As one place to get kosher food in the Bay Area gets ready to ride off into the sunset, the sun is rising on another one: the RoastShop restaurant in Palo Alto.
Located one block off University Avenue at 565 Bryant St., the casual eatery had a soft opening on Dec. 6, a Thursday, and promptly shut down by midafternoon the next day for Shabbat. It reopened on Sunday morning, and quietly will be open over the next few weeks in anticipation of a grand opening early next month.
“We’re a deli-style, New York–style place,” said Abri Chavira, the restaurant’s executive chef and manager. “We’re brining and curing and smoking all our meats in-house, from pastrami to corned beef to brisket. That’s going to be our signature thing. The meats are spot-on, some would say a New York style.”
The restaurant is certified by Sunrise Kosher, aka Vaad Hakashrus of Northern California, and there’s a mashgiach (kosher supervisor) on staff. Customers order at a counter and can either dine at one of a dozen tables or get their food to go.
“Right now, we’re focusing on lunches,” Chavira said.
The restaurant is a venture of FK Restaurants and Hospitality, but FK is not working directly with RoastShop, according to a spokesperson. FK created Asian Box in Palo Alto and also consults on American Box, the deli at the Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco.
Until recently, Chavira ran the café at the Addison-Penzak JCC in Los Gatos, so even though he is not Jewish, he has experience with Jewish food favorites. The RoastShop features sandwiches, meat plates, rotisserie chicken, prime rib, lamb and turkey. Most of the meats come from Oakland Kosher Foods, Chavira said. Some of them, such as the corned beef, pastrami and brisket, are brined for nine or 10 hours once they get to Palo Alto; the pastrami and brisket then get about 16 additional hours in the smoker.
For now, the sandwiches are being served on white or rye torpedo rolls from Metropolis Baking Company, which has a production facility certified by Sunrise Kosher, or on pita. But more bread choices should be available soon.
“We’re working on getting our breads pas yisroel,” said Chavira, alluding to a stricter standard for kosher baked goods. Other parts of the menu will fall into place later, Chavira said, such as soups.
Rabbi Yosef Levin of Chabad of the Greater South Bay, located in Palo Alto, tried RoastShop for the first time on Dec. 10 and said he really enjoyed not only his rotisserie chicken sandwich on pita, but what a strictly kosher deli means to the community.
“I had plans to meet with someone over lunch, and we changed our plans and met there,” Levin said. “I do a lot of outreach with people outside the synagogue and the community, and now I can meet with them” for a meal. RoastShop “is great for me, and it’s important for the community.”
565 Bryant St., Palo Alto
11 a.m. to 8 or 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday;
11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Friday; closed Saturday
NEW DELI IN S.F.: San Francisco’s Financial District is about to get a new Jewish deli, and since that’s where the j. office is located, my co-workers and I are all aflutter.
The nonkosher restaurant is going to be called Shorty Goldstein’s, and it’s being opened by Michael Siegel, 33, most recently the chef de cuisine at Betelnut. The restaurant’s moniker is a combination of his great-grandmother’s nickname (she was 4-foot-10) and her maiden name.
Siegel took over occupancy of the spot on Dec. 3, and he’s eyeballing what he calls a “realistic” opening the second or third week in January, “although these things always seem to take a little longer than expected.” As of last week, he declined to reveal the address, noting only that it was a former FiDi eatery.
He envisions his restaurant as a modern take on classic Jewish deli, like Wise Sons in the Mission District or Mile End in Brooklyn, N.Y., rather than an old-school spot like Moishe’s Pippic in Hayes Valley. He’ll brine and smoke his own meats in-house, plus use some of the European and Asian cooking techniques he’s learned during his career.
“The food maybe will be a little more refined than you’d expect your grandmother to make, but then again I’ll have some of the classics, like Grandma’s chopped liver and a knish recipe from my great-great-grandmother that has been passed down through the generations,” he said.
With a good lunch crowd expected, people will order at a counter, with seating available for about 24 at the counter and a communal table. “It’s a small space,” Siegel said. He expects the hours will be 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. to start.
Pastries and some breads, such as challah, will be made in-house, but others will be purchased. And get this: At the start, no bagels! “Some people might look at me funny when they hear that, but we want to do things right,” he said. “We’ll want to make our own eventually, but we need to get up and running first.”
IN THE HOUSE: The Addison-Penzak JCC in Los Gatos has some news about its café: The operation is being taken over by a nearby House of Bagels. The new operator hopes to have things up and running on Jan. 2 or shortly thereafter.
“We’re very excited about it,” said Nate Stern, the CEO of the JCC since August. Pending approval, it will be called the House of Bagels Café.
There are more than 20 House of Bagels stores in the Bay Area; each is a franchisee, but most get their raw dough every day from a central commissary in Burlingame. The outlet at the JCC café will be run by Jeff Leo, who operates the House of Bagels in Campbell.
The new café will offer regular menu items from the House of Bagels, as well as things like pizzas, salads, panini sandwiches and healthy grab-and-go items (for the fitness-center crowd) like yogurt. The menu will include dairy and fish, but no meat.
