“Today there were two sisters that had been coming in, much older than I … and they were telling us how they have a nickname for going to Saul’s, and when they were feeling down or just feeling up to it they would say ‘let’s go nest. Let’s go to our nest,’” said Peter Levitt, the co-owner of Saul’s Delicatessen.
For decades, Saul’s has served both the Jewish and broader community of Berkeley with everything from traditional deli foods to Mediterranean cuisine. After more than twenty years of owning Saul’s, Levitt and his co-owner Karen Adelman are selling the beloved restaurant, though the two will stay to supervise the transition of ownership at least until May.
According to Levitt, one of his favorite aspects of owning Saul’s has been the young people working at the restaurant. “We’ve always had a contingent of Berkeley High kids working at Saul’s. And we have great memories of 15- and 16-year-olds starting a Saul’s … and they would become stars and could do any of the jobs in the restaurant,” Levitt said.
According to Saul’s server of two years and Berkeley High School (BHS) senior Quincy Banbury, even though there is a great deal of curiosity surrounding the change in ownership, both customers and staff are relieved that Saul’s will generally remain the same. “When I first got the email from management I was kind of upset because I’ve absolutely loved working with Peter and Karen — they’re the best! But I know they had been trying to retire for a while so ultimately I’m super happy for them,” said Banburry.
For Adelman, the community she and Levitt have fostered at Saul’s will be difficult to step away from. “It was always a really great way to be in the community, and I never stopped feeling honored in that sense … You have relationships with people … and they come in with their kids, and then their kids grow up. You watch a lot of life go by,” she said.
Adelman hopes to “reinvent herself ” after retiring from Saul’s. “My initial desire was to have a different rhythm of life. When everybody else is off I’m always on. Holidays, nights, weekends, that’s when it’s busiest at a restaurant. I’d like to experience those things with my family again,” said Adelman.
After retiring from Saul’s, Adelman also aims to finish an autobiography detailing her experiences owning a restaurant. Levitt plans to explore vegetarian cuisine in India and visit his home country of South Africa.
Throughout their time working at Saul’s, Levitt and Adelman have set their restaurant apart from more traditional delis by focusing on sustainability and sourcing. They hope to see the new owners continue adapting to the times.
“The hope is that the new owners would continue that process of change instead of just waiting for meat costs to double and dying as a restaurant, embracing the economic changes coming their way,” said Levitt.
According to Adelman and Levitt, the new owner will be announced to the community in the coming weeks.
Adelman said that the new owner “was a customer, and he liked the feeling of Saul’s … He wanted something that had meaning and the thing that he felt with the food environment, he felt that needed to continue on.”
Though both Adelman and Levitt are ready to move on, they both plan to remain a part of the community they created. “We can always sit down with different customers and have a fascinating range of conversations about all aspects of life. And I hope to continue going there as a customer and continuing to have those conversations,” said Levitt.