When Leo Beckerman and Evan Bloom were searching for a name for their new Jewish deli, a friend’s dad jokingly suggested they call it Not Zabar’s But Close. But when the name Wise Sons was thrown out there, the duo knew they had a winner. And since they opened their decidedly old-school place in San Francisco’s Mission District—think home-cured pastrami, house-made pickles, bialys, babka, and more modern takes on food bubbie would have made—the community knew it was a winner as well.
Encouraging community is, in fact, what Wise Sons sets out to do, in its intimate 30-seat space of communal tables and walls lined with ancestral photos. (Beckerman and Bloom also have a booth at the Ferry Plaza Market, and a dine-in spot at San Francisco’s Contemporary Jewish Museum.) Plus, they’ve hosted pop-ups with the likes of Chopped judge Amanda Freitag, of Manhattan’s Empire Diner.
Friends from U.C. Berkeley, Beckerman and Bloom (both Southern California natives) used to throw big kosher dinners at the Berkeley Hillel House—Southern barbecue, Chinese, even Creole food. “We were more excited about these meals than classes,” Beckerman said. After dipping their toes into other professions neither was enthusiastic about, they reunited and started cooking again.
There’s more than just matzo-ball soup behind the Wise Sons philosophy; it’s about reconnecting with Jewish roots. As part of the Jewish think tank Reboot’s Beyond Bubbie project, Beckerman and Bloom cooked with their elders in a Knish-Off to raise awareness of ancestral foods and intergenerational cooking.
As a writer for the Jewish Journal said, “Wise Sons aspires to old-fashioned food for the future, as if that pastrami smoker/time machine really could take us all backward and forward, to a past where Beckerman’s relatives ate pickles from a barrel, and to a future where their great-great-grandchildren can enjoy the same great pickles, made from the harvest of some local farms.”