Hanukkah in the Bay Area: a Festival of Bites

Hanukkah starts on Christmas Eve next year, which is delightfully convenient to me as a Scandinavian Jew. This year, however, has Hanukkah beginning on Sunday, Dec. 6, so you better start planning your meals out now.

Fortunately for those of us who can’t make it out to Florida or New York to celebrate with our bubbes, a handful of San Francisco restaurants are making sure we can mask our guilt with traditional and innovative Jewish recipes.

[jump] Alta CA – HOLLA!
There’s no need to pretend we’re living in a kosher food haven, because that would simply be untrue, but Alta CA deserves a big mazel tov for taking the extra step to intertwine their San Francisco foodie spirit with the flavors that take us back to the old country we’ve heard so much about. Holla!, Alta's brunch pop-up — which for you gentiles is a play on challah, a delicious braided bread — bookends the week of Hanukkah with meals and cocktails inspired by favorite Jewish dishes, including the gloriously tongue-tying Choc-o-holla-ic French Toast. Catch if on both weekends, Dec. 5-6 and 12-13, from 10 a.m. – 2:30 p.m.
1420 Market, 415-590-2585.

Delfina
Delfina is doing it right with Hanukkah this year, celebrating for the entire week of the holiday (Dec. 6-13) with special dishes. Hanukkah-inspired items include everything bagel latkes with pastrami-cured gravlax, fried in duck fat and topped with crème fraîche and salmon roe. They’ll also keep up the tradition of serving traditional potato latkes with apple-quince compote, which let’s face it, is 75 percent of the reason we eat latkes anyway.
3621 18th St., 415-552-4055.

Wise Sons
San Francisco’s staple in Jewish cuisine meeting your Hanukkah needs is as sure a thing as my dad telling me to reconsider being a writer and pursue accounting instead. They will be offering Hanukkah catering services with a Hanukkah-specific menu, which yes, includes latkes. However, I’m drooling thinking about their matzah ball soup and noodle kugel.
3150 24th St., 415-787-DELI.

Smoke’s Poutinerie
The Bay Area’s own poutine-exclusive restaurant is showing their Canadian niceness with the Chriswankah, an aggregated holiday dish that is impossible to be offended by, unless you’re vegetarian, since it has chicken and gravy. Hanukkah establishes its presence in the form of potato latkes (!!!) with applesauce atop the more traditional gravy and cheese curds poutine setup.
2518 Durant, Unit A, Berkeley. 510-540-7500.

Saul’s Restaurant and Deli
This East Bay deli is a favorite of my great grandparents, so you know it’s good. For Hanukkah you can order latkes (as their site mentions, “yes, we always have latkes”), and take home babka, sufganiyot, matzah ball soup, sugar cookies, and all your other childhood favorites. If you’ve never had Jewish food before, this would be a good time and place to start.
1475 Shattuck, Berkeley. 510-848-DELI.

Locanda
If you aren’t tired of potato pancakes yet, or you’re reading this list out of order, then head to Locanda to try their latkes served with apple-quince compote and crème fraîche. Their regular menu includes a delicious Jewish artichoke, which is named for its origins in the Roman Jewish ghettos, though it holds no modern religious relevance. The quality of recent artichoke crops has forced them to temporarily pull the dish, but perhaps we will witness a Hanukkah miracle and see them back on the menu soon.
557 Valencia, 415-863-6800.

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