What's so special about Sauls in Berkeley

Full disclosure - I’m from NY area on vacation out here. Sauls was recommended. The over priced pastrami was fatty with a faint flavor - the free pickles were sparse and the service poor. Can’t compare to 2nd ave Deli or the Mill Basin deli in Bklyn. I noticed the sell Acme smoked fish - nothing beats a Friday in Brooklyn where the Acme factory opens to the general public for cash only wholesale prices - fish wrapped fresh in butchers paper. Pastrami at the Refuge was hardly any better (shame on you diners drive ins and dives)

Nothing, really. My general rule is that no matter the ethnicity, folks are Californians first. Looking for East Coast food in the West can be asking for disappointment.


It used to be (dragged there more than once) that the most identifiable Saul’s clientele were tables of four composed of an adult couple assuring Mom and Dad from NY: “see, we’re okay, they have deli here too; everything will be just fine”, amid photos on the wall of 2d Ave, etc. and Mom and Dad rolling their eyes These days, who knows? Kids shoulda landed in LA instead.


Understood but my son landed in Silicon Valley … not la la land. At least the Asian food is better here but more expensive … 2nd ave deli and Russ and Daughters do ship :blush:As does the pickle guys and kossars bialys …

We enjoy Refuge for what it is – it is not a deli. The “pastrami” there may not be “pastrami” as it used to be at Marvin’s Golden Caterers on Avenue J; it is, however, well-made as are most of the other menu items, and matching the beer to the glass confirms our take on what recommends a schlep to San Carlos.

I suspect ave J is not now as you remember. The only kosher deli I frequented is on Coney Island ave and j (across from the pickle guys) changed hands a few times - mostly mid eastern eateries now that the area is heavily orthodox - there is still a deli on ave u - but whenever I get to Brooklyn I like Mill Basin the best - NJ is also devoid in general of good old fashioned deli - when I was a kid a pastrami on rye was $1.10 and 10 cents more for club bread - and every deli had “rolled beef”.

@bone.* - as a Brooklyn boychick - I trust you watched the movie “the deli man” ?

Marvin’s is decades gone. The internet street view shows some “international food” place took its place just steps from the Q line from Midtown. Understood Marvin’s brother was the butcher; there was also another housemade beef that was neither pastrami nor corned beef and found nowhere else. Deli Man is in the Netflix queue.

Recommending Saul’s to a NY visitor is like recommending the California Health Salad to an SF visitor in NY. Oy vey.

The more desirable food at Sauls, to a visitor, are the dishes associated with Sephardic and Mizrahi Jews. Too many people get burned there trying to get the Ashkenazi/Jewish American dishes associated with NY delis.

That said, Saul’s knishes are housemade and pretty good. Not the best, but about a billion times better than Yonah Schimmels in the Lower East Side. They’re also better than the industrial deep fried knishes I grew up with on Long Island. 20th Century Cafe in SF has a small, delicate knish variation that’s different than the ones I’ve eaten in Coney Island, and dare I say an improvement.

I’ve not had Saul’s pastrami in years, and remember it being occasionally good, but too inconsistent for me to recommend it to a visitor. I understand that Pastrami is a very difficult thing to make consistently and they certainly don’t sell enough for supply/demand to attain what the few remaining NY places do. Pricewise, they seem comparable to 2nd Ave deli, but you need to get the large size at Saul’s. Saul’s sells a sandwich with 9 oz. of meat for $19. At Second Ave. Deli, the pastrami sandwich costs $19.95 and weighs 12.4 oz., including meat and bread.

It doesn’t sound like the service was good when you went, but I believe Sauls is supposed to replenish pickles for free if you ask. They used to be more generous with the pickles, but found there was too much waste, and this was especially expensive when cucumbers are off season.

The level of sweetness and carbonation in Saul’s housemade sodas is never what I’m looking for, but they do have Mexican coke. They only have diet Dr. Browns because Dr. Browns switched the regular from sugar to corn syrup and is fairness ain’t what it used to be.

