Wise Sons to open cafe at S.F.’s Jewish museum

A world-class destination for Jewish art in San Francisco will soon be a lunchtime destination for people who find artistry in a pastrami sandwich and a bowl of matzah ball soup.

The Contemporary Jewish Museum, which has had café woes ever since it opened in 2008, is to be the home of a new location for Wise Sons Jewish Delicatessen, museum officials were set to announce this week.

Wise Sons at the Contemporary Jewish Museum, its official name, could open as soon as mid-June, said Evan Bloom, co-owner of the restaurant that Bon Appetit magazine cited last summer as one of the four best new Jewish delis in America.

“We’re very excited,” Bloom said. “It’s the next logical step for us. It’s a logical fit.”

Wise Sons Deli co-owners Evan Bloom (left) and Leo Beckerman photo/alanna hale

The Wise Sons–CJM marriage was the subject of rumors for several months, but both sides played them down. In the meantime, Wise Sons expanded by leasing a new Mission District space, allowing it to increase its production of baked goods and cured meats.

“Hopefully the move to the CJM will be a relatively easy transition,” said Bloom, noting that there is no firm projected opening date other than “mid- to late June.”

Wise Sons opened in February 2012 on the corner of 24th and Shotwell streets in the Mission District after functioning as a pop-up eatery in other restaurants for more than a year. The popularity built as a pop-up did not cease once Wise Sons became a brick-and-mortar establishment.

Meanwhile, the CJM’s café space, just to the right of its main entrance, has been empty since December, when American Box ceased operations after only 13 months. Café on the Square, which opened with the museum in 2008, lasted only two years before closing up shop in August 2010. Each was run by an outside vendor.

“We’re thrilled to welcome Wise Sons to the CJM,” said Denise Childs, the museum’s chief operating officer and acting director. “It’s an exciting partnership and one that we feel offers our visitors and neighbors a true taste of Jewish culture.”

Wise Sons’ menu at the CJM will include items from the deli’s regular menu, but will be laden with sandwiches, soups and salads. “We’re going to be focusing on the downtown lunch crowd,” Bloom said.

Wise Sons has already started on a redesign of the space, which includes seating for about 30, Bloom said. Outside, there will be about 12 to 16 seats. Both inside and out, customers will not need to pay museum admission to eat at the café.

Initially, Wise Sons at the CJM will be open weekdays from 11 a.m. until 4 p.m., and weekends from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m. However, because the museum is closed on Wednesdays, food will be available only from the to-go window on that day.

Come July, Bloom said, the opening time on weekdays will change to 8 a.m. so that breakfast can be served. Bloom said choices will include fresh Beauty’s bagels, shmears, egg sandwiches, hot cereal, yogurt and an expanded list of bakery items.

For lunch, “we’re trying to expand our offerings … bring in some of the classic deli sandwiches that you might see on an old deli menu,” Bloom said, noting offerings such as brisket, corned beef, roast beef and a smoked salmon club, with new bread choices such as marble rye, kaiser rolls and potato rolls. “We’re also working on a bigger line of combination sandwiches [such as Reubens].”

Matzah ball soup will be a daily offering, with a rotating vegetarian soup, plus “some new salads and a few new vegetarian items,” Bloom added. The restaurant will be kosher style, with no pork or shellfish, but the laws of kashrut will not be adhered to.

Wise Sons’ pop-up operation at the Ferry Plaza Farmers’ market every Tuesday from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. will continue, Bloom noted.

Bloom shied away from giving any details of the contract with the CJM, “but we hope to work with the museum for many years to come,” he said. A press release announcing the new partnership was set to be released May 16.

Andy Altman-Ohr

Andy Altman-Ohr was J.’s managing editor and Hardly Strictly Bagels columnist until he retired in 2016 to travel and live abroad. He and his wife have a home base in Mexico, where he continues his dalliance with Jewish journalism.