Much ado has been made of the new permanent home of Wise Sons -- the first Jewish deli in the Mission and, arguably, the only Jewish deli in San Francisco worth eating. The powerful but petite eatery’s proprietors, Evan Bloom and Leo Beckerman, have become local media darlings, featured everywhere from a fiery hot chef competition, to blogs, newspapers, and upcoming in Sunset magazine and perhaps on local TV show Dine and Dish. I myself, giddy after finding the long-craved 2nd Avenue Deli-quality eats of my people, gushed about them in this public love letter earlier this year.
But while the excitement of the experience has tongues wagging (mmmm…could we get some tongue on the menu, please?) what has not been fully explored is the uncompromising heritage and quality of the food. “We’re not a factory,” explains Beckerman. “We’re all about education -- keeping this food and this culture alive and sharing it. The level of attention and detail we put into our work,” -- brining and smoking the meat, baking the rye, preserving the pickles and jams, and making every single thing in-house from scratch or buying from top-quality local purveyors who do so -- “this is truly slow food. That’s what people deserve.”
Wise Sons interior. Photo by Stephanie Rosenbaum
Bloom and Beckerman grew dissatisfied with their careers in construction management (Bloom) and non-profit medical development (Beckerman), and came together because of their love for food. Through kitchen experimentation and recipe development, the menu is a continuing work in progress. Its influences come from a number of sources -- the glossy cookbooks of Joan Nathan and Secrets of a Jewish Baker, as well as spiral-bound DIY cookbooks from synagogues, Jewish community centers, temple sisterhoods and the like, “each featuring six different recipes for Matzo Ball Soup, all slightly different, as well as Mrs. Schmendrick’s Husband’s Favorite Soup,” says Beckerman.
The Wise Sons menu also owes a huge debt to Oliver, a family friend who was monumental in developing the house recipe for bialys (“Ollie’s Bialys,” quips Beckerman), as well as hand-written recipes on 3x5 index cards from Beckerman’s grandmother’s recipe file. “I went through that box with her before she passed away and asked her if I could take the ones I wanted. That was a nice passing on of recipes.”