Wise Sons is easily San Francisco’s best-known Jewish food concept, with delis and bagel shops throughout the Bay Area and even one in Japan. It would be easy for the owners to rest on their fluffy babkas, but like any ambitious restaurateurs, they’ve been thinking about what’s next.
Obvious answers to the question might have been new cafe in a different neighborhood, expansion to other states, or maybe a menu refresh. But for these wise guys, the answer turned out to be none of the above. Meet Lev, the team’s new virtual-ish restaurant concept that feels just right for the Covid age.
Named for the historical geographical region of Levant, which comprised the Eastern Mediterranean swath of Western Asia (now home to Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Israel, Palestine, much of Turkey, and the coast of Greece), Lev‘s cuisine is inspired by that region’s melding of cultures and flavors: think heart-warming bowls of chicken shawarma, wraps filled with slices of spiced vegetarian kofta, and salads with all the fresh fixings.
It’s “a tip of the hat to the Middle Eastern side of Jewish food,” says cofounder Evan Bloom, who notes that dishes are healthy “with lots of big flavors.”
That means a lot of spice, a bit of tang, and vibrant, fresh ingredients. The menu is is categorized into three main options: turmeric rice bowls, za’atar-lemon-dressed salads, and wraps made with wholegrain flatbreads. Each entree comes with a choice of proteins: spiced chicken shawarma or tender Impossible Meat kofta balls. Round out your meal with fries with harissa and herb yogurt, marinated olives with za’atar, and a crisp cucumber and tomato salad.
Like so many bold restaurateurs who’ve opened new takeout-only eateries during shelter in place (Nikkei Sushi, Ernest, and San Ho Won), Lev didn’t happen overnight. The concept actually took root back in 2018 as pop-up at Square HQ before it expanded into catering. The demand for Lev’s fresh, bright flavors and perfect simplicity was there.
“This is a project we’ve been working on for years,” says Bloom. “It’s always been a bit of a pipe dream, but with the current SIP situation, now seemed like as good a time as any to move this project forward.”
Lev is now cooking in Wise Sons‘ kitchen space at the Contemporary Jewish Museum downtown, and is providing much needed-hours for their staff. Add this yummy new eatery to your takeout and delivery rotation.
A look at the food from Lev
The french fries at Lev come with two of their essential sauces: tangy harissa and herby yogurt. Adjust the dressing levels to your liking and prepare for a little heat.
The Impossible Meat kofta salad is everything we want in a bowl of greens: red cabbage, ribbons of carrot, thin crisps of radish, pickled onions, za’atar-lemon vinaigrette, and more tangy harissa dip on the side. What really makes this dish is the Egyptian spice blend of crunchy dukkah.
Tender chunks of chicken shawarma are a must order. If you go the rice bowl route, expect to dig into fluffy turmeric rice and a side salad of cucumber, tomato, herbs and onion.
Sauces and dips are a thing at Lev. Depending on which dish you order, each entree comes with a container or two of sauces like tangy harissa (left), herby yogurt (middle), and garlicky tahini (right).
Wash it all down with a refreshing bottle of their housemade pomegranate iced black tea.
End the meal with something sweet. These tahini chocolate chunk cookies covered in sesame seeds easily do the trick.
This article was originally written and photographed by me for 7×7 and can be viewed here.
Looking for another quick, casual spot? Check out the Filipino dishes at Senor Sisig.