Is Paulie’s Pickling the Best Jewish Deli in San Francisco?

Paulie's Pickles

Lately, one of my favorite things to do is to head over to Cortland just as I’m getting hungry. Once there, I like to wander up and down the street while allowing the fantastic variety of foodie delights to tempt my palate. Recently I find myself gravitating toward Paulie’s Pickling in the gourmet marketplace at 331 Cortland, and for a very good reason: Paulie’s may be the best Jewish deli in San Francisco.

You’d hardly know it from the name, which highlights Paulie’s roots as a glamorous purveyor of fine gourmet pickles. And indeed, the pickles are super-delicious. But since they set up shop on Cortland, Paulie’s menu has expanded to include some of the finest Jewish deli sandwiches and sides one is likely to find this side of Crown Heights.

There are no bagels, mind you. (Not yet, at least.) But the beef brisket sandwich is juicy perfection squeezed between two slices of rye — and you can even get it with chopped liver if you’re feeling extra-adventurous. There’s also corned beef, house-cured lox, and that rarest-of-rare treats on the West Coast: kick-ass whitefish salad.

This was my brisket sandwich, which came stuffed with yummy homemade cole slaw:

Paulie's Pickles

And this was a lox sandwich served open-faced on a baguette:

Paulie's Pickles

They’ll even make you a gen-u-ine old-school egg cream:

Paulie's Pickles

All of it is superb, and it’s a shame that more people aren’t clued in to this hidden gem. My hunch is that name may be part of the problem: Though pickles remain Paulie’s signature product, the business has expanded to become much, much more, as proprietors Paul and Elizabeth Ashby have curated a simple but perfectly executed collection of house-made Jewish foods. Yum!

My advice: Stop calling it Paulie’s Pickling. Start calling it Paulie’s Pickling and Deli, visit often. Savor every bite.

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29 thoughts on “Is Paulie’s Pickling the Best Jewish Deli in San Francisco?

  1. Uh. Their sandwiches, etc, are OK. But they’re no Moishe’s Pippic.

    • I must respectfully disagree. Paulie’s sammies are more interesting than Moishe’s, IMHO. But yes, it could be argued that Moishe’s excels at the old standards.

      • Ahhh… That could be true. For me, “Jewish Deli” goes hand-in-hand with “old standards”.

  2. Thank you for singing Paulie’s praises! Our family has become regular pickle and lox customers. I wish I could eat their chopped liver every day, and those sandwiches, too! Absolutely delicious.

  3. My grandmother is rolling over in her grave (I just had to get that line out). Check out East West deli on Van Ness for the closest thing.
    PS- you’re dead to me.

  4. You’re wrong about paulie’s — it rocks the house — but right about jewtalian culture. Signed, Brooklyn jewess who lived with a roman catholic in queens for eight years, madon’, oyvey.

    • As an Italian Jew it sounds funny to me. In Italy the Genesse (Genoa) or better known as Genovese are called the Italian Jews (Hebraicos) But it is interewsting we share a lot of similarities about food (eat plenty like a King or a Queen) Another interesting triviality, When an Italian speaks Spanish in Jerusalem most people would be certain that it is a Sefaradi.

  5. They’re California inspired Jewish Deli food with an ever growing menu, so not too sure about pigeon holding them to “old standards”. I think they’re just doing what they love. I love their Albacore -not from a can- tuna sandwich. I’m finishing one right now as I type. I started taking my boys there for special treat soda fountain soda-pops. Try the Honey Cardamom or Celer-Al.
    Also…NO ONE locally can beat their pickles….not a soul.

  6. OH wow, what a drink selection! One of my favorite places in the whole world to eat a sandwich is at Deli Pub on a rainy day with all the plants in the window table, but more sandwiches is mo bettah… Thanks for doing this painful research for us. 🙂

    • Wow! Really?! I have always sort of assumed that place was a front for something, as I have literally never seen anyone eating in there!

      • Ha, hilarious. Love the Deli Pub. The dude is awesome, it just has a great funky vibe and somehow the scene works. It was the site of many a high school post-shenanigan eats and I’ve gone there as an adult on a lazy Sunday now and then to take over their big wooden table with the paper. There used to be a sweet antiquey store next door which I miss dearly…

      • Deli Pub rules. Imad treats you like family, and there is no better hummus on this planet.

      • The proprietor at Deli Pub has brought me tasty free treats every time I’ve gone in there — from spiced nuts to roasted garlic bits. And I am crazy about the front window seat. Lovely.

  7. I am excited to try more of Paulie’s food, but I am reminded of the powerful lacking of good Jewish Deli Food in San Francisco any time I eat such food in L.A.

    The unexpected plus of attending a funeral this morning in Los Angeles was that they had lunch food afterwards catered by Brent’s Deli of San Fernando Valley fame. Oh, the name is a coincidence, of course. Oh, oh… oh….! The cole slaw alone was enough to write about. The pickles might not have been up to Paulie’s standard, but the sandwich I made was turkey and corned beef of rye with a sheaf of iceberg lettuce and coleslaw. It was soooo goooooood!

  8. As the former fish slicer at Saul’s Deli in Berkeley (before it doubled in size and went all schmancy), I can say that Paulie’s whitefish salad is the best I’ve had in 20+ years.

  9. I love Paulie’s -the other day I had an egg cream and it brought back memories of New York and Dave’s Luncheonette at 3 oclock in the morning after the Mudd Club. I love their chopped liver and alternate that with whitefish salad. A pickle to cut the richness and I am a happy Bernalcentric.

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  11. To all our fellow neighbors and specially to those belonging in our Ishuv. The Talmud as well as our good books precribe that we must help our fellows to succeed. This is the West Coast. Moishe Pipik or those that enjoyed the good Delis in Montral can’t be duplicated in the West Coast, but we must be happy to have Pauline’s in our neighborhood. San Francisco lacks the number of Delis that we can find in other cities because it is a hard city to do business. Anyway quality also must be considered instead of quantity. In NY there are plenty of delis where a sandwich goes over the scale and easily contributes to a heart attack. Eat and be satisfy healthy this is California and paradoxically we are more in tune with our good books. Bete A’Von!

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