It’s nearly impossible to separate the achievements of Evan Bloom and Leo Beckerman, the co-owners of Wise Sons deli in downtown San Francisco. But because we could only put one of these talented deli entrepreneurs on our list, we chose the marginally more vocal Bloom. The pair is responsible for bringing serious deli to a city that long resisted a well-crafted pastrami sandwich.
Along with owners of other nouveau delis — such as Noah Bernamoff, of New York’s Mile End, and Ken Gordon, of Kenny & Zukes in Portland, Ore. — Bloom, 27, and Beckerman are helping to change the deli landscape of America and preserve the most iconic of Jewish restaurants.
The pair first cooked together as undergraduates at the Jewish Student Union at the University of California, Berkeley. After pursuing professions outside the food world, the two reunited and started experimenting with making their own pastrami. The project soon turned into a weekly pop-up deli that launched in 2010; in February 2012 Bloom and Beckerman opened their 30-seat permanent restaurant.
The deli is located in San Francisco’s hip Mission District, only a few blocks from the owners’ homes. “We’re trying first and foremost to create a space that we could enjoy as neighbors,” Bloom told the Forward. As he was describing his deli, which straddles tradition and modernity, he said, half joking: “If you build it, they will come.” The area is not known as a Jewish one, but that didn’t bother Bloom. “Jewish deli is not just for Jews,” he added, and he is set to prove it.