First Taste: AL's Deli serves up Israeli street food and Jewish classics by way of California

A spread of anytime snacks at the new Al's Deli. (Sarah Chorey)

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by Sarah Chorey

Aaron London, owner of the lauded veggie-centric restaurant, AL's Place, is taking the basic daytime diet of sandos, salads, and sides from mundane to must-have at his new AL's Deli, on the corner of 18th and Guerrero in the Mission.

AL's Deli will catch your eye with bubblegum-pink trim on a sweet gray brick facade. (Sarah Chorey)

After a few successful years in upscale dining, the restaurateur—whose initials are A.L., get it?—is mixing it up with a fast-casual spot blending Californian ingredients into Jewish deli classics and some Israeli street food for no-rules, good, affordable food.

Peruse the menu till you find the section for Crispy Crunchy Things; the potato latkes are a must-order. A hot-pocket shaped mashup of fried hash browns hugging a bundle of avocado and grapefruit make this treat the perfect cross between Californian and Jewish food.
Peruse the menu till you find the section for Crispy Crunchy Things; the potato latkes are a must-order. A hot-pocket shaped mashup of fried hash browns hugging a bundle of avocado and grapefruit make this treat the perfect cross between Californian and Jewish food. (Sarah Chorey)

Diving into London's menu, you'll find a bit of everything: shawarma spiced chicken, smokey brisket, crunchy falafel, and a mix of roasted eggplant and cauliflower, all of which can become pita sandwiches or bountiful green salads. There's a menu section dedicated to "crispy, crunchy things" (all of which you must order) like herby fries, stuffed potato latkes, and corn dog bites with a twist. Chicken soup, small salads, and hummus round out the offering.

These corn dog bites have been given the Aaron London treatment: an upgrade from traditional corn dog breading to a variation made with tasty falafel.
These corn dog bites have been given the Aaron London treatment: an upgrade from traditional corn dog breading to a variation made with tasty falafel. (Sarah Chorey)

The ideas and flavors stem from London's childhood, when smoked meats and deli runs permeated his time spent between Montreal and Sonoma.

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"I miss foods from the East Coast deli of my youth, and fell in love with the dishes I had while traveling thought Israel. It didn't feel right to me to do a restaurant that tried to be authentically either, but I became really excited about the prospect of making one restaurant that drew from both."

AL's Deli offers four basic entree bases, each of which can be served as a salad or pita sandwich. Here, the spiced chicken shawarma finds a home among sumac onions, cucumbers, tomatoes, pickles, and a few sauces (garlic, tahini, and hummus) and a sprinkling of the Middle Eastern herb blend, schug.
AL's Deli offers four basic entree bases, each of which can be served as a salad or pita sandwich. Here, the spiced chicken shawarma finds a home among sumac onions, cucumbers, tomatoes, pickles, and a few sauces (garlic, tahini, and hummus) and a sprinkling of the Middle Eastern herb blend, schug. (Sarah Chorey)

Still not getting it? Think Souvla, only more interesting, with lots of toppings, condiments, and sides that will keep you trying different combinations with every visit.

Made to grab-and-go en route to Dolores Park, this pita sandwich has tender, thick pieces of smokey brisket, crumbles of hard-boiled egg, chili cabbage slaw, a few french fries, and mustard. (Sarah Chorey)

The space is also delightfully cheery, with two-story windows streaming natural light and decor in shades of baby pink and blue, some leafy plants, teal tile work, and light-hearted bubbly light fixtures. AL's Deli gets bonus points for proximity to Dolores Park.

Inside, crisp white contrasts against teal walls for a carefree, youthful ambiance.
Inside, crisp white contrasts against teal walls for a carefree, youthful ambiance. (Sarah Chorey)

This article originally appeared on 7x7 Bay Area.

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