Hailing originally from Portland, Jewish deli Ben & Esther’s, is expanding south to San Diego, starting in the College East neighborhood. The deli is named after Oregon-based entrepreneur Justin King’s grandparents. King opened his first location in 2019 serving the food he grew up eating with his family. While the restaurant began by offering meat and seafood options, King announced in October 2020 that Ben & Esther’s would transition to a completely vegetarian and vegan menu (update 2021 - menu will be 100% vegan). His whitefish salad was replaced with smoked hearts of palm and the deli’s black and white cookies got a vegan makeover.
The shop also specializes in East Coast-style boiled bagels, spread with vegan schmears and topped with ‘Not-Lox’, a vegan version of lox made from brined and salt-roasted carrots and served with tomato, onion, capers, and dill.
Other dishes include their vegan turkey bacon club, “chicken” salad sandwich, and “the best vegan Reuben this side of the Mississippi (we’re nowhere near the Mississippi but I’ve always wanted to say that)” King tells Eater. Jewish deli classics like matzo ball soup, knishes, rugelach, and hamentashen will also fill the deli case.
The San Diego restaurant is opening in partnership with Marc Bennett of Pappy’s Barber Shop; King and Bennett became friends when King was running Rooks, a Portland chain of barbershops, which he sold last year to focus on Ben and Esther’s. Scheduled to open this fall, it’s landing in the Aztec Village Center near the SDSU outpost of Pappy’s Barber Shop.
“The whole premise of opening in various locations is to make ethical Jewish comfort food accessible to the broad public” King tells Eater. Once the San Diego store is established, King hopes to expand to other cities; he has his eye on New Jersey for next year.
- All Coming Attractions [ESD]