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Jay’s Deli and Wine Bar - CLOSED

Want Community With That Pastrami?

When processed lunch meats were a staple in every New England refrigerator three decades ago, my mother used to craft her kitchen showpiece, the Bologna Rose, as a regular fixture on my mealtime menu. The dish is a simple preparation. Bologna -- yes, the Oscar Meyer variety is the most authentic -- was sliced into triangles like a pizza pie, then laid around the perimeter of the plate, flower petal style, with a colorful pollen-y swirl of sunny mustard and sanguine ketchup in the middle. A bologna sandwich I wouldn’t touch. But the Bologna Rose was the equivalent to the tableside Caesar salad of my toddler years. Simple food, big on presentation, devoured because of the big heart that went into the process of its foundation.

I was made nostalgic for this childhood memory on a recent visit to Jay’s Deli. Replacing Klein's Deli atop Potrero Hill in May 2007, Jay's is a new sandwich joint/wine bar with a coffee shop vibe, whose owners are doing all they can to please the local clientele. The food is decent coffee shop fare—bagels, sandwiches, soups, housemade side salads, and fair trade coffee, as well as beer, wine, cheese and chocolate. The tenor of the dining room makes it feel more like your own personal living room, with neighbors gathering to think, work, talk, and give their laptops a change of scenery. The eats may be better at Hazel’s down the hill, but this casual seating and meeting space meets a neighborhood need with gusto.

The eatery’s finest asset resides not in the gullet, but in its guts. Some organic produce, Diestel turkey, and locally roasted coffee dot the menu. Seniors, students, families, EMTs, police, firefighters, and teachers all receive special discounts and some free eats on a revolving schedule. In addition to the legally-required compostable food containers, they also have plans in the works to recycle or compost 100 percent of their refuse, and to power the restaurant with solar energy.

Their near-obsequious nature even involved a request for me to answer a survey during my recent anonymous visit, asking if I would like to attend their chocolate and wine club, and when and if I’d like to come in the evenings for live entertainment. Some may say the best way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, but Jay’s Deli reverses that axiom once and for all.

Community activists may have passion, but that fervor doesn’t always translate to the plate. The food is satisfying, but not worth the aerobic workout up the hill unless you’re there already. Still, Potrero residents are happy to have a good spot for the TBLP ($9)—a great and simple sandwich of turkey, bacon, and roasted red pepper with house-made aioli on rye.

Housemade chicken soup with matzo balls ($4) had the salt of canned broth, but real chicken, vegetables, and heavyweight grainy white orbs served in abundance. Pay for a table with a panini like the classic pastrami, sauerkraut, provolone, and spicy mustard ($9) and you likely won’t mind the anorexic serving of meat in light of the flaky grilled ciabatta and molten cheese. The potato salad ($6) on the side was a creamy testament to flavor—speckled with bits of cornichon and celery, and rich with hard-boiled egg. Its heft was elevated by the excellent rough-chopped beet salad ($6), flecked with mint and basil and made tangy by goat cheese, good vinegar, and oil.

The proprietors also own a winery in New Zealand, and they work hard to promote their weekly wine and chocolate tasting, from 6pm to 8pm each Thursday. All the same, I saw no Bologna Rose on the menu. Clearly this flower has yet to come into full bloom.

Coffee Shop/Deli
Potrero Hill