4 Nights. 600 Matzo Balls. 0 Bottles of Manischewitz. - OZY | A Modern Media Company

4 Nights. 600 Matzo Balls. 0 Bottles of Manischewitz.

4 Nights. 600 Matzo Balls. 0 Bottles of Manischewitz.

By Jared Frazer and Rachel Levin


Because Passover with family can be kind of fun … but with strangers, it’s a party. Wise Sons’ annual sold-out seders bring an ancient tradition to 21st-century San Francisco.

By Jared Frazer and Rachel Levin

Every nice Jewish kid will tell you that Passover seder is one thing: mandatory.

2 men standing in doorway of wise sons deli during the day

Wise Sons

But fast-forward a decade or two to 2014 — and those same Bat Mitzvah-aged tweens who used to whine into their (four cups of) Welch’s grape juice at grandma’s house have now put themselves on a wait list, yes, a wait list, for gefilte fish with new friends.

Wise Sons Delicatessen in San Francisco has at least 50 people still hoping to score a seat at their seder table. Reservations sold out within 24 hours. So they added a second night. Then a third. And finally, a fourth night, before co-owners Leo Beckerman and Evan Bloom had to say Dayenu.  

Lots of restaurants do Passover-themed menus, but Wise Sons Deli arguably kicked off the communal seder trend when they held their first, in 2011, complete with The Ten Commandments playing silently on the back wall while Beckerman led a roomful of strangers in the Four Questions. Now, Jews and gentiles alike can recite the plagues with other 20-, 30- and 40-somethings on up, everywhere from Katz’s Deli in New York City to Lumiere in Newton, Massachusetts, to Max’s in Chicago.

Seders are traditionally held only on the first two nights. So the demand for four at Wise Sons Deli is truly impressive.

The holiday is technically eight days long, but seders are traditionally held only on the first two nights. So the fact that Wise Sons Deli has demand for four is truly impressive. I mean, by then, most of us secular Jews are back on bagels.

Although … Blake Joffe’s matzo is so flaky and good, it could actually convince me to keep Passover, for once. Wise Sons goes through baskets of Beauty’s unleavened bread, which Joffe makes by hand, using organic flour and sea salt; he cheats a little by adding olive oil to the traditional dry-mouth mix, and then bakes it in the wood-fire oven at his Oakland bagel shop, where it’s available all week.

“We’re killing ourselves,” jokes Bloom, who knows carrying the torch is worth a sleepless week cooking around the clock.

Grandparents, be proud. Passover — at least Wise Sons Deli style — is popular. 

Sign up for the weekly newsletter!

Related Stories