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The varied traditions of Gold Finch Modern Delicatessen

Unique, pan-Jewish deli makes for the rare, industrial campus dining destination

A "half and half" reuben, featuring both pastrami and corned beef
A "half and half" reuben, featuring both pastrami and corned beef

This sandwich is almost making me wish I’d pursued a career in life sciences. If I had, then perhaps I’d be working in this niche bio campus on Science Park Road, barely a mile from the cliffs of Torrey Pines. And then the park’s new, on-site breakfast and lunch venue, Gold Finch Modern Delicatessen would be just downstairs from my lab, convenient enough that I could eat here all the time.

Place

Gold Finch Modern Delicatessen

3040 Science Park Rd., San Diego

Fortunately, eating at Gold Finch doesn’t require employment at Organogenesis, or Prometheus Biosciences, or any of the other tech ventures in the area. Though it rarely makes sense for lay people to lunch at employee-facing eateries, good Jewish delis are few and far between in San Diego, so when you find one, it’s worth seeking out. Even when it sits within the shadow of shiny office complex.

Especially if you’re a fan of the restaurateurs behind the delicatessen. That would be the Urban Kitchen Group, best known for Italian restaurant, including its Michelin “bib gourmand” flagship, Cucina Urbana. Here, rather than fine wines and pastas, the group’s pursuit of quality delves into Jewish baking traditions and kosher cuts of beef.

Sponsored
Sponsored

A Jewish deli counter with outdoor seating in the California sun

With regard to kosher, it usually means beef from only the forward half of the cow. That’s why popular Jewish beef preparations center less around otherwise favored cuts such as the sirloin and tenderloin. Instead, they often focus on tenderizing tougher parts of the cow, including brisket and navel, which in turn top the Jewish deli pantheon as corned beef and pastrami, respectively.

Despite the Gold Finch menu featuring a compelling French dip twist on the brisket sandwich ($21), I find it cognitively impossible to visit a Jewish deli and not order corned beef or pastrami on rye. You may request one or the other, but the place makes the decision easier by offering a best of both worlds combination, the half and half Rueben ($20).

A dish of fried artichoke, inspired by the 2000 year old Jewish community in Rome

Gold Finch sources these meats from Los Angeles-based RC Provisions, the same purveyor tapped by that city’s famous Langor’s Delicatessen, home to one of the nation’s most celebrated pastrami sandwiches. The RC quality shines through on the half and half Reuben, the delicious combination of thinly sliced meats, thickly stacked on rye from Hillcrest bakery Bread & Cie, with sauerkraut, thousand island dressing, and gruyere (the more richly flavored cousin to Swiss cheese). Reuben fans should not hesitate to seek out this memorable new rendition, which immediately stands among the best deli sandwiches in the county, arguably at the top of the list.

That said, one of the most interesting aspects of Gold Finch is that it weaves pan-Jewish traditions into its menu. Most of what we think of Jewish deli food — the aforementioned sandwiches, plus lox, kugel, and matzo ball soup — hails from Ashkenazi ancestry. That lineage is named for the Hebrew word for Germany, and reflects a thousand year Central and Eastern Europe diaspora. Meanwhile, the Sephardic heritage hails from the Hebrew word for Spain, and its culinary traditions align more closely with a lineage who settled for centuries in Spain, then spread throughout the Mediterranean during the Spanish Inquisition.

An individual serving of babka, with chocolate and lemon custard

Thus, the menu features dishes associated with North Africa and Turkey, such as the egg dish shakshuka, and the puff-pastry dessert baklava. Side dish options include a Morrocan carrot salad made with chickpeas. Beyond Sephardim, there’s take on an old, Roman-Jewish dish, carciofi alla giudia, or fried artichoke ($13). That one’s served with berbere spiced dip, perhaps a subtle nod to the Beta Israel, or so-called “lost” Jews of Ethiopia. These dishes’ presence adds distinctive color and flavor to the deli’s menu, and happens to prime it for a handful of vegan offerings.

Whether you work nearby, or visit to explore the intriguing menu, each visit to Gold Finch should end the same way you might end a visit to DZ Akins: picking up a few baked goods. Cooked up in Urban Group kitchens, these must-try sweets include apricot rugelach cookies ($3), seasonal knishes , and an individual serving of the sweet, laminated bread babka: a babka bun ($6.50), threaded with chocolate and lemony custard, and topped with streusel crumbles.

