The Jew And The Carrot

From the Fillmore to Farmers' Markets – Jewish Food in San Francisco

By Renee Ghert-Zand

  • Print
  • Share Share

Visitors to San Francisco today would find it hard to believe that there were once three kosher restaurants, four Jewish bakeries, five kosher meat markets, and three Jewish delicatessens in the city. In fact, they were all within a two square-block area known as the Fillmore, once referred to as the Lower East Side of San Francisco.

However, the post-WWII exodus of Jews to the suburbs North, East and South of the city eventually left the area without an identifiably Jewish neighborhood or serious demand for kosher food. The Bay Area’s Jewish population is now the third largest in the United States (behind those of New York and Los Angeles), but its extremely low rate of community affiliation has dashed the hopes of anyone who had anticipated a new incarnation of the Fillmore.

A perk for many of the Jews who may have moved westward, has been the area’s well-known culture of organic and sustainable agriculture and locally-sourced cuisine. The region, with few kosher food businesses, is a challenging place to live or visit for those who keep strictly kosher. But, the new food movement (Jewish and general) and eco-kashrut have unsurprisingly taken firm root here, as is evidenced by major events such as the annual Hazon Food Conference, the Slow Food Nation Conference, and the Street Food Conference, which draw foodies from far and wide to San Francisco.

Best Kosher Meal: You can pick up a snack or light repast at a number of kosher places in the Bay Area, but if it is fine fleishig dining that you desire, then your only choice is The Kitchen Table about an hour south of San Francisco (you won’t be disappointed). Situated in the heart of Silicon Valley, the restaurant’s seasonally fresh menu attracts not only kashrut-observant families, but also the engineers and executives at local companies like Google, Apple, Yahoo and Facebook. What more, the food is prepared with not only care, but also comedy. Frum Satire’s Heshy Fried works in the kitchen as a line cook and mashgiach.

Best Underground Foodie Experience: It’s a fleeting experience, but it’s worth it. You need to get yourself on the right email distribution list, follow the right Tweets or “like” the right Facebook page, to know exactly when The Pop-Up General Store is going to next, well, pop up in Oakland, just across the Bay. This transient market, which is set up in an old streetcar terminal and is open only once every month or so for a mere two hours, plays host to 20 or so highly regarded chefs (almost all trained at one time or another in the kitchen of Alice Waters’ famed Chez Panisse). The chefs offer their specialty products, everything from boudin blanc sausages to bronze-cut rigatoni to artisanal breads to sticky toffee pudding and fleur de sel caramels, for sale.

Best Vegetarian Meal: It is not hard to find vegetarian cuisine in the Bay Area, but there are three restaurants that are consistently at the top of most discerning local vegetarians’ lists. Greens Restaurant, on the northern edge of the city, has been a longtime favorite for locally sourced vegetarian cuisine with Mediterranean, Mexican and American Southwest influences.

Many vegetarians prefer the downtown organic restaurant Millennium, which eschews genetically modified foods and practices composting. “Everything there is a taste sensation… the food melts in your mouth,” said one Jewish patron recently of the restaurant’s world cuisine-inspired seasonal harvest and raw food menus.

For those willing to venture north to Napa, there is the celebrated community-focused restaurant and yoga studio, Ubuntu, which has been awarded one Michelin star for 2011.

Best Foodie Site: Perhaps the greatest advantage of being a foodie in Northern California is the easy access to a wide variety of organic fresh fruits and vegetables year-round. There’s no need to worry that by oversleeping Sunday morning you’ve missed your chance to get to the farmer’s market for the week, there’s one every day. Visitors to downtown San Francisco on a Tuesday, Thursday or Saturday should be sure to stop by the popular Ferry Plaza Farmer’s Market right outside the city’s historic Ferry Building, which itself is home to many artisanal food vendors and several restaurants.

Best Bagel: For Bay Area ex-New Yorkers and visitors from the East Coast who can’t survive without their daily bagel and a schmeer fix, nothing is ever going to taste quite like an H&H bagel, but one bought at Izzy’s Brooklyn Bagels in Palo Alto comes pretty close. The names of the bagel flavors may be different than in New York (Izzy’s calls an “Everything” bagel a “Combo” bagel), but the high $1.05 per bagel price is the same.

Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: San Francisco, The Kitchen Table, Heshy Fried, Frum Satire, Fillmore, Farmer's Market, Bay Area

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.

Find us on Facebook!
  • Novelist Sayed Kashua finds it hard to write about the heartbreak of Gaza from the plush confines of Debra Winger's Manhattan pad. Tough to argue with that, whichever side of the conflict you are on.
  • "I’ve never bought illegal drugs, but I imagine a small-time drug deal to feel a bit like buying hummus underground in Brooklyn."
  • We try to show things that get less exposed to the public here. We don’t look to document things that are nice or that people would like. We don’t try to show this place as a beautiful place.”
  • A new Gallup poll shows that only 25% of Americans under 35 support the war in #Gaza. Does this statistic worry you?
  • “You will stomp us into the dirt,” is how her mother responded to Anya Ulinich’s new tragicomic graphic novel. Paul Berger has a more open view of ‘Lena Finkle’s Magic Barrel." What do you think?
  • PHOTOS: Hundreds of protesters marched through lower Manhattan yesterday demanding an end to American support for Israel’s operation in #Gaza.
  • Does #Hamas have to lose for there to be peace? Read the latest analysis by J.J. Goldberg.
  • This is what the rockets over Israel and Gaza look like from space:
  • "Israel should not let captives languish or corpses rot. It should do everything in its power to recover people and bodies. Jewish law places a premium on pidyon shvuyim, “the redemption of captives,” and proper burial. But not when the price will lead to more death and more kidnappings." Do you agree?
  •'s Allison Benedikt wrote that Taglit-Birthright Israel is partly to blame for the death of American IDF volunteer Max Steinberg. This is why she's wrong:
  • Israeli soldiers want you to buy them socks. And snacks. And backpacks. And underwear. And pizza. So claim dozens of fundraising campaigns launched by American Jewish and Israeli charities since the start of the current wave of crisis and conflict in Israel and Gaza.
  • The sign reads: “Dogs are allowed in this establishment but Zionists are not under any circumstances.”
  • Is Twitter Israel's new worst enemy?
  • More than 50 former Israeli soldiers have refused to serve in the current ground operation in #Gaza.
  • "My wife and I are both half-Jewish. Both of us very much felt and feel American first and Jewish second. We are currently debating whether we should send our daughter to a Jewish pre-K and kindergarten program or to a public one. Pros? Give her a Jewish community and identity that she could build on throughout her life. Cons? Costs a lot of money; She will enter school with the idea that being Jewish makes her different somehow instead of something that you do after or in addition to regular school. Maybe a Shabbat sing-along would be enough?"
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?

We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.