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Great Jewish Deli?

I am looking for a great deli - not really thrilled with Manny's. I just moved here from Michigan and so far nothing compares to Zingermans in Ann Arbor. Can anyone help? Thanks!

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  1. You'll find plenty of recommendations of Jewish delis in the huge discussion at

    You'll also find a few more suggestions for specific needs in these smaller discussions:
    Jewish deli style sandwiches - http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/457889
    Pastrami - http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/579562
    Pastrami - http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/487439
    Pastrami - http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/119877
    Corned beef - http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/111782

    1. You're out of luck. Manny's would be at the top of my list (and it's by no means a high recommendation) and it's decidedly downhill from there.

      7 Replies
      1. re: ferret

        Amen. Manny's is not ersatz, but it's not great either. I have no idea why, but Jewish delis seem to have disappeared from chicago in the early 80's, possibly even earlier. When I arrived in 1970, there were two in the loop--no idea of name--on maybe Randolph or Washington and Madison mid-way between Franklin and State. I remember they had exquisite half-pickles and rye and every diner was served those plus a plate of cold sauerkraut for a starter. Of course the ultimate was the Ashkenaz on Morse avenue. It not only served great food but had a wonderful atmosphere--this was another country away from Chicago--and it was a beautiful place as well. Anyway, whatever the reason for their demise, they're gone and that's that. You're whistling Dixie if you expect to see a Jewish deli in Chicago. Sad, but I think absolutely true.

        1. re: Masonville

          >> You're whistling Dixie if you expect to see a Jewish deli in Chicago. Sad, but I think absolutely true.

          I disagree 100 percent. I live here and I frequently travel to New York. I would put Steve's and Kaufman's right up there with the best in Manhattan. They may not have the precise deli experience (the "shtick") of eating at a Jewish deli in New York, but their pastrami and corned beef sandwiches are every bit as good. And the experience at Kaufman's, which is carry-out only, is often very similar to the carry-out-only delis in the NYC area, with frequent ongoing repartee among the staff and customers. Go there a couple days before any Jewish holiday and you'll see for yourself!

          1. re: nsxtasy

            Even though it does not have a menu like kaufman's but I would also add check amosphere at Romanian Kosher Sausage before a Jewish holiday -

            Romanian Kosher Sausage
            7200 N Clark St, Chicago, IL, Chicago, IL 60626

            1. re: nsxtasy

              It ain't the same. The corned beef and pastrami at 2nd Avenue in New York are light years beyond what we have here.

              1. re: ferret

                You're welcome to your opinion, but I've been to Second Avenue Deli in New York, and the corned beef and pastrami at Steve's and Kaufman's are just as good. We'll just have to agree to disagree!

                1. re: nsxtasy

                  Maybe it's the ambiance in New York. IMO Kauman's comes close but Steve's, while good in a pinch, just isn't the same.

                  1. re: chicgail

                    Maybe not Steve's for the ambiance, agreed. But their sandwiches and cold cuts are awesome. (And the knishes, and the chicken pot pie, and the stuffed cabbage, and...)

        2. I have not been to Steve's Deli, so I can't comment on it, but it IS from Michigan and it just opened up here. It doesn't look like a Zingerman's, though...but not much compares to Zingerman's, right?

          One friend of mine went to Steve's and loved it. Another went and thought it was lousy.


          Steve's Deli Chicago
          354 W Hubbard St, Chicago, IL 60654

          1. I was not particularly impressed with Zingerman's, and I think Chicago's best delis compare favorably. However, I found some other delis in the Detroit area (notably Deli Unique; I've also heard good things about Star Deli and Steve's) which are the best Jewish delis I've been to west of the Delaware River.

            1. I went to school in Michigan and remember Zingerman's. The ones around here are a little different, Zingerman's had the advantage of having really fresh breads and other ingredients.
              My personal favourite here is The Bagel on Broadway, they have a full menu of noshes like kreplach, latke, blitnzes, etc. I am partial to their Mish-Mash soup, which has matzo balls, noodles, kreplach, rice, and kasha -- it's a meal onto itself.
              Or if you are wanting some place "interesting" rather than "authentic" try the Eleven City Diner. It is not Kosher (they have pork and shrimp) but they have a very neat atmosphere, complete with a soda fountain and some great desserts. Though, this is more of a diner place than a lunch place like the Bagel or Zimmerman's.

              The bagel
              3107 N Broadway St, Chicago, IL 60657

              Eleven City Diner
              1112 S Wabash Ave Frnt 2, Chicago, IL 60605

              1. i'm a huge Max and Benny's fan myself. I've never been to the downtown location, but I grew up on the Northbrook location....

                2 Replies
                1. re: mcukier

                  Where is there a Max and Benny's downtown? Their website only lists a Northbrook location.

                  1. re: rubinow

                    I guess it's closed


                    I had never been regardless.

                    On a sidenote, I live practically on top of Steve's Deli... and I don't think it compares to Max and Benny's. Of course, it's downtown, so it gets points for that, but... it's EXTREMELY expensive for what it is. I just got 2 turkey stuffed cabbages, a potato knish, and a diet coke -- for $24 and change.

                    The quality of the food is good (not great)... but it's painful to pay such a premium. And even their "overstuffed sandwiches" are pretty pathetic. If I really want a great sandwich, I'm going to head to Perry's down the street (NOT a Jewish Deli... but a damned good sandwich joint).

                    And, for when I really need the fix... Steve's is right here. Or I can always go visit the folks in the 'burbs and swing by Max and Benny's... :-)

                2. My best advice is to look at it this way:
                  Ann Arbor is a darling little town. It has Zingerman's and the Univerisity of Michigan

                  You can have that . . . or you can have:

                  The Art Institute
                  Millenium Park
                  The Magnificent Mile
                  Museum of Science and Industry
                  U of C, Northwestern, and UIC
                  Lake Michigan
                  The Cubs, Sox, Bears, Bulls
                  Tru and Trumonto
                  Tank and Pho
                  Spoon, TAC and Sticky
                  Unos and Dues (et al)
                  etc,, etc., etc. (I know I left out TONS)

                  It would be nice to have a Zingermans. But . . .

                  7 Replies
                  1. re: chicgail

                    Funny but true! Of course, I (and I assume we) have nothing against Ann Arbor. Or Detroit, for that matter. Okay, maybe our sports fans do, but still. Chicago has so many things that we do well, including many (and maybe even most) types of food. However, even the most diehard Chicagoans must admit that there are still some types of food for which you can go elsewhere and find places just as good, and in some cases better, than in Chicago. And one of those types of food is Jewish delis. Yes, we have a few pretty good ones here. But the very best ones in Detroit are better than the very best ones here. And New York is yet another story, with not only great delis, but with a huge number all over the city and the tri-state area. Which is great for the people who live there (and makes it nice for us when we visit). Great food is a wonderful thing, wherever it can be found.

                    1. re: nsxtasy

                      A good -- nay, a GREAT -- Jewish deli is definitely a missing here in Chicago.

                      Is there something particularly difficult about providing great corned beef (you like it fat or lean?) and pastrami on fresh rye?

                      I don't know much about knishes or knadlah, but I can provide awesome recipes for my own grandmother's authentic sweet and sour cabbage balls, my own mushroom barley soup (I promise you one-up on Zingerman's m-room barley) and crispy potato latkes, courtesy of my late father-in-law.

                      Who wants to play?

                      1. re: chicgail

                        You just need to accept the fact that like good Scotch, it's the combination of good grain, local Scottish water and maybe even indigenous yeasts in the air that lead to it's unique characteristics merely transporting the raw materials isn't going to yield the same product.

                        I've brought 2nd Avenue Deli sandwiches home to Chicago in the past and once you get outside a certain radius of NY the flavor profile seems to change.

                        1. re: ferret

                          Acceptance, huh? Sounds like the beginning of a 12-step program to me.

                          Hard to believe that Detroit -- and Ann Arbor -- can make it happen and we here in the new President-Elect Center of the Universe have to accept "less than."

                          I remember Randall's on Devon and Cal. Now, I was only a kid, but it seems to me that it was the real deal. My family used to make pilgrimages there from other, remoter parts of the city. Can anyone with a more objective perspective than mine say whether it was the real deal or not?

                          1. re: chicgail

                            I don't know Randall's. But I can tell you that I've had great hot pastrami sandwiches at Kaufman's in Skokie. If it's not a great Jewish deli, it's still a darn good one. www.kaufmansdeli.com

                            1. re: nsxtasy

                              I think the good Deli's here in Chicago tend to be more of the true delicattessen - like Kaufman's - less of a restaurant to but more of a place to pick up a pound of corned beef or pastrmi or maybe a sandwich to go - another on I would recommend for excellent corned beef, pastrami, salami and other Deli Meats is Romanian Kosher Sausage - excellent Dlei Meats and also try their hot dogs -

                              1. re: weinstein5

                                Romanian's pastrami is a far cry from great New York pastrami. It's certainly good but it's completely different.

                  2. No expert here on Jewish deli. But i know what i like. Ashkenaz, 12 E Cedar. Sable fish sandwich, yum. Corned beef, juicy. Matzo ball soup. The soup is blah, but the matzo ball sublime. I eat the matzo and leave the broth. Problem solved.

                    Ashkenaz Jewish Style Deli
                    12 E Cedar St, Chicago, IL 60611

                    1. I went to Zingermans in Ann Arbor, got their catalog by mail, and never realized it was even in the league of best Midwest delis. And now I have read that NYC delis are decreasing. in number.
                      And here we argue about apparently second rate delis and shadows of the real thing.
                      People, keep insisting on the best, we need to revive and preserve the best , keep being critical of the pretenders. Go for the best, do not succumb to convenience. Go the extra mile.

                      1. Ahh, we have one down here in the South Suburbs! Bergstein's Deli in Chicago Heights. Very very good. They even make proper knishes!

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: tzurriz

                          Bergstein's is OK but they get their meat from Manny's, I believe.
                          Used to be a few good delis in HF area. Sadly most of the "Chosen People" have moved away.
                          Fressor's and I believe Al's were good.

                          1. re: dramisino

                            Fresser's is long gone. Last I heard they had moved to NW Indiana, but I don't know where. Al's (IMHO) was awful! Yuck! Bergstein's (I think) is quite good. They offer a pastrami on knish sandwich that is really tasty, and their Smokey Joe's sandwich is excellent. For a deli in the Chicago area, they are very very good.

                            1. re: tzurriz

                              I'd have to agree with Kaufmans--I grew up in Skokie so it has always been our go to place. It's a little different now- who runs the counter on the bakery side, etc. But still the best place to pick up 'k-rations'...

                              If I get north I go to Max and Bennys. Best sit down around. Now if you want to talk wasteland---come