Picnics, Pastrami, and Polk Street Miller’s Deli
Written By: Alexandra Shubin
Photographed By: Kelvin Liu
Located on Polk Street in San Francisco, Miller’s East Coast Deli is the go to spot for delicious meaty sandwiches. Grab the one you love, your picnic basket, pick up a couple subs from Miller’s, and head to the park! They have a selection of burgers, sandwiches, and hot dogs, the kind of food that never goes out of style. Amen America.
Owner and head chef, Robby Morgenstein has brought the east coast to us in the forms of fatty, spicy, fresh, and flavor-packed subs. But don’t let his array of delicious sandwiches fool you, Miller’s Deli also offers appetizers, salads, and a weekend brunch with Matzo Brei. This delicatessen has set the stage for accessible east coast eats.
Q: What is your most popular sandwich?
RM: The Rachel. It’s a pastrami sandwich with melted swiss cheese, sauerkraut and Russian dressing on grilled rye bread.
Q: Why do you think people are most attracted to in that sandwich?
RM: It’s the perfect combination of salty, fatty, spicy, juicy, tart and sweet.
Q: If our readers went on a picnic what sandwich from Miller’s Deli should they bring?
RM: A whole bunch of Cold Gracies! Gracies are our version of an Italian cold cut sandwich with Mortadella, Genoa Salami, Capicola, ham, pepperoni, Provolone cheese, onions, olive oil, vinegar, salt, pepper and oregano. The longer it sits, the more delicious it gets because the bread will soak up all the vinegar and spices.
Q: Are there any specific drinks they should plan to pair with the sandwiches?
RM: Dr. Brown Soda, Cel-Ray or a Cream Soda.
Q: I see that you just changed your menu. Tell me about some of your favorite changes?
RM: The fact that we are not a specific Jewish deli anymore has really allowed me to bring east coast regional dishes to the menu that I’m so passionate about.
Q: Has anyone gone into a rage yet about the discontinued items?
RM: Yes, of course. But we are going to continue to cater for Jewish Holidays and bring back special items that people enjoy during each specific holiday. We still serve 90 percent of our old menu!
Q: Is the menu influenced by the seasons/produce at all?
RM: We are not influenced by the seasons. Everyone loves pastrami, burgers, dogs and chili cheese fries all year long!
Q: Where do you buy your produce?
RM: A local produce company called Pacific Produce Company.
Q: What’s your go-to sandwich when you’re at home?
RM: Italian Cold Cut Sandwich.
Q: What is your favorite menu item?
RM: The Rocky! It is our spicy Italian beef sandwich. It’s made with sliced roast beef, dipped in spicy Chicago au jus, and topped with spicy Giardiniera.
Q: Tell me about the inspiration behind Miller’s Deli? Obviously you wanted to bring a “taste of home, ” but what specifically inspired you to start the deli?
RM: Bob Thorton and I went bowling and the snack bar at the bowling alley was closed, so we walked to The Fillmore and walked to a restaurant that said Coney Island Hot Dogs sold here. The Restaurant was long and narrow and at the back there was a guy just standing there clueless by a steam table surrounded by a bunch of condiment dishes. We got our wet dogs, and I walked out bitching about how you can’t get a proper sandwich or a dog in the city. That was the beginning.
Q: What’s the ambiance you are trying to create?
RM: I am not trying to create an ambiance. I play the music that I like, put up the art that I enjoy and serve the food that I love without trying to piss off too many people.
Q: There is a lot of delicious food in the bay area, how do you stay current on food trends?
RM: I try to avoid them. I am a junkie for American Regional Cuisine. I like bringing very specific regional comfort food that people should be exposed to because it is delicious.
Q: What keeps people coming back?
RM: Our wonderful ambiance and my friendly attitude, (laughs).
Q: What does an average day look like for you here at Miller’s Deli?
RM: In the early morning we get a lot of regulars going to work, and ordering quick breakfast sandwiches and coffee. By mid-morning to mid-afternoon we get a large variety of people. We have art school students, construction workers, policemen, lawyers, bankers, tech industry people, artists, Muni Workers and other neighbors. We are surrounded by bars, businesses, developments and residences and the occasional tourist. During night time, we usually see the same faces too. People going back home from work are picking up dinner, or stopping by to get dinner at Millers. On the weekends, it’s a little different because we get a lot of people visiting, whether it’s from California, the United States or the world. We also serve an extensive brunch menu, so we get all the young Polkers and families getting weekend brunch.
Q: If you could keep only three items on the menu which would they be?
RM: Pastrami, Matzo Ball soup and the Hangover Fried Chicken Sandwich.
Q: Any big future plans we should be on the lookout for?
RM: Late Nights!
Q: How has the deli changed in the last 15 years since it opened?
RM: When we opened we didn’t have a grill or deep fryers. It was an empty room, and I would sit up there from 7 a.m. – 9 p.m. and be the only one on the line cooking. I had two servers, a cashier, a dishwasher and a prep cook.
Q: How else does the location affect the deli? Do you think it would be a different place if it was located on the east coast? Miller’s Deli
RM: It’s a great location; Polk Street is in the middle of everything: Downtown, Russian Hill, Fisherman’s Warf, Government buildings and Nob Hill. It’s easy to get to, and it seems like it’s the neighborhood to be in right now.
Native Knowledge: Miller’s Deli provides Shabbat luncheon for a large group of seniors in the Jewish Community Center in Marin.
Miller’s East Coast Deli
1725 Polk St Miller’s Deli
San Francisco, Ca 94109 Miller’s Deli
415.563.3542 | www.millerseastcoastdeli.com
A California native, Alexandra Shubin graduated from Cal Poly Pomona with her undergraduate degree in English. She loves camping, hiking, photography, and feminist politics. She's always debating between a kale smoothie or a candy bar. She likes to focus on the finer things in life, such as family, friends, and delicious whiskey.