Recently I (call me shiksa) checked out brand-spankin new California Street Delicatessen & Café with three deli-loving friends (a goy and two of the chosen people).
None of us have been impressed with the Jewish deli offerings in the Bay Area that weve tried thus far, and hoped this time would be different.
The room is the archetypal white and black deli-style with a view onto California St., and access to the restaurant is through the Jewish Community Center. The staff was very pleasant and attentive which was a mitzvah since we only arrived 8 minutes before closing. (In my defense I live on the Peninsula and called ahead to check if this would be OK.)
Complimentary pickles were nice and crisp and perfectly tart. They came with deli-style mustard which Ive never had with pickles before, but seemed to match it tang-for-tang.
While we waited for our food, we asked each other trivia questions based on the paper menus that were our placemats. This included naming the chefs grandmothers (answer: Grandma Rae and Grandma Essie) and knowing when they use natural and organic products (answer: whenever possible).
All of us had the chicken soup with matzo balls ($6.95). It looked impressive when it arrived balls surrounded by a broth full of chopped vegetables (wait was one of those vegetables potato?) with a little pile of veggies and shreds of chicken on top of the balls. The thing is, despite the presence of actual chicken, the broth tasted like vegetable soup. And the two small balls were the most dense as opposed to light and fluffy - Ive ever had. Oy vey. It almost looked like they were trying too hard to fancify the soup. One of us liked it, but the other three found it mediocre (one said, its not good when all the balls can fit in my mouth).
My other order was Joyces potato knish ($2.50). It was the best knish Id had in awhile, but still not as good or complex or big as the one offered at my favorite deli of all time (that would be DZ Akins in San Diego which the four of us consider the gold standard even better than those in New York). Unfortunately, they didnt carry the sweet hot Beaver mustard (I wondered if I would look insane if I carried my own next time), but the deli mustard sufficed.
The boyfriend ordered the soup and sandwich combo ($7.95), and was pleased overall with his Niman ranch braised brisket sandwich. A friend ordered Joyces potato latkes ($5.95), but they arrived slightly burnt; he was unimpressed overall. Another friend ordered The Hyde sandwich ($9.95), which consisted of roast beef, horseradish cream, and grilled onions. This seemed to be the big winner of the night, and she was quite pleased. Sandwiches are served with cole slaw or potato salad. She had the potato salad, and I can report from the one forkful I was able to steal, that it was quite tasty.
Desserts looked yummy and ranged from linzer tortes to German chocolate cake, to baked rice pudding (all $5.95). I hope to try them in another visit.
Thats right another visit. For while this restaurant was not stellar, it has potential. My tuchis will definitely be on one of those deli-style chairs again soon.
3200 California St. (at Presidio)
San Francisco, CA 94118
Open 11 a.m. 9 p.m. daily
Beverages include egg creams, Dr. Brown and other sodas, coffee, tea, juice, beer, and wine.
Although pork is not on the menu, the restaurant is not kosher.