Oh man, the Pickle Guys are awesome.

If he wants a taste of Jewish food, you should send your son to Beauty Bagels in Oakland. It’s a Montreal Style bagel, which are a different style than NY bagels, but fantastic. Tell him to ask for one bagel fresh, uncut, whatever just came out of the oven, and then another with cream cheese or whatever he likes.

I’m fond of Wise Sons’ bialy with lox, and in general like their parve stuff more than their meat items.

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You ate there already. But you could walk a couple more blocks and eat at Chez Panisse- the type of restaurants that we are better at.

@sck :blush: We went to Berkley for Sauls - we are actually in the Los Gatos area as my son is an attorney in Mountain View :slight_smile:
Thai spice in Los Gatos was recommended by the same folks that recommended Sauls so I’m a bit reluctant :smirk:
In NJ most of the Asian restaurants are cookie cutter presenting the same copy/paste menus with the same corn starch laden sauces - you are fortunate to have so many options here and in that respect you guys win.

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I haven’t been to Thai Spice in Los Gatos so I can’t comment on quality. Los Gatos isn’t known for cuisines from Asia. You’ll have a great thai meal at Lers Ros or Kin Khao in SF. South Bay thai is meh in general, at least I haven’t had luck so far.

Folks more familiar with Los Gatos can comment on its current offering. I think better choices there may be David Kinch’s two offerings, the tapas place has changed recently and whose name I don’t recall any more.

Please recommend a dim sum place - I was told there is a good on in mountain view.

Do you want dimsum around Mountain View or in the city?

There is no good one in Mountain View- only Cooking Papa (not technically a dimsum joint, but got the dimsum chef from ABC Milpitas when they closed) and Fu Lam Moon. I dislike them both for dimsum. You can try Saigon in Sunnyvale or Lei Garden in Cupertino. They both do a decent, but not great, job. Taipan in Palo Alto is rumored to be good, but wife said the portion is pretty small for the high price.

If distance is not an issue and if its a weekday lunch, just go to Koi Palace in Daly City (weekend wait is too long). Get the roasted suckling pig. I think some people said Dragon Beaux in the city is just as good if not better though I haven’t been (owned by the Koi Palace people). There are other choices in the city but people on the SF board will have more current knowledge on which one is good. Koi has a newer branch in Milpitas. I went there once when they first opened but it was forgettable (for them). Don’t know if they are better now.

Since your profile says you like Asian food- if your son happens to work at LinkedIn, their Cantonese chef is Andy Wai, a chef who used to work as exec chef at top Cantonese restaurants around here. Maybe you can sweet talk/ bribe him into cooking you something good.

Or just go to Yum’s and preorder a bunch of stuff beforehand. Its headed by another excellent Cantonese chef Bosum Yum, and Andy Wai eats there all the time.

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@sck - thank you I was told fu lam mum in mountainside was good. I prefer a place with parking in front :slight_smile: and carts. I will google the places you mentioned. Thx

Fu Lam Moon has parking in the back, just so you know. There are maybe a couple of street spots in the front. Its Castro Street, so street parking is rare.

But it seems odd to me that The Refuge got profiled in Diners, Drive-ins and Dives. It seems to me that its more like a fancier gastropub.

Supposedly they reverse engineered Katz (over rated) Pastrami recipe and a philly cheese steak ?
Katz is famous for the Billy Crystal sex scene which was copied on Big Bang Theory. I don’t frequent Katz (kosher style not Kosher and yes one can taste the difference) which maybe why I was under impressed with Sauls etc. If you have the opportunity try Acme Pastrami lox

I haven’t been to a deli in New York or Los Angeles in many years, but for this Berkeley resident Saul’s is just fine. One of my favorite comfort foods is a cup of their matzo ball soup with half a pastrami sandwich. You can specify whether you want fatty or lean pastrami. I admit, it is a little too expensive for daily lunches.

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