A Jew and a Gentile Journey to Find the Perfect Jewish Deli

taken by Bix Archer '15

Wise Son’s French toast
photo by Bix Archer

Danya, a daughter of Abraham, and Bix, Danya’s shiksa friend, decided to brave the foggy streets of their hometown to find a Jewish deli that fulfilled their desire for some spiritual snacks. Hanukkah was approaching and lighted menorahs and latkes were dancing happily in Danya’s mind. Before they headed out from Danya’s kitchen, the explorers poured through the pages of the recent, brilliant collection of photos and recipes from another great city. Jerusalem: A Cookbook explores the glory and unifying power of food for two other friends, both celebrity chefs, from sometimes oppositional cultures, Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi.  Ottolenghi and Tamimi grew up in divided Jerusalem, Ottolenghi on the Jewish side and Tamimi on the Arab side.  Reading of the coalescence of culture through food inspired Danya and Bix to see the eateries they visited (Max’s Opera House Café, Wise Sons Jewish Delicatessen and Moishe’s Pippic) as parts of a greater community, one that brings together Jews and gentiles to share great food.


Taken by Bix Archer '15

Moishe’s pastrami sandwich
photo by Bix Archer

Essential in celebrating the culture of a cuisine are the words of the tradition. Danya and Bix decided to include a word bank of useful Yiddish words at the end of this article. You can use these catchy phrases to insult, to impress and to feel twice as cultured as you actually are!

Sending our libn (love) and freylekh (happy) holiday wishes! May you be inscribed in the book of life!

Here are Danya’s and Bix’s assessments from their deli adventure:

Max’s Opera House Café

Address: 601 Van Ness Ave.

Phone Number: (415) 771-7300

Taken by Bix Archer '15

Moishe’s matzoh ball soup
photo by Bix Archer

Health Score: 83/100

Hours: M-Th: 11 am – 10 pm, Fri: 11 am – 11pm, Sat: 10 am – 11 pm, Sun: 10 am – 10 pm

Take-Out: Yes

Delivery: No

What to Order (Best dishes):

• Niagara Falls Cake

• Max ‘n’ Cheese

• Matzoh ball soup

• Barbeque pork sliders

What We Ordered:

• Matzoh ball soup

• Hamburger Max

Ambiance: swanky without the formality (perfect place to come eat after services)

Decor:  Black “snake leather” chairs and booths, black-and-white color scheme, chandeliers, a baby grand piano and a large bar replete with many drinks to suit all your needs.

Good for Groups: Yes

Good for Kids/Young People: Yes, but most diners are older couples or families. Take your Bubbe and Zayde here for a Shabbas dinner!

Noise Level: 3/5

Service: Friendly and fast

Cost: roughly $15 a person

Rating Overall: ⭑⭑⭑

Jewishness: ✡✡

Our food was good, but not stunning. The matzoh ball soup was slightly peppery, with a very strong broth: definitely a comfort food. Portion sizes were average, although Bix was unable to finish the soup. The hamburger, according to Danya, was “well cooked and succulent, with a well toasted bun made of nice bread.” Fries were thick-cut and well done (the crispy ones, not the gross, soggy, dense ones). The waiter brought us free bread rolls (one raisin, one plain) and continuously checked in to refill our water glasses and ask how we were doing. The restaurant is well stocked in different types of mustard and self-promotional napkins (in case you get some schmutz on your beautiful face)!


Wise Sons

Address: 3150 24th St.
Phone Number: (415) 787-3354

Health score: 100/100

Hours: Wed-Fri: 8am – 3pm, Sat-Sun: 9am – 3pm

Take-Out: Yes

Delivery: No

What to Order (Best Dishes):

• Matzoh ball soup

• Chinese chicken salad

• Noodle kugel

What We Ordered:

• Challah French toast

• Matzoh ball soup

Ambience: homey, warm, friendly (smells like your Bubbe’s kitchen!)

Decor: Decorated with Jewish newspapers and old Jewish photographs; writing above the door reads “In America You Eat Challah Every Day.” Food is ordered at the counter, and wooden tables, chairs and benches line the left wall (the space is relatively small and usually crowded with people).