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A "half and half" reuben, featuring both pastrami and corned beef
A "half and half" reuben, featuring both pastrami and corned beef

This sandwich is almost making me wish I’d pursued a career in life sciences. If I had, then perhaps I’d be working in this niche bio campus on Science Park Road, barely a mile from the cliffs of Torrey Pines. And then the park’s new, on-site breakfast and lunch venue, Gold Finch Modern Delicatessen would be just downstairs from my lab, convenient enough that I could eat here all the time.

Place

Gold Finch Modern Delicatessen

3040 Science Park Rd., San Diego

Fortunately, eating at Gold Finch doesn’t require employment at Organogenesis, or Prometheus Biosciences, or any of the other tech ventures in the area. Though it rarely makes sense for lay people to lunch at employee-facing eateries, good Jewish delis are few and far between in San Diego, so when you find one, it’s worth seeking out. Even when it sits within the shadow of shiny office complex.

Especially if you’re a fan of the restaurateurs behind the delicatessen. That would be the Urban Kitchen Group, best known for Italian restaurant, including its Michelin “bib gourmand” flagship, Cucina Urbana. Here, rather than fine wines and pastas, the group’s pursuit of quality delves into Jewish baking traditions and kosher cuts of beef.

Sponsored
Sponsored

A Jewish deli counter with outdoor seating in the California sun

With regard to kosher, it usually means beef from only the forward half of the cow. That’s why popular Jewish beef preparations center less around otherwise favored cuts such as the sirloin and tenderloin. Instead, they often focus on tenderizing tougher parts of the cow, including brisket and navel, which in turn top the Jewish deli pantheon as corned beef and pastrami, respectively.

Despite the Gold Finch menu featuring a compelling French dip twist on the brisket sandwich ($21), I find it cognitively impossible to visit a Jewish deli and not order corned beef or pastrami on rye. You may request one or the other, but the place makes the decision easier by offering a best of both worlds combination, the half and half Rueben ($20).

A dish of fried artichoke, inspired by the 2000 year old Jewish community in Rome

Gold Finch sources these meats from Los Angeles-based RC Provisions, the same purveyor tapped by that city’s famous Langor’s Delicatessen, home to one of the nation’s most celebrated pastrami sandwiches. The RC quality shines through on the half and half Reuben, the delicious combination of thinly sliced meats, thickly stacked on rye from Hillcrest bakery Bread & Cie, with sauerkraut, thousand island dressing, and gruyere (the more richly flavored cousin to Swiss cheese). Reuben fans should not hesitate to seek out this memorable new rendition, which immediately stands among the best deli sandwiches in the county, arguably at the top of the list.

That said, one of the most interesting aspects of Gold Finch is that it weaves pan-Jewish traditions into its menu. Most of what we think of Jewish deli food — the aforementioned sandwiches, plus lox, kugel, and matzo ball soup — hails from Ashkenazi ancestry. That lineage is named for the Hebrew word for Germany, and reflects a thousand year Central and Eastern Europe diaspora. Meanwhile, the Sephardic heritage hails from the Hebrew word for Spain, and its culinary traditions align more closely with a lineage who settled for centuries in Spain, then spread throughout the Mediterranean during the Spanish Inquisition.

An individual serving of babka, with chocolate and lemon custard

Thus, the menu features dishes associated with North Africa and Turkey, such as the egg dish shakshuka, and the puff-pastry dessert baklava. Side dish options include a Morrocan carrot salad made with chickpeas. Beyond Sephardim, there’s take on an old, Roman-Jewish dish, carciofi alla giudia, or fried artichoke ($13). That one’s served with berbere spiced dip, perhaps a subtle nod to the Beta Israel, or so-called “lost” Jews of Ethiopia. These dishes’ presence adds distinctive color and flavor to the deli’s menu, and happens to prime it for a handful of vegan offerings.

Whether you work nearby, or visit to explore the intriguing menu, each visit to Gold Finch should end the same way you might end a visit to DZ Akins: picking up a few baked goods. Cooked up in Urban Group kitchens, these must-try sweets include apricot rugelach cookies ($3), seasonal knishes , and an individual serving of the sweet, laminated bread babka: a babka bun ($6.50), threaded with chocolate and lemony custard, and topped with streusel crumbles.

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