Wise Sons is a Jewish Delicatessen that opened to some fanfare last year and has been packing in the crowds ever since. They've even expanded to takeover the cafe space at the Contemporary Jewish Museum downtown, something I think is a genius fit and convenient. Hopefully someday they will be able to do their full menu there till then, there's the original location at 24th and Shotwell.
This drag of 24th street just off the Mission District has become a hotbed of funky new restaurants that scream to be tried. For me it's a looonnnggg ride on the 12 Folsom bus to get there so I don't get there often. On this particular day I decided to make the haul there and check out Wise Sons, hoping it wouldn't be too crowded. Fortunately it was manageable so I popped in and perused the menu. From brisket to matzo to lox it has all the basics of a New York deli with dashes of Jewish comfort food as the two founders call it. I wanted to try a number of things and picked the weekday special which would give me a sampling of 1/2 a sandwich, a bowl of matzo soup and a side of my choice.
I got the corned beef on rye, side of cole slaw, housemade pickles and that matzo ball soup. The slaw was a tri-color mix of carrots, cabbage and purple cabbage. It combined both mayo and a little vinegar and I'm sure a dash or sugar to give it a tangy sweetness that I like. This version wasn't drowning in mayo and I thought it was spot on tasty. Rye bread is not one of my favorites, I think the flavor can be harsh and off-putting but I liked most of this one. It was more like a light rye, not overpowering and the bread was pleasantly soft. The crust, however, was a tad on the hard side, possible it may have been sitting out all day. The corned beef for the most part was tender, juicy and fatty like a good one should be. Though parts of it, where the fat meets the meat, were chewy and sinewy. Not totally awful but enough of a distraction to make it worth mentioning, though it wouldn't keep from getting this again. Props too for having that good, hearty brown deli mustard on the tables to use at your delight and for me it goes well on these kinds of sandwiches. The soups is your basic chicken noodle with plenty of sliced carrots, thin short noodles and pulled pieces of chicken (dark and white) in a light chicken broth flavored with dill. The dill addition I enjoyed, one of my favorite spices. I did think there wasn't much else flavor wise in the soup and felt it needed salt and pepper just to ramp it up a bit, good that I could add these on my own. Plopped down into this rather large bowl of soup is a matzo ball. This was quite a large mass airy dough with a consistency somewhere between grainy and crumbly, like a boiled/steamed dough. I asked around that day and this is a really good version of a matzo ball. For my own personal taste buds, I wavered between sort of liking it and not really liking the matzo meal flavor and the odd texture. I don't feel I can really criticize this since it's a soup I do not normally eat, so I'll just let you rely on the comments of others that if you like like matzo ball soup, then this is a really quality version of it. This soup, slaw, sandwich daily deal is $12 which in SF is a good bargain. Even though I didn't finish all my soup, I still decided to treat myself to some dessert and got a slice of chocolate babka.
This was a flaky, buttery, chocolate delight. Rolled layers of dough with swirls of dark chocolate make this a dessert to savor. I found myself just peeling off layers to pop into my mouth. It's not as soft as say a croissant, just a bit more crumbly, but still a butter and chocolate besotted mound to eat slowly and enjoy. They serve a big piece for $3.50 a pop that's easy enough to share or if you are like me, hoard as your own. As is, this was a winner of a dessert and a great topper to the meal. It would be even better heated up just a bit and then add a scoop of ice cream from Humphrey Slocumbs, which is just down the street.
For those who want tradition and flavors of East Coast Delis but with a West Coast twist and feel you should definitely give Wise Sons a try. If you want the full menu you'll need to hit up the 24th street location. To try a sampling of their favorites you can hit up smaller spots at the Ferry Plaza Building or the Jewish Museum of Contemporary Art. Trust ya' mother, would she steer you wrong?