Last January, SFoodie talked with college friends turned business partners Leo Beckerman and Evan Bloom during the infancy of their Jewish deli pop-up, Wise Sons. During the interview, Beckerman mentioned that he hoped Wise Sons would someday be "a brick-and-mortar operation in the Mission with maybe 30 seats." One year later, Wise Sons has exactly that in their brand new digs on 24th Street. We sat down with Bloom at the end of business after Wise Sons' fourth day of operations to catch up on food, friendship, and high expectations.
SFoodie: Early on, what's been your most pleasant surprise?
Bloom: How receptive the neighborhood has been. Friday (opening day) especially was a neighborhood crowd. We don't want to be too swamped for the locals. Even though we've had long waits, most people have been really patient and happy. I'm mostly cooking, but I've still had the chance to ask as many customers as I can how their food was. We only have 30 seats now, but we just got our permit to add outside tables, so that will add another eight.
Have there been any initial struggles?
We get people who come by and ask "how can you charge so much for a pastrami sandwich? It should be $6." We try to explain what goes into it. We're baking our own bread, which they can see in the window, and smoking our own meats. You can quote me when I tell you that we actually don't make any money on our meat sandwiches; only the other stuff.
In just one year of business operating only five hours each week, you've received an enormous amount of local and national press, including numerous mentions from the New York Times. Now that you're a full-fledged restaurant, do you worry about not being able to live up to the hype?
Definitely. I realize that we got cut a lot of slack because we were a start-up. My fear now is running out of food! There'a lot of pressure to make enough food! I don't want to be known as the place that always runs out of popular items. At the same time, I don't know yet what people will buy. With that hype, people are expecting the best now that it's the real deal. When I see people leaving after finishing their meal, I'm holding my breath because I want to hear "It was really great."
Also, we want to keep the familial feeling going. We built this on Leo and I being the known owners, because that's what deli is about. We love it when customers recognize us, and even more when their children recognize us, and we hope that continues in the new space.
Speaking of Leo, how has being in business together affected your friendship? Is it different than it used to be?
The more we do this, the less time we have to hang out. We're only together at the business. We only talk about the business. We get frustrated with each other multiple times each day. But we came in knowing that we have a strong friendship, and it's still very strong.
What have been the early customer favorites? Anything you're already thinking about adding to the menu?
So far, we've gotten really good feedback on the pastrami fries, the pastrami burger and the pastrami bread pudding, which we only did once as a special. Eventually, I would love to have blintzes on the brunch menu. Maybe also bring back the babke French toast as an occasional special. And down the road, we'd like to stay open for dinner, first
just serving the same menu at night but eventually adding some traditional basics, like a solid, delicious roast brisket with potato kugel. Honestly? We'd love to introduce jellied calves feet to San Francisco. Real old Jewish cookbook stuff.
Are you already having ambitions beyond the restaurant?
We'd love to have a separate baking facility and maybe a central commissary space. But we don't even know how busy we'll be in six months. Right now, we're the new kids on the block. Some of this is fleeting.
Wise Sons Jewish Delicatessen, 3150 24th St. (at Shotwell), 787-3544.