Lefty's Cafe returns to rave reviews

PHOTO: Jacob & Sons chocolate babka is available either by the slice or as full loaves at the reopened Lefty's Cafe at the Oregon Jewish Museum and Center for Holocaust Education. (Courtesy Jacob & Sons)

While so much is new at the Oregon Jewish Museum and Center for Holocaust Education (See “Oregon Jewish Museum to unveil new space, permanent exhibit with multicultural street party,” June 8, 2023) one thing that remains is Lefty’s Cafe in the lobby. Even that has a new twist, though, as the eatery is now operated by Jacob & Sons Delicatessen, a local purveyor of Jewish foods.
Very local, as it turns out – the firm’s 10,000 square foot manufacturing space is just blocks from the museum. 
It’s a match years in the making. Noah Jacob recalls receiving an inquiry from the museum about setting up shop there when he was just getting started in Portland after working in delis and Jewish catering in San Francisco. Covid pushed everything down the road until now, when a brand-new space at the museum and the manufacturing kitchen nearby made for a perfect match. 
Jacob and Sons products sold at Lefty’s are the same items that you can pick up at any of the growing number of other outlets that sell the company’s products – but Lefty’s gives the firm a showcase for their products, giving a delicious new life to the idea of a “serving suggestion.”
“If you buy a bialy or some lox from Zupans, you may take it home and not know exactly how to make a Bialy with lox,” Jacob said. “So this is an opportunity for us to kind of showcase the way that they’re supposed to be, you know, produced at home.”
The response has been sensational, Jacob said. Not only has the reopened Lefty’s fed museum goers, but existing Jacob & Sons customers have gotten a surprising, exciting new experience with lunch. 
“They’ve come just to eat and now they’re also kind of falling in love with the Jewish Museum,” Jacob said.  “They’re calling me after their brunch and they’re saying ‘Wow, I had a great brunch with Jacob & Sons, but what a really cool museum I had no idea that was there.’”
With the closures of Kenny and Zukes and Kornblatt’s, the reopening of Lefty’s fills a void in Portland’s Jewish eatery scene – though a different one, as unlike the delis, Jacob & Sons and Lefty’s operate in the appetizing tradition, the meat-free dairy side of the Jewish eatery ecosystem.
“What we’re focused on is the fish and the bread,” Jacob said. “We also obviously, in order to be able to sell these products together, do the dairy. So you’ve got the schmears and the whitefish salad and the tuna salad.”
Lefty’s offers breads by the loaf, including their Korn Rye, challah and babka.The babka is also available by the slice for those who can’t wait for a taste of chocolatey goodness. Salads include the fish varietals along with potato and egg, and the sandwich selection features bagels and bialys with shmear and optional lox, tuna melts and the surprise best seller – egg salad on rye.
“It caught me off guard,” Jacob said. “I had no idea it was going to be the hit that it is.”
The menu will be changing as time goes by. The currently-offered sturgeon lox will go away after Jacob & Sons receives kosher certification, and Noah said he’s working on a soft-poached egg bialy that’s reminiscent of Portland’s tradition of runny-egg breakfast sandwiches. Chocolate egg creams are already on the beverage list, but a blended version is in the works. 
“We’re trying to modernize the menu a little bit and offer some specials and see what people are into,” Jacob said.
Signs are all pointing to success in the weeks following their opening, and Jacob is thankful that the partnership between Jacob & Sons and the museum has been such a natural fit and so mutually beneficial for his firm, the museum and the Portland culinary scene in general.
“In this economy, in this environment, opening a restaurant is really daunting,” he said. “Because of the symbiosis of it, it just made it so much easier and a better thing for both of us to be able to do this together.


Add Comment