“I don’t really see it as a bagel shop so much as a café with coffee-shop type items,” Leo said. Fret not, however, as Jewish deli favorites such as whitefish, knishes and, of course, bagels, will be on the menu.
The JCC has had a café for years; until May 2011, it was called the Shmoozer.
I SCREAM FOR BAGELS: Scream Sorbet, a popular spot for frozen treats in Oakland, has a new strategy to offset slow business over the winter. The tiny shop in the Temescal district now has a small breakfast menu — which includes homemade, boiled-and-baked, New York–style bagels.
There are only two varieties, plain and salt, but they are top-notch. They taste good, are very chewy and have a well-defined crust.
For the past 10 years or so, Scream owner Mason Kurz has been working on crafting a really good bagel. A little while ago, he handed over his recipe to the staff, and into the bagel-making process they dived. The shop’s kitchen isn’t big, but it does have a refrigerator (where the dough rests for 36 hours), a stove for boiling and an oven for baking.
The bagels are $2 each, and for an extra $1 you can hit the “spread bar,” which I highly recommend. Utilizing the quality ingredients that go into its sorbets, Scream creates nut butters and jams. The flavors change depending on the season and available ingredients, but some of the nut butter varieties include pistachio, pecan, walnut, hazelnut, almond and cashew. Jams include quince and strawberry. (Oh, and there’s cream cheese, too.)
Scream Sorbet’s “Winter Café”
5030 Telegraph Ave., Oakland
8 to 11:30 a.m. Wednesday to Sunday; see website for other hours
@screamsorbet on Twitter; www.facebook.com/screamsorbet; www.screamsorbet.com
Save room for …
Highlights from what is sure to be a hot ticket, “Beyond Bubbie: Stories for the Recipe Box,” a one-night-only event on Jan. 24 at the Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco to celebrate the launch of BeyondBubbie.com, a new interactive community cookbook:
“Iron Bubbie Knish-Off” competition, featuring Wise Sons Deli co-owner Leo Beckerman and comedian Lynn Ruth Miller vs. co-owner Evan Bloom and his mother, Linda Bloom
“The Sommelier and the Whiner” performance piece starring Fifth Floor sommelier Amy Goldberger and comedian Caitlin Gill
The Kitchen Sisters of NPR, David Sax (author of “Save the Deli”) and several local food purveyors
For the rest of this month and probably all of January (and maybe beyond), Schmendricks has decided to shut down its bagel operation. “We appear to have outgrown our current commercial kitchen space, and so Schmendricks is going to enter a period of hibernation as we figure out our next step,” co-owner David Kover informed me. Ack! Really, no delicious Schmendricks Brooklyn-style bagels until at least the end of next month? “That seems likely,” Kover replied … A new enterprise called King Knish is showing up on the Bay Area food radar, having appeared at the New Taste Marketplace and a holiday gift bazaar this month. Caterer Ramni Levy, the 52-year-old son of a rabbi, is looking for a spot from which to peddle his product, which he describes as “an old world dish with a new world twist.” Follow @King_Knish on Twitter or visit www.kingknish.com … Amba owner Jonathan Wornick reports that the string of anti-Semitic and anti-Israel calls his Oakland kosher vegetarian restaurant was getting in the fall has come to a stop. He said AT&T tracked the calls and reported its findings to the Oakland Police Department, “but they kept me out of the loop, so I don’t know what happened to make it stop.” He estimated that Amba received about 50 such calls in September. Amba, by the way, will be open on Christmas Eve and Christmas … Baron Baking’s well-received boiled-and-baked bagels (available at Saul’s Deli and two other East Bay spots) have made it across the bay and are being sold from 6 to 10 a.m. workdays by the Espresso Subito coffee truck. The location is the “Truck Stop” alley near Mission and First streets. While these bagels are good, at this location they are presliced, which hinders the internal integrity of the bagel, I say … Bialys are now available at Beauty’s Bagel Shop (3838 Telegraph Ave., Oakland) on Saturdays and Sundays. Wise Sons Deli in San Francisco also serves bialys; in fact, Beauty’s got its recipe from Wise Sons, then tweaked it a tiny bit … The owner of Levy’s Bagels & Co. in San Ramon said his new location in Alameda (near the corner of Atlantic Avenue and Webster Street) was set for a final inspection this week and might open before New Year’s … Next time you’re in line at Trader Joe’s, take a gander at the Dark Chocolate Sea Salt Caramels. The salt is from the Dead Sea! — andy altman-ohr
Hardly Strictly Bagels runs the second Friday of each month. For more frequent Jewish food news, Follow @andytheohr
Send hot tips and out-of-the-way finds to Andy Altman-Ohr at firstname.lastname@example.org
Latkes gone wild
For Chanukah, Wise Sons Deli in San Francisco served a “dirty latke” (top) topped with pastrami gravy, a fried egg and pickled chiles, and last week’s Jewish dinner in the Fifth Floor’s guest chef series included “Latke in a Modern Style,” a potato crisp powdered with dehydrated onion over a sautéed chicken liver, potato foam, green apple pieces and a green apple gelée.