Saul's Deli, Classic Jewish Cuisine | San Francisco

An institution explores new facets of Jewish cuisine

Saul's Deli has not let the Bay Area's Jewish food revival pass it by.

Although the 26-year-old restaurant still plays the nostalgia card, it has been retooling itself from the sandwiches out.

In addition to making its own celery soda and some of its pickles, last summer Saul's started smoking its own pastrami; the spicing is intricate, the meat tender enough to collapse. Two weeks ago, a former line cook began supplying small-batch, chewy bagels.

And since Israel-born Elisheva Isaac joined owner Peter Levitt in the kitchen a year ago, she has introduced Israeli and other Middle Eastern dishes such as za'atar baked chicken ($15) and lamb meatballs ($15) to the dinner menu.

Her brunch dishes are just as exciting. For her shakshouka ($10), Isaac nestles a limpid poached egg into a bright-red pool of tomatoes sautéed with bell peppers, cumin and oregano.

For the malawach, or Yemeni pancake ($9 with egg; $13 with shawarma), the chef covers a glossy, flaky pastry round with a thick tomato sauce and flecks of fresh mint. On the side: house-made labne, drizzled with olive oil, and zhoug, a spicy herb relish.

Saul's Restaurant & Delicatessen, 1475 Shattuck Ave. (at Vine St.), Berkeley; 510-848-3354 or