Project will be limited to about 50 or 60 sandwiches each day, Mesnick said, due to his “very limited supplies” of corned beef, pastrami and rye.

Rye is a particular problem. He’s going to have only five or six loaves per day. But it’s worth its weight in gold. It will be coming from the Detroit area, home of the best rye in the land. It’s double-baked, a process that creates a dense rye, with a golden cornmeal crust.

A giddy Mesnick said he owes a big debt of deli gratitude to Robby Morgenstein, owner of Miller’s East Coast Deli in San Francisco and San Rafael. Morgenstein has bought his rye from Detroit for years, and after a meeting wth Mesnick, he agreed to add some loaves to his order.

“We had a deli sit-down and talked about rye bread,” Mesnick said. “He’s distributing it to me. He’s doing me a major favor.”

Mesnick is hoping Morgenstein’s good turn helps him achieve his deli dream.

“The whole story behind the Rye Project is that it’s an ode to Jewish deli, a return to my roots and what I initially wanted to do,” Mesnick said. “It’s not going to be for the kind of person who is looking for a Wise Sons or Shorty Goldstein’s experience. It’s going to be different than that. I’m really excited. It’s a great project.”

Rye Project

180 Seventh St., San Francisco

Monday to Friday 11 a.m. to 4  p.m. (“intentionally closed” on Saturdays, according to the website)

(415) 552-8984

www.ryeproject.com, @ryeprojectsf on Twitter

Taking a day trip to Sonoma County on a Sunday? You might want to stop by Santa Rosa’s West End Farmers Market between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. for a new food stand called Goodman’s Jewish Deli.

Goodman’s Jewish Deli

For the past few months, the one-day-a-week stand has been featuring a pretty large array of deli favorites, from pastrami sandwiches to matzah ball soup to “meshugah fries” (cooked in shmaltz, covered with Russian dressing, sauerkraut, cheese curds and bits of pastrami). All of the meats are smoked and cured in-house, and there’s also sour pickles, homemade sodas and egg creams.

Specials have included Solomon Caesar salad (with house-cured lox and local rye croutons), and chocolate babka pain perdu (babka made into bread pudding then griddled like French toast and served with a scoop of haroset and powdered sugar).

A few people have kvetched about the prices, such as $15 for a Reuben sandwich, but both the squawking and the pricing (especially as high-quality meat prices continue to rise) seem to be par for the course these days.

The incubator project is the brainchild of Les and Tara Goodman, a married couple in their 30s who own a catering company called Adafina Culinary (adafina is a Sephardic version of cholent). They both have restaurant backgrounds, Les at the Dry Creek Kitchen in Healdsburg, Tara at many places, including a stint as a Cowgirl Creamery cheesemaker.

The genesis of the stand isn’t difficult to figure out. “There’s no good Jewish deli up here in Sonoma County,” Les said. The menu is pretty small, he added, but most of the ingredients come from within Sonoma County or nearby. Prep work is done in an incubator-style kitchen in Windsor.

“We love Jewish food, and not just New York style, not just Ashkenazi, but also the Sephardic flavors, too,” he said.

During Pesach, they sold a “Passover Benedict” that included lamb shanks and braised bitter herbs. Montreal-style bagels and knish are on the drawing board.

“We’ve been running out of stuff, which is a good problem to have,” Les said. “People are excited. After they’ve eaten, they say, ‘So where are you located?’ Well, it’s Sundays only — for now. Our hope is that this becomes a success so we can have an actual brick-and-mortar restaurant. That’s our aim.”

Goodman’s Jewish Deli

Sundays 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

West End Farmer’s Market, 817 Donahue St. (near Railroad Square), Santa Rosa

(707) 326-3651

Goodman’s Jewish Deli on Facebook; GoodmansJewish on Twitter

HISTORY LESSON: Did you know that about 100 years ago, San Francisco had a neighborhood with five kosher meat markets, four Jewish bakeries, three Jewish restaurants, three Jewish delicatessens and a Jewish liquor store?

“The scent of garlic-dill pickles and smoked herring permeated” the area, Erica Peters wrote in her 2013 book “San Francisco: A Food Biography.”

And then there’s the story about the local chapter of the National Council of Jewish Women putting out San Francisco’s first Jewish cookbook in 1909. And the upscale market Goldberg, Bowen & Co. importing salmon bellies  from Siberia — in the 1880s! And even a local matzah bakery — during the Gold Rush!

Peters, the director of the Culinary Historians of Northern California, will recount those and other facets of local Jewish food history in “Jews, Food and Family in 20th-Century San Fran-cisco.”  The free talk is set for 7 p.m. June 19 at the Jewish Community Library, 1835 Ellis St, S.F. For more information, visit www.tinyurl.com/jff-peters.

Before the talk, at 6 p.m., the online history project “Sourdough & Rye” is hosting a booth to collect pictures and stories of local Jewish history. People are encouraged o bring food-related photos, recipes and any other items. For more information, visit www.historypin.com/project/43-sourdough-and-rye.


The opening date for the new Oren’s Hummus Shop is now July 7, according to executive chef and partner David Cohen. The first offshoot of the successful Israeli eatery in Palo Alto will be at 126 Castro St. in downtown Mountain View … Wise Sons Deli in San Francisco hosted a pop-up dinner with Food Network chef Amanda Freitag on June 8. The menu was part deli, part diner; items included a pastrami Monte Cristo sandwich and an iceberg wedge topped with crispy pastrami. Freitag runs the Empire Diner in New York … San Francisco’s first “Modern Hamish: Wandering Kosher Kitchen Pop-Up Supper Club” was on June 12, hosted by Rabbi Yosef Langer and Men’s Wearhouse founder George Zimmer. The chef was Isaac Bernstein of Epic Bites Catering (www.epicbitescatering.com); he has catered similar events in the East Bay … Eitan Hilleli has taken over the operation of the 18-year-old Sabra Grill glatt kosher restaurant at 419 Grant Ave., just inside the main gates of Chinatown in San Francisco. He’s been “cleaning and fixing and scrubbing” the place, and he thinks locals should come check it out. Visit www.adka.org/sabra or (415) 982-3656.

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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.