Very few “new” restaurants come to the Pacific Heights neighborhood of San Francisco (two open in the Mission or SoMa for every one that closes there). So, I was a little excited to eat at the California Street Delicatessen & Cafe today for lunch. While I can’t say that I am a hardcore fan of Jewish home cooking (soul food), I enjoy a good matzoh ball soup or some noodle kugel every once and awhile.
The restaurant itself is not exactly new. It’s an evolved version of Sydney’s Home restaurant located at the Jewish Community Center. In fact, the location at California and Presidio has been split into two restaurants: one with the traditional food and another pan-asian place called the (415) Asian Restaurant and Lounge (for the street address and not the SF area code). The backstory can be found by reading this Chronicle article dated January 4th, 2006.
The deli (and cafe) has nice, clean decor with the black and white look. I took a bar seat to do some people watching on California street but the inside is pleasant. Just like Sydney’s, the place is well-suited for bringing the kids. For late lunch at 1PM, the place was half-full.
I had a half sandwich of pastrami on rye and a chicken soup with cole slaw. Having been to Carnegie Deli in New York and even Max’s Opera Cafe in SF, I was counting on rather large portions but was disappointed. The pastrami (fatty, but I assume that’s the way it is supposed to be) was warm and delicious. The soup was flavorful and had nicely torn pieces of chicken. The cole slaw was light and sweet.
But for eight dollars, it doesn’t add up. Noah’s Bagel would charge under six for the same meal, albeit without the sit-down location. Max’s Opera Cafe would provide twice the amount of food for a dollar more. While I like the smaller portions, I would hesistate to pay for it again. Adding on $3.50 for an iced tea (with refills) really killed it, though.
Service was pleasant but had a slip ups. The soup arrived without a spoon. The iced tea arrived without sugar/artificial sweetner. My plate wasn’t cleared before the check arrived. There was no one to seat me at the door.
Overall, I enjoyed the experience but the price seemed to dampen my spirits. Nevertheless, the place should be a hit with gym-goers and Pacific Heights baby-toting mothers.