“I’ve always wanted to open a traditional deli in San Francisco,” says Michael Dellar, the co-founder of One Market, the massive fine dining institution where Market Street meets the Bay. His restaurant is pretty much the opposite of the fast casual grab-and-go ethos that is a New York-style deli, serving downtown power players and special occasion patrons for 28 years from a glitzy dining room known as a place to see and be seen. But after the pandemic shuttered that dining room, Dellar was left to figure out how to move forward in the rapidly shifting tides of 2020. And that’s how Dellar’s deli dream became a reality, as he’s opening a spinoff called Mark ‘n Mike’s inside One Market, a spot serving big, meaty sandwiches, matzoh ball soup, and Berkeley’s wildly popular Boichik bagels for takeout and delivery three days a week.
Dellar grew up in SoCal, fed by a Jewish mother “who made my house the one all my friends wanted to have dinner at.” As a kid, he says he’d ride his bike to Nate ‘n Al’s delicatessen, a 75-year-old Beverly Hills institution, where he’d tear through piled-high sandwiches on double-baked rye. Those two influences stuck with him, and about eight years ago, Dellar partnered with restaurateurs Dennis Berkowitz and John Schwartz to launch a food truck called Pastranomy (a portmanteau of “pastrami and gastronomy,” Dellar says) in Napa, to rave reviews.
That effort eventually ran its course, but the thought of a deli never really left Dellar’s mind. So, when One Market closed its doors at the the beginning of the shelter in place, he says he asked chef Mark Dommen (who’s led one Market’s kitchen since 2004) “What would you like to try if we tried something else,” and Dommen answered “I’d like to try more deli,” it seemed meant to be.
The restaurant had already turned to offering family meals, selling out preorders of prime rib, king salmon, and fried chicken and bolstering Dellar’s confidence in a new takeout plan. The idea is to try Mark ‘n Mike’s as a pop-up (if you can call it that) for the next month and see how it goes. So they “spent a lot of time sourcing product,” and figuring out what they want to make in-house and what they’ll get from outside sources.
That means making their own roast beef from their prime rib, slowly cooking brisket for 12 hours in a Southern Pride smoker, and even mixing their own Russian dressing. That also means going with the best available makers in other cases, like with their bagels. “We don’t need to reinvent the wheel,” Dellar says, so they chose Boichik, the Berkeley bagelry that patterns its confections after gone-but-not-forgotten NY classic H&H Bagels. It’s the first San Francisco spot where one can score Boichik’s in-demand bagels, Dellar notes — otherwise, nostalgic New Yorkers’ only option is a trip to the East Bay and a long wait in line.
Dellar says that he doesn’t intend Mark ‘n Mike’s to be a full recreation of the NY deli experience, with those pages-long menus of hundreds of items. Instead, expect a “more curated” menu of “dishes we can do well,” like the No. 18, a tribute to the classic #19 sandwich served at SoCal deli Langer’s. It’s pastrami, Swiss cheese, coleslaw, and Russian dressing — essentially, a Reuben for folks who hate kraut. And for the vegetarians, there’s a smoked beet sandwich, with arugula and pickled onion.
The entire Mark ‘n Mike’s plan feels very on trend in a city where restaurants across all demographics are sandwichifying their menus, but the pivot seems less about serving up high-margin meals than Dellar following his bliss. “A lot of people go into restaurants as a business, but I’m a strong believer in building restaurants for yourself and for your passions. We serve food that makes us feel good, is what we like, and is what our families like. We cook out of love.”
Despite those rosy sentiments, Dellar doesn’t have any illusions about the future. One Market has yet to open for indoor dining, and it’s clear it’ll be a while before Dellar’s comfortable enough to do so. Even though they have room to spread patrons out inside, “trust, in terms of safety, weighs heavily here,” he says.
“I don’t know if anyone knows if they're going to be a survivor or not,” Dellar says of his fellow restaurateurs’ businesses. It’s just that uncertainty that’s allowed him to finally, after decades of pondering it, open a Jewish deli in San Francisco. “A lot of people feel unshackled right now,” Dellar says, “with the freedom to do things they just thought about before.”
Mark ‘n Mike’s is open for takeout and delivery inside One Market Restaurant (1 Market Street) on Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays from 11:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Orders can be placed via Tock.