The Jew And The Carrot

Shorty's Deli Comes Up Short in San Francisco

By Renee Ghert-Zand

  • Print
  • Share Share
Renee Ghert-Zand

I recently ate lunch with some family members at Shorty Goldstein’s and was overwhelmed…by the vinegar. I’m afraid that if chef and owner Michael Siegel doesn’t change some things at his new deli in San Francisco’s financial district, he’s going to be in a real pickle.

When I spoke to Siegel in December of last year, as he was working on opening his restaurant (really, more of a lunch counter), he told me that he would serve lots of Jewish deli classics, but that he would add his own, contemporary California-style twists to them. “It will be a mix between tradition and my style, which is a little nouveau,” he said.

The problem I found is that these changes Siegel has made are detracting from the authentic deli food that he is doing right. The biggest issue is his pickles. All you get when you eat them is an overpowering bite of vinegar. The vegetables’ natural flavors are lost, and there are no discernable spices.

This was especially so with the pickled strawberries (which came on a pickle plate with asparagus and fava beans). The pickled cucumber that came with our pastrami sandwich was bland and had only a vinegar-y note. There are perhaps things that can be updated, but it is ill advised to tinker with kosher dills. (When someone patronizes a Jewish deli, they expect a traditional sour or half-sour pickle bursting with garlic flavor.)

On the other hand, Siegel’s pastrami, which he cures and smokes himself, was delicious, if a bit too peppery. It’s just too bad there wasn’t more of it. There wasn’t much meat for $12.00, and there wasn’t much holding together the meat, either. What was supposedly rye bread (baked by the local Cinderella Bakery), was more like a fluffy white or potato bread. Rather than keeping the sandwich together, the overly soft slices almost disintegrated in your hands.

Not usually a fan of chopped liver, I was surprised to find that Siegel’s version of it (actually, it’s his grandmother’s recipe) was very good. It was very light and airy, with the consistency of a paté, and the liver flavor was muted nicely by the egg and caramelized onion mixed in. It was served with the same “rye” bread, but this time toasted — a smart move. I only wished that the pickled fennel served had instead been caramelized onions, a more traditional choice.

With no other Jewish deli in the immediate area, Shorty Goldstein’s has a shot of making it. Its staff is friendly and helpful, and the Siegel gets the orders out to the rushed lunch crowd within minutes (often serving the food himself and taking the time to shmooze with the customers).

On one wall is a huge diagram of Siegel’s family tree, on which appear the names of all the traditional Jewish cooks who have inspired him. If he wants Shorty Goldstein’s to take root, he might want to consider sticking a bit closer to their original recipes.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: deli, san francisco

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!
  • At which grade level should classroom discussions include topics like the death of civilians kidnapping of young Israelis and sirens warning of incoming rockets?
  • Wanted: Met Council CEO.
  • “Look, on the one hand, I understand him,” says Rivka Ben-Pazi, a niece of Elchanan Hameiri, the boy that Henk Zanoli saved. “He had a family tragedy.” But on the other hand, she said, “I think he was wrong.” What do you think?
  • How about a side of Hitler with your spaghetti?
  • Why "Be fruitful and multiply" isn't as simple as it seems:
  • William Schabas may be the least of Israel's problems.
  • You've heard of the #IceBucketChallenge, but Forward publisher Sam Norich has something better: a #SoupBucketChallenge (complete with matzo balls!) Jon Stewart, Sarah Silverman & David Remnick, you have 24 hours!
  • Did Hamas just take credit for kidnapping the three Israeli teens?
  • "We know what it means to be in the headlines. We know what it feels like when the world sits idly by and watches the news from the luxury of their living room couches. We know the pain of silence. We know the agony of inaction."
  • When YA romance becomes "Hasidsploitation":
  • "I am wrapping up the summer with a beach vacation with my non-Jewish in-laws. They’re good people and real leftists who try to live the values they preach. This was a quality I admired, until the latest war in Gaza. Now they are adamant that American Jews need to take more responsibility for the deaths in Gaza. They are educated people who understand the political complexity, but I don’t think they get the emotional complexity of being an American Jew who is capable of criticizing Israel but still feels a deep connection to it. How can I get this across to them?"
  • “'I made a new friend,' my son told his grandfather later that day. 'I don’t know her name, but she was very nice. We met on the bus.' Welcome to Israel."
  • A Jewish female sword swallower. It's as cool as it sounds (and looks)!
  • Why did David Menachem Gordon join the IDF? In his own words: "The Israel Defense Forces is an army that fights for her nation’s survival and the absence of its warriors equals destruction from numerous regional foes. America is not quite under the threat of total annihilation… Simply put, I felt I was needed more in Israel than in the United States."
  • Leonard Fein's most enduring legacy may be his rejection of dualism: the idea that Jews must choose between assertiveness and compassion, between tribalism and universalism. Steven M. Cohen remembers a great Jewish progressive:
  • 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.