[Meta: Shorty Goldstein’s, Michael Siegel ]
[Art is ASHORTY1 in leslie folder, please credit ANNA LATINO, SPECIAL TO THE S.F. EXAMINER
Best latkes in town: Shorty Goldstein’s, the new Jewish deli in the financial district, serves to-die-for potato pancakes.
More art here: P:\ALatino\2013\04.2013\0417\food.ShortyGoldstein’s]
[Sug hed: Shorty Goldstein’s: Nice New York deli now in The City]
By Alex Hochman
Special to The S.F. Examiner
We’re talking Jewish deli, so let’s cut to the chase.
Shorty Goldstein’s thick-cut, moist, properly fatty pastrami nears exemplary status. The only problem? A propensity for pepper. At one lunch, I was unable to finish my sandwich due to an uncomfortably intense mouth sensation leading to an afternoon of water guzzling.
On another visit, the pepper was toned down a bit, but still notable enough to merit a conversation with my dining companions about whether it was too abundant. The pastrami worked best as part of an eggs Benedict, served only during breakfast, as a lemony hollandaise helped to offset the spice. Better and more consistent was the corned beef: tender and juicy like the pastrami but with a clean, briny finish. It transported me back to New York lunches with my Grandpa Al and other Garment District characters.
Considering the amount of energy and care that chef-owner Michael Siegel puts into his meats (everything is done on-site), it’s a shame that he’s using dull, unsturdy rye bread from Cinderella Bakery to encase them.
Equally lacking in character were the dainty, barely vinegary pickle spears served alongside. This is a Jewish deli, so why not serve garlicky, sour pickles? Or at least half-sours?
And while I’m kvetching, three tiny knishes were neither flaky nor crispy like the best versions I’ve had back East, but instead were just kind of lumpy. They screamed for a crust.
Part of the fun of eating at Shorty Goldstein’s is the barstool seating, a modern take on the workers’ lunch counter. During busy periods, it’s impossible not to eavesdrop on your neighbor’s conversation and compare tasting notes and, sometimes, actual tastes.
I overheard numerous tales of delis of yore, including the once-legendary Shenson’s in the Richmond district, which catered my bar mitzvah after-party.
Everyone at the counter agreed that the latkes were out-of-this-world good. Impeccably fried, greaseless and not too oniony, two thin disks of shredded potato made the perfect vehicles for the accompanying tart applesauce. Not that many places serve them, but these are hands-down the best latkes in town.
Also not seen on many local menus are prakas, seriously old-school cabbage rolls stuffed with onion-laden ground beef. Though I’m generally not a fan of the Californiazation of classic Jewish recipes, Siegel wisely eases this dish up a bit with a light dousing of fragrant, tangy tomato sauce (most versions are drowned in sweet and sour goop).
Seasonal isn’t typically a word mentioned at a Jewish deli, but a pile of, well, seasonal asparagus spears and sweet peas made even this traditionalist glad not to be staring at a side of mushy canned veggies.
Thankfully, there’s nothing light about the chopped liver, a slightly chunky rendition done with plenty of egg and caramelized onion. But again, that rye bread ...
A veteran of busy restaurant kitchens, Siegel knows how to get food out quickly, important for the mostly Financial District clientele. Not once did I wait more than five minutes for a dish to arrive, and it was usually Siegel himself doing the serving.
Grievances aside, Shorty Goldstein’s is a welcome addition to the downtown lunch scene, especially for deli-starved East Coast transplants. Grandpa Al would have felt right at home.
Location: 126 Sutter St.
(at Montgomery Street), S.F.
Contact: (415) 986-2676,
Hours: 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday-Friday
Price range: $1 to $14
Recommended dishes: Pastrami eggs Benedict ($12), corned beef sandwich ($10), pastrami sandwich ($12), latkes ($6), prakas ($14)
Credit cards: All major
Reservations: Not accepted