Wise Sons, the Jewish deli pop-up from Evan Bloom and Leo Beckerman, debuted last Saturday at Jackie's Vinoteca, part of Off the Grid: McCoppin Hub. Though they're both from Southern California, Bloom and Beckerman met as undergrads at U.C. Berkeley, then veered off into different career paths, Bloom in local construction management, Beckerman at a D.C. nonprofit. SFoodie caught up with them this week after their Wise Sons launch with one big question on our mind: Is San Francisco ready for a Jewish deli?
SFoodie: What inspired you to open a deli?
Beckerman: We started making meals for our friends in college at the Berkeley Hillel House, beginning with a kosher Southern barbecue dinner for 250 people, then Chinese, then Creole. We knew that we loved to cook and we were more excited about these meals than classes.
Bloom: We couldn't get good pastrami up here so we looked to make our own … but a recipe for pastrami really doesn't exist.
Beckerman: So we started tinkering around on our own and trying to create a pastrami. Slowly we went from, “This isn't so bad,” to, “Hey, this tastes like pastrami!” We test-drove it one night on my family in L.A. and it was gone the next day: They had picked away at it, and I woke up to my uncle using the last scraps to make pastrami and eggs. We knew that we were on to something.
Bloom: Yeah, that's when I first thought to myself, “This is real, this is happening.” At around the same time, I volunteered to help with the physical layout of the first La Cocina street-food festival and became friends with [executive director] Caleb Zigas and started discussing business ideas with him ― we would be six months to a year behind without La Cocina. Caleb helped us develop a business plan, even providing templates on which to write it. We owe everything to La Cocina … we consult with them so much still. I also spent a lot of time recently in New York, just eating tons of deli at places like Second Avenue Deli and Barney Greengrass. I hung out for hours with Noah Berminoff at Mile End and so many of the things he said that they do were in line with our ideas. It made us feel more comfortable with what we were trying to do.