a person with long blond hair wearing all pink dances inside a restaurant
For a time, Drag Brunch was a monthly event at Solomon's Delicatessen in Sacramento. (Courtesy)

A final farewell to Solomon’s Delicatessen and other Bay Area Jewish food upates

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In the 12 years that I’ve been doing this column, I’ve reported on some tragic news, such as the untimely deaths of some Jewish chefs. While this isn’t at that same level, the rise and fall of Solomon’s Delicatessen stands out as a sad tale to me, mostly as an example of the risks of the restaurant business. There was so much excitement around the deli, which took so much longer than expected to open, and then … the pandemic.

Jami Goldstene, a former partner of the Sacramento Jewish deli, let me know recently that the owners had finally decided to shut it down for good.

“I am deeply saddened, but it’s been a long time coming,” Goldstene, who stepped away from the business some time ago, said in an email.

Eight years ago, the plan was unveiled for a Jewish deli at the site of the original Tower Records in downtown Sacramento. It would be called Solomon’s, after Tower Records founder Russ Solomon.

Construction took much longer than anticipated, which is not uncommon in this industry. While the team was waiting for the deli to be finished, it opened a small outpost in Davis in 2018 to test recipes and refine the deli’s concept. In July 2019 and with much fanfare, Solomon’s finally opened, nearly two years behind schedule. I prominently included it in a 2019 feature about the Bay Area suddenly becoming a new Jewish food destination. 

“Many people coming in are Jews that I’ve never run into,” Goldstene said at the time. “They’re coming from the entire region. Their eyes light up and they make a beeline to me. They start telling me their stories, that they’re from Chicago or Detroit or New York and how much they miss this food. We’re definitely a destination, and we’re hitting a nerve. There is nothing else like it near here.”

With a bar and space upstairs to host musicians, as well as its rock ’n’ roll decor, Solomon’s had a great vibe, pairing the classics with new spins on Jewish food, like Reuben egg rolls.

The entrance to Solomon's Deli in Sacramento (Photo/Kelly Sousa)
The entrance to Solomon’s Deli in Sacramento in 2019. (Kelly Sousa)

But sometimes, circumstances accumulate beyond anyone’s control.

One of the biggest personal heartbreaks was Goldstene’s. After finally seeing her dream realized with the opening — and then reopening after the initial Covid lockdown — she had to stay away. She was in her 60s, putting her in a higher-risk group for Covid-19 complications.

Many restaurants managed to survive the worst of the pandemic. Solomon’s was initially among them, pivoting to cook meals for the needy in partnership with Sacramento Covered in the early days of lockdowns and adding drag brunches in 2021.

In 2023 came a new chef and a rebranding effort to turn the deli into an international diner with the name Solomon’s Vinyl Diner. Just a few Jewish dishes were on the new menu. But the revision never brought in enough people, mostly serving state employees who worked nearby. Sacramento’s downtown — like so many others — was hurt after more people began working from home and continue to do so now.

But Goldstene isn’t done yet.

“I have not given up on trying to bring great Jewish food to the greater Sacramento region,” she said in her email. “I have learned so very much. … I have a lot left to share.”

We look forward to seeing what she does next, and, of course, I will report on it in this space.

Club Fugazi and its immersive circus show “Dear San Francisco” (which includes local Jewish acrobat Maya Kesselman) has announced a guest chef series. In August, it will be One Market chef Mark Dommen, half of the namesake in Mark ’n’ Mike’s Jewish deli concept at One Market. November’s chef will be Mat Schuster, owner of Canela

Ruth Reichl, a food writer whose career has been the envy of many, will be coming to the Oshman Family JCC in Palo Alto this fall.

Known for her stint as a restaurant reviewer for the New York Times in the 1990s and more recently as the editor of Gourmet magazine, Reichl lived in Berkeley in the 1970s when the locavore food movement was just beginning.

Besides her additional status as a bestselling author and, most recently, as a television host, Reichl co-produced and appeared on camera in a documentary shown at last year’s San Francisco Jewish Film Festival, “Food and Country,” which examines the struggles of small farmers and ranchers in the age of industrial food.

Reichl’s talk is set for 7 p.m. Sept. 14 at the Oshman JCC. Tickets, which cost $65, are available now.

I’ll be traveling this month and will be skipping my column in the next issue, so it’s up to you to keep your eyes on Bubbala’s, the long-awaited Jewish eatery opening in San Anselmo. I’m told it could launch around the time this column appears in print, so those who want to show up for the opening should follow news on Bubbala’s Instagram. I’ll do a full writeup once it’s open, but in the meantime, refresh your memory with my 2022 story about its pop-up days.

Greg Bernson of Bubbala’s hard at work in the kitchen. (Photo/Courtesy)
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."