Good for Groups: Hard to fit everyone but groups less than 6 can usually find a space (couples and groups of 3 or 4 are ideal)

Good for Kids/Young People: Yes

Noise Level: 3/5

Service: A little long (due to the number of customers), but not too much of a wait

Cost: $15

Rating overall: ⭑⭑⭑⭑

Jewishness: ✡✡✡✡

The French Toast was delightfully crunchy and warm; homemade butter and warm apple slices added a pleasant tang. Danya believes it was “the best French toast” she’s ever had. The matzoh ball soup was very light, much more so than the soup at Max’s. The broth needed a little salt and pepper, but beyond that it was delicious. Portion sizes were average.  Between the decor and the noodle kugel, Wise Son’s had a much more authentic Jewish feel than did Max’s. However, it did not receive 5/5 Stars of David because the customer base was not the “real deal”; you might not hear Yiddish spoken here, but you can close your eyes and pretend.


Moishe’s Pippic

Address: 425 Hayes Street

Phone Number: (415) 431-2440

Health Score: 89/100

Hours: Mon-Sat: 10 am – 6 pm

Take-Out: Yes

Delivery: No

What to Order (Best Dishes):

• Matzoh ball soup

• Hot pastrami sandwich

• Chopped liver

What We Ordered:

• Matzoh ball soup

• Hot pastrami sandwich

Ambiance: Very straightforward, classic

Decor:  Chicago paraphernalia: sports banners, hot dog advertisements, street signs, travel posters.

Good for Groups: No (1-3 people best)

Good for Kids/Young People: No

Noise Level: 2/5

Service: fast

Cost: $12

Rating Overall: ⭑⭑⭑

Jewishness: ✡✡✡✡✡

Moishe’s feels just the way a Jewish deli should feel. We ordered our food at the counter and paid after eating, on the way out the door. The sandwiches were chock-full of meat to the point where it was nearly impossible to bite into them. (For $10 a sandwich, Moishe’s advertises that “you get what you pay for”—this is certainly true.) Sandwiches came with a pickle or macaroni and cheese. The mustard was nice and spicy. The matzoh ball soup was very hearty, with a strong chicken broth. Moishe’s is definitely not hip like Wise Son’s nor jazzy like Max’s. Moishe’s is packed with construction workers in their overalls, and quite obviously a place to get food, not a place to spend time. That being said, the servers were charming, the food was delectable and we would like to go back.


More on Jerusalem

Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi explores the Muslim, Jewish and Christian cuisine in their hometown. Ottolenghi, a Jewish chef who owns the wildly popular Ottolenghi deli in the Notting Hill area in London, was born in Jerusalem and trained at Le Cordon Bleu before moving to England. Tamimi, the Muslim half of the duo, lived in the Old City in Jerusalem before relocating to Tel Aviv and working at the restaurant Lilith. He moved to London in 1997 (the same time as Ottolenghi) and met his future partner at the food shop Baker & Spice.

This October, Ottolenghi and Tamimi sat down with NPR to discuss Jerusalem. The duo talked about discovering their similarities despite growing up in two separate worlds. As most Israeli discussions do, the interview turned to the topic of hummus. Ottolenghi described how hummus is everyone’s favorite food in Jerusalem—a “formula for an explosion.” Ottolenghi continued to say that food is what brings the Palestinians and Jews together. “The only place people interact,” he says, “is when they go to the market, when they go shopping and in restaurants where people occasionally sit side by side and eat—or in restaurant kitchens, where they cook together. And in that respect,” he concluded, “there is much more in common.”

If this is true, Jerusalem has the potential to bring together two warring communities under a common love: food. Ottolenghi certainly believes so: “If there was a way to solve a problem…it would be around food, around a plate of hummus, and nothing else.”

Authors’ Note:

Unfortunately, Moishe’s Pippic, one of our most highly rated Jewish delis, closed for business this week. Though it will be a grand loss to the Jewish community, it will remain fondly in our memories.

Bix and Danya


graph by Danya Rubenstein-Markiewicz '15 and Bix Archer '15

graph by Danya Rubenstein-Markiewicz ’15 and Bix Archer ’15

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