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Gold Finch executive chef Jeff Armstrong and chef-partner Tim Kolanko. Photo by David Boylan
Gold Finch executive chef Jeff Armstrong and chef-partner Tim Kolanko. Photo by David Boylan
Columns Food & Wine Lick the Plate

The modern deli defined at Gold Finch

As I’ve stated in this column several times, I am a huge fan of Jewish-style delicatessens, whose numbers have dwindled over the past 20 years. A fabulous documentary, “Deli Man,” from 2015, captures the essence and beauty of these types of traditional delis.

An interesting fact from the documentary is that there was an estimated 3,000 such delis in New York City in the 1930s, with just a few dozen surviving today.

That said, there is a new class of eateries translating Jewish culinary traditions through a modern lens in places like Brooklyn and San Francisco, and now San Diego, with Gold Finch recently opening from accomplished restaurateur Tracy Borkum and chef-partner Tim Kolanko of the Urban Kitchen Group.

Gold Finch is her long-awaited passion project, designed with the intention of ‘lightness’ to help evolve the stereotype of a traditional deli environment. Given its location in the heart of the modern Torrey Pines/La Jolla biotech region on Science Park Road and its clean, modern design, the look and feel are a departure from the traditional urban setting and old-school feel of most delis.

The menu is rooted in Jewish immigrant culture and cuisine, focusing on reimagining staples of Ashkenazi and Sephardic-style cooking. My research found that Ashkenazi foods are more familiar to American cooks, thing bagels and lox, while Sephardic foods tend to be more exotic in terms of flavor, such as hummus, baba ghanoush, etc.

The Reuben at Gold Finch. Photo via Facebook/
The Reuben at Gold Finch. Photo via Facebook/Gold Finch

The culinary program at Gold Finch, led by chef-partner Tim Kolanko and chefs Jeff Armstrong and Frankie Becerra, follows the same slow food ethos associated with other Urban Kitchen Group brands. Catch my conversation with Tim and Jeff on this week’s LTP radio installment at www.lick-the-plate.com.

A sizable menu offers a glossary of Jewish terms and descriptions to guide your selection. Standouts run the gamut from twists on the traditional to bakery staples and an excellent selection of sandwiches — all while incorporating healthy, seasonal ingredients.

Another reminder this is not a traditional deli, although I can easily eat here daily and never tire of the variety and chef-driven spins on my favorite deli staples. I had to go with the somewhat traditional corned beef sandwich with a cucumber and tomato salad and loved every bite.

Some notable menu highlights include shareable towers encouraging build-your-own spreads with house-made bagels and bialys adorned with lox, cured meats or smoked fish.

A quick-service deli counter offers more than a dozen a la carte nosh items, including trout rillette, pickled herring, smoked white fish, chicken liver pâte, and pastrami.

Egg-centric dishes are featured alongside updated Jewish favorites like shakshuka (eggs poached in a sauce of tomatoes, olive oil, peppers, onion and garlic) with tomatillo, spinach, and za’atar served with house-made nine-grain toast, a loaded giant latke with fried egg, mushroom, broccoli rabe, horseradish, and labneh, or a torn challah French toast with blueberry, blackberry, lemon curd cream, and maple syrup.

The delicious corned beef sandwich at Gold Finch. Photo by David Boylan
The delicious corned beef sandwich at Gold Finch. Photo by David Boylan

And not to fret, deli sandwich lovers, there is proper representation with nine piled-high creations, including pastrami, bbq pastrami, or hand-carved corned beef on rye, but also Italian-inspired sandwiches like a mortadella/coppa/prosciutto cotto muffuletta with provolone, giardiniera relish, basil, and house aioli on focaccia or the roasted pork with broccoli rabe and smoked provolone on ciabatta. And just a reminder, these are all chef-driven creations, so quality and flavor are a given.

And speaking of chef-driven, it is worth highlighting the culinary pedigree of Michigan native executive chef Tim Kolanko. With more than 30 years of culinary experience, his storied career includes working and training alongside several of the nation’s most respected industry innovators, including legendary James Beard Award recipient Stuart Brioza and James Beard nominee Charles Dale.

Kolanko also honed his skills at the iconic A.R. Valentien, one of my favorite restaurants anywhere. All that experience and passion is evident on the Gold Finch menu.

Oh, how I wish Gold Finch were located in Encinitas, but it’s a quick drive down for the culinary pleasures that await at this gem of a modern deli from some of the most accomplished culinary talent in San Diego.

Gold Finch is located at 3040 Science Park Road and is open Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. for all-day breakfast and lunch. A weekend brunch will debut soon. They also offer full-service catering and delivery.

For more information, please visit www.goldfinchdeli.com visit or call 858.866.9965. Follow them on Instagram: @Gold.Finch.Deli

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