wise sons

5 April 2013
3150 24th Street
San Francisco, CA

Atmosphere: It was only a matter of time, but yes: Artisan, hipster deli is here. In the Mission, no less. Tiny space. Tiny menu. Waxed mustaches abound. New-school hipster staff. No one over the age of 40, by all appearances. And yet, despite all of this, it kind of feels like a deli.
Attitude: No table service, so difficult to judge. The young woman who took our order looked like she maybe met a Jewish person once. She was very friendly. Booooooooo.
Food [general]: They say they make “everything” on the premises. This is big. I only confirmed the challah specifically, which is still impressive, but I’m curious where that “everything” actually ends. The chocolate babka was amazing. So dense yet incredibly moist. Possibly the best I’ve had. True to the hipster slant, no egg salad sandwich offered, but the veggie reuben (smoked trumpet mushrooms) was pretty damn good. Fries appeared to be of the in-n-out mushy “natural” variety, so i passed entirely. Potato salad was good – better than most served at the 12 delis reviewed thus far.
Pickles: Hands down, one of the best pickles I’ve ever had. Perfectly crispy and just the right amount of brine (for my tastes – I like them less sour than most people). I only wish they sold jars of ’em.
Dr. Brown’s black cherry: Looks like another anti-high-fructose joint (I’m looking at you, Saul’s), so I had to settle for the hipster Boylan brand black cherry soda. OK, but not the same. Actually seems less carbonated, and I love carbonation.Summary: Through the hipster sheen, Wise Sons actually delivers some damn fine Jewish deli. You can’t deny the freshness and quality of the food, the care and attention to detail that goes into each offering. When it comes down to it, if you make your food onsite (and it tastes like it), you’re already beating the majority of Jewish delis in the Bay Area (sadly enough). I feel confident in saying that Wise Sons has catapulted itself into the number two spot in The Bay (behind Miller’s East). And it’s a pretty close second.

Atmosphere: The line out the door is misleading: if you’re fifth in line, you pretty much get squeezed out onto the sidewalk. So while Wise Sons presents as voluptuously in demand, there’s some WonderBra going on. And artifice is all but on the menu. There is so much “old world” hat tipping here, one wonders if the hat ever actually rests on the head. But then pandering to nostalgia is nothing new, and altogether inoffensive. A big, bored round of applause for Copperplate Gothic and button-cute slogans from imaginary yesteryears (“Quality. Cleanliness. Service.”).
Attitude: Personnel were pleasant and forgettable, like the food.
Food [general]: I ordered the #19, which is presumably named for the legendary #19 at Langer’s in L.A., and is configured identically: hand-sliced pastrami, swiss, russian dressing, and coleslaw on rye. The invocation of Langer’s without actually mentioning Langer’s put kind of a sad, trying-too-hard pallor on the meal. They shouldn’t have mentioned what they’re emulating. And indeed, eating Wise Sons’ quote-unquote #19 felt like watching a high school production of Shakespeare: the “attaboy” overwhelms any hope of taking in the art. The sandwich tasted like trying: more suspension of disbelief than consumption of delicious beef. The pastrami had a nice texture, but lacked any particular flavor. Not a huge loss though, if we’re talking volume: this “#19” was about half the height of its generous namesake. the blend of elements – meat, cheese, dressing, slaw – was tasteful, if unadventurous. Everything was put together with the same sort of cautious “just so”-ness of the menu. It was the kind of sandwich that isn’t good enough to make you forget how unhealthy it probably is. And in my own case, I opted to push the plate away after half. Took the rest to go, but then threw it away, still warm.
Pickles: Too green for me.
Summary: I’d actually go again, if nearby and craving something deli-like. It seems like they want to do something special, and hopefully that will happen. But for the moment, Wise Sons is about as sense-inflaming as a perfume sample in Redbook.