I remember my first time in San Francisco, I was on a big road trip from New York with a friend of mine from yeshiva and we were starved for some meat. We were seriously looking forward to getting a nice hot meal in San Francisco after spending a bunch of days hiking and biking in Death Valley, Gold Country, and the famed Big Sur Coast. It may have only been 4 days since our last meal that wasn’t cooked on a camp stove, but tuna and pasta get old real quick.
Upon arriving in the city we began to research our options. With such a big skyline, 800,000 people, and world famous tourist attractions, we assumed that San Francisco or the Bay Area in general would have a bunch of nice kosher restaurants to choose from. We were wrong, we found that only two kosher restaurants in the entire city of San Francisco existed and we were bummer. Upon further research, we noticed that one of the two kosher places was one of those that has some sort of “shady hechsher” that allow it to run all the time without closing for shabbos or yuntiff. There were a lot of forums with debates about whether or not Shang Ri La was in fact kosher, so we decided that we really only had one strictly kosher place to eat in SanFrancisco. Unfortunately, it was Israeli and the last thing we wanted to eat in a city known for its food culture, was the type of food we could eat anywhere.
This was before I lived in the area, I didn’t know that there were Jews in Oakland, Palo Alto, and San Jose and I remember scratching my head in wonderment that such a large city could have almost zero kosher options. We had no choice and so we went to Sabra, the infamous kosher Israeli restaurant in the China Town section of San Francisco. Up the narrow staircase to a restaurant that reminded me of those dingy places in basements on 47th street in Manhattans diamond district. Rude service, overpriced (but decent) food.
I distinctly remember asking the server why the shawarma with fries and salad cost $25 and the response was that it was hard to get kosher meat in San Francisco and that boosted prices.
Fast forward 7 years and I’m well familiar with the kosher and Jewish offerings to tourists in San Francisco and they are exactly the same as when I visited so many years ago. Oakland has two kosher restaurants, San Jose has one, and Palo Alto has bagels, that’s it.
If you’re a tourist you really don’t have many options, you can get meat and cheese at Trader Joes, but what kind of vacation is that? Who wants to come to the Bay Area and have zero chance to taste and see the food culture that dominates this area. Yes, I do encourage you to visit the farmers market and sample some produce, there are 2 kosher wineries in Napa and one in Santa Cruz, and the coffee is to die for around here. However, when it comes to actual food, the only kosher food business in the entire San Francisco Bay Area that actually makes and serves kosher California Cuisine is Epic Bites.
Not only does Epic Bites offer a weekly shabbos takeout/delivery menu for tourists and regulars alike, we also offer custom wine pairings, tasting dinners, and a full Bay Area culinary experience. From gourmet grilled cheese to dry aged beef, we only cook with the best ingredients from mostly local sources.
If you keep kosher, plan on visiting the Bay Area, and would like to make your trip epic, email us today.
Epic Bites is based in Oakland California, we are certified by the Vaad of Northern California.