The area known as the Tenderloin in San Francisco often gets a bad rap, but there are a lot of sweet nuggets there as well, one of the most cherished being Turk & Larkin Deli. But after 39 years of making sandwiches and salads, Mike and Jean Aburahma have decided to retire.
Their presence will be missed in the Tenderloin. Often I've walked into the deli and without fail, Mike says, "Hey, handsome, same thing?" He always remembers my standard order: the Veggie Special on pita bread, with cheddar cheese, mayo but no mustard. There might be a few months or a year gap when I see him, but he still remembers.
The diner hadn't changed in the 39 years it had been open. In addition to Mike and Jean, the other thing folks will remember is the food display, full of salads and meats and cheeses. It was here that I had my first taste of their hummus and falafel sandwich in pita bread, or the dolmas. They even had their own Turk & Larkin hot sauce!
The menu had a wonderful mix of foods there, and in the past 20 years, the prices really hadn't increased much. And always at the end of the day, any leftover perishable foods always went to the Coalition for the Homeless for distribution to the needy. Several times, I'd seen a few homeless people stagger into the deli, not sure where they were, only for Jean to kindly walk up to them and give them some food and a drink, before sending them on their way.
You can tell from the lighting in the below photo that I bounced the flash off the ceiling. Thankfully, the ceiling was white, so it worked well. For all of these photos, I used my Fuji X-H1 with 16-55mm f/2.8 lens and the Nissan i60 flash. I like both the Nissan i40 and i60 because they're compact, but powerful flashes.
For the next shot, the flash still bounced off the ceiling, but the reflection in their glasses are actually light from the street streaming through the front windows of the deli.
And here's Jean, as many of us see her, behind the register. She's ringing up orders and often filling containers with salads or soups.
And, of course, Mike, as everyone is used to seeing him, making sandwiches with rapid efficiency.
Below are some photos of their daughters, plus the SF Chronicle article linked above, regarding their retirement. On the far right of the wall are two older photos that we'll see in a moment as part of a montage.
And here are Mike and Jean outside their deli. Both in their 70s, they tackle each day at the deli with much joy.
The following is a photo story that I had produced by ZNO.com. I felt moved to create something for them and gift it to them on the occasion of their retirement. With all of the kindness that they've shown to the people who either work or live or just pass through the Tenderloin, I felt it appropriate. It's how I want to remember them too.
Turk & Larkin will officially close its doors and Mike and Jean will officially be retired at the end of September 2018. Drop in for a bite if you have a chance to bid them farewell and a happy retirement.
Thank you, Mike and Jean for everything!