Wise Sons Jewish Delicatessen
3150 24th Street San Francisco, CA 94110 (map); 415-787-3354; wisesonsdeli.com
Cooking Method: Griddled
Short Order: Looks like a burger, tastes like a Reuben
Want Fries with That? Comes with rich and creamy potato salad or coleslaw; add on fries for an extra $1.50, or for $7 get the pastrami cheese fries, a heavenly concoction of fries topped with smoky pastrami covered with copious amounts of Swiss
Price: Deli Burger, $10; w/Swiss, +$1; w/fried egg, chopped liver, or crispy pastrami, +$1.50; w/fries, +$1.50
Notes: Open Wed. to Fri., 8 a.m. - 3 p.m.; Sat. and Sun., 9 a.m. - 3 p.m.
Unlike New Yorkers, San Franciscans do not have a wide selection of Jewish delis to satiate our cravings for Matzo ball soup or thick slices of flavorful brined and smoked meats. Yeah, there are more options in Berkeley, but, well, that's Berkeley, and I live in San Francisco.
Thankfully, we now have Wise Sons, a wonderful Jewish-style deli on the busy 24th Street corridor. They make challah, rye, and chocolate babka, as well as brine and smoke their own meats in-house. Since I live nearby, I've begun to make a habit of consuming mass quantities of their smoked or cured fish products, like the smoked trout salad, easily the best kind of fish salad I've ever had.
The place is pretty bustling on the weekends and is only open till 3 p.m., Wednesday to Sunday. You place your order at the counter, then with your number in hand, try to find a table. If you're lucky you can get the big one by the window for some good people-watching with your meal.
The Deli Burger ($10) is a six-ounce patty of ground chuck mixed with pastrami. It comes on a homemade challah bun that is pillowy soft and studded with caraway and flecks of sea salt. Under the patty is a generous amount of deli mustard followed by several large pieces of fresh, crisp iceberg lettuce, zesty red onions, and their housemade relish. Melted atop the patty is a generous amount of tangy Swiss and their housemade beet horseradish spread.
I wasn't asked how I wanted my burger cooked, but it came out medium/medium well and was juicy—not dripping-on-the-plate juicy, but maybe that had something to do with the fact that it was a blend of 2/3 beef and 1/3 pastrami. The meat was well salted and had a coarsely ground, loose pack, but most of beefiness was overpowered by the pastrami's salty, smoky flavors. The tangy melted Swiss, spicy deli mustard, and beet spread combined with the pastrami really made this burger taste more like a Reuben than a burger. I'd say this burger falls into the category of novelty burger—a very good novelty burger, but one that doesn't scratch that itch for beefy burger flavor like, say, JJ's burger at Mojo Café.
My only complaint about the burger was how much lettuce was on it. It was fresh and crisp, adding a nice crunch to the overall texture, but it was relatively flavorless and created a slip-n-slide effect for all of the other toppings.This led me to abandon my normal style of sandwich eating, and instead deconstruct the burger, wrapping the soft and oh-so-delicious challah bun that was either covered in mustard or beet spread around the remaining pieces of meat. The beet spread was creamy and fairly mild on the beet flavor, but it was a great addition to the whole package and would have made a great dipping sauce for fries.
With the burger I got a side of potato salad (the other complimentary option was coleslaw, but you can also get fries for $1.50 extra), a container of pickled serrano peppers, and three of their salt brined-sour pickles. The potato salad was rich and creamy, with Yukon gold potatoes, chives, parsley, dill, capers, and celery. I didn't put the serranos on my burger, fearing that they would be overpowering, but to my surprise they were milder than expected. Next time, they're going on the burger. The pickles were crisp and fresh tasting, with just the right amount of saltiness.
If you like burgers and Reubens then you will love this burger. Just make sure you pull off that extra layer of lettuce, and don't be afraid of those serranos.