The entrance to Solomon's Deli in Sacramento (Photo/Kelly Sousa)
The entrance to Solomon's Deli in Sacramento (Photo/Kelly Sousa)

Jewish delis come and go; saying goodbye to an old friend

Food coverage is supported by a generous donation from Susan and Moses Libitzky.

Ethel’s Delicatessen opened last week in Petaluma. Ethel’s was born out of a bagel business that chef Nicolas Abrams launched during the early days of the pandemic and named after his grandmother.

Abrams told J. that the bagels were sold out by 11 a.m. on the second day in business. “Opening day was a huge success,” he said, “and we’re so excited to be open.”

As I’ve said recently in this column, I travel for Jewish deli, so I plan to have a full column on Ethel’s Delicatessen soon.

Changes afoot in Sacramento: Solomon’s Delicatessen, a Jewish deli that took five years to come to fruition, has just been renamed Solomon’s Vinyl Diner. While pastrami, lox and bagels will remain on the menu, the downtown diner is shedding its Jewish deli identification and offering a more universal menu in an effort to create wider appeal.

The decision was a difficult but necessary one, in light of how the Covid-19 pandemic changed everything, said Jami Goldstene, the deli’s Jewish founder.

Solomon’s opened in July 2019, two years later than planned. The deli is named for Russ Solomon, the Jewish founder of the famed chain Tower Records, which was founded in Sacramento.

It was a risky decision from the start to open a restaurant downtown, but Goldstene and her partners were committed to helping revitalize the area. When it opened, the deli found its customers, mostly state employees who worked nearby.

Co-owner Jami Goldstene behind the counter at Solomon's Deli in Sacramento (Photo/Kelly Sousa)
Jami Goldstene behind the counter at Solomon’s Deli in Sacramento (Photo/Kelly Sousa)

When the pandemic hit, the restaurant figured out a way to stay open by making meals for the needy and working with the local nonprofit Sacramento Covered.

But now, post-pandemic, it’s evident that the “state workers are never coming back,” Goldstene told J. “If the state workers aren’t here during the week, then the weekday breakfast and lunch business is gone. Then you have to switch to a more nighttime and weekend brunch focus, and that’s what the new management has done.”

The restaurant has a new chef, N’Gina Guyton, who is known in the area for her former restaurant called South.

While Goldstene remains an investor, as does Andrea Lepore, also an original investor, neither will remain involved in the operations of Solomon’s.

“There are hotels around there that have opened since we opened, and that really helped,” Goldstene said. “And the Sacramento Kings started to win, and that helped a lot, too. But it wasn’t regular enough to keep doing what we were doing. It had to change to fit a different vibe downtown and be updated to appeal to all kinds of people.”

In my Jan. 19 column this year, I wrote about two men in the Bay Area’s culinary scene who died much too young, both of whom happened to be Jewish: chef David Golovin and bar manager Ilya Romanov.

Unfortunately, now, there’s a third to add to the list. And unlike the other two, this one was a friend.

I first met chef Jeff Rosen — who sometimes went by Jeff da Chef — and his then-girlfriend Lindsey Sheehy while we were wine tasting in Sonoma over a decade ago. We started chatting at the bar of a wine spot on the square. I liked them right away. There was something about the gruff former New Yorker that resonated with me. We kept in touch on Facebook, where I learned he was a fellow Deadhead. Somehow, it hadn’t come up in conversation. And he soon invited me to a Jewish food pop-up he did in San Francisco’s Mission District.

Jeff Rosen and columnist Alix Wall preparing for an event in Oakland. (Photo/Ting Vogel)
Jeff Rosen and columnist Alix Wall preparing for an event in Oakland. (Photo/Ting Vogel)

Later, the couple moved to Oakland, very near to me.

Jeff was born May 14, 1964, in Queens and was raised in Spring Valley, N.Y. From 1996 to 2002, he was the chef and owner of Avenue 9, a beloved restaurant in San Francisco’s Inner Sunset. Most recently, he was behind the opening of the Cannery Kitchen & Tap in Castro Valley as part of Blue Heron Catering, and then was with Pacific Fine Food Catering.

Shortly after I met them, Jeff and Lindsey started hosting gatherings at their home called “Dinner and a Show,” with fantastic food and music. I was still working as a chef then, and I asked if I could be his sous chef for these gatherings. The events began in 2012, and I did quite a number of them. While I had little professional kitchen experience, I loved working with Jeff. It was so low stress, and we had a great synergy in the kitchen.

Jeff and Lindsey created such a fun, warm vibe. For me, this ease in entertaining and creating such a welcoming atmosphere seems like such a Jewish trait, even if Jeff wouldn’t have necessarily described it that way.

Also, I couldn’t help but notice that a large majority of those who attended were Jewish. (Among them was Bob Jaffe, the former owner of Oakland’s Grand Bakery.) I never profiled Jeff in my column because these events took place at his house and therefore weren’t really open to the public.

Jeff was both a great chef and such a great promoter of local musicians. He died on May 18,  a few days after his 59th birthday, of kidney cancer that first appeared several years ago. He is survived by Lindsey and their three children, Nika, Richard (“Max”) and Noah Rosen. A GoFundMe has been set up for his family at

I will miss him, as will the local food and music communities.

Ethel’s Delicatessen, 1000 Clegg Court, Petaluma, open 6:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesdays through Sundays.

Solomon’s Vinyl Diner, 730 K St., Sacramento, open 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesdays through Sundays.

Alix Wall
Alix Wall

Alix Wall is a contributing editor to J. She is also the founder of the Illuminoshi: The Not-So-Secret Society of Bay Area Jewish Food Professionals and is writer/producer of a documentary-in-progress called "The Lonely Child."