Always be my bubbie
Bubbie’s Love Deli & Catering
Citrus Heights, CA 95610
Good for: big, hearty breakfasts; European Jewish comfort food
Notable dishes: fish platter, matzo ball soup, anything with pastrami
It surprised me last year when young hipster foodies set their sights on so-called “Jewish food.” They blogged about it, sold it on food trucks and even posted a viral video about it on Buzzfeed. Despite having a Chinese mom with hardly a religious bone in her body, I went to Hebrew school, had a Bar Mitzvah, and ate plenty of food based on my own bubbie’s cookbook from my dad’s side (“bubbie” is slang for a Jewish grandmother, by the way).
Then I ate at Bubbie’s Love Deli & Catering, and completely understood why hipsters were making Jewish food the trend du jour.
Before we get to those reasons, let’s first explore the possibility that there’s not really such a thing as “Jewish food.” There’s “kosher” food, which follows a set of Jewish religious laws called Kashrut; and some Jews who interpret these laws quite literally eat only kosher foods. But for the most part, the historically nomadic Jewish people have pretty much just eaten whatever is around, so “Jewish food” can kind of mean anything depending on the specific person.
That brings us to the food at Bubbie’s. In this case, “Bubbie” refers to the grandmother—Bubbie Mary—of restaurant owner Stacie Shoob-Allen. According to the restaurant’s website, Bubbie’s recipes were handed down to family members, but all include the secret ingredient of “love.”
Bubbie Mary must have had a worldly palate, because dishes here span western Europe (corned beef hash, sandwiches), eastern Europe (borscht, blintzes), the United States (biscuits and gravy, omelets) and the Middle East (falafel).
On our first visit, we start off with some breakfast dishes: a breakfast sandwich with pastrami, egg and cheese on a jalapeno-cheese bagel—with a side of hash browns; and a french toast platter (kosher french toast, actually) with eggs and bacon (not kosher). The breakfast sandwich plate might be the best deal in Sacramento at just $6.75. The bagel and pastrami both tasted like they could’ve come from a New York deli. The bagel was crunchy on the outside and soft in the middle, the jalapenos gave it a nice kick, and the pastrami was tender, warm and lightly salty. The french toast also had a nice fluffy texture to contrast with crispy bacon.
During a few subsequent visits, we sampled a larger variety of items from both the breakfast and lunch menu (it seemed possible to order off of either menu at any time): a cup of matzo ball soup, latkes, a fish platter, a side of kosher beef salami, corned beef hash, sweet cheese blintzes.
With its squishy texture and somewhat bland flavor, matzo ball soup is usually an acquired taste. But Bubbie’s version has the potential to convert. It features a large, pillowy ball, and a broth rich enough with sodium to be a great hangover soup.
Perhaps the most surprisingly good dish we tried was the fish platter: a $22 platter for two with lox, whitefish and pickled herring, and a side of bagels. The pickled herring didn’t have too much fermented fish flavor, which can be unappealing to some. Instead, it featured a delicious, balanced, sweet-and-sour briney taste.
For dessert, a pair of cheese blintzes reminded of French crepes or even Russian blini—a nice semi-sweet dessert food filled with rich cheese and topped with sweet fruit. Each of the espresso drinks we sampled also impressed, with the Meshuggenut Mocha and the Tel Aviv Toffee Latte being the best of the lot.
So why might foodies love Jewish food? Judging from the fare served at Bubbies, it’s sort of like really well-prepared, mostly European-American comfort food. Here, each entree ordered seemed to have the same precision and attention to detail. Or maybe it was the “love.”
Depending on what you grew up eating, Bubbie’s has a great range of both familiar and unique breakfast and lunch items (it’s breakfast and lunch only—no dinner), appealing to Jews and non-Jews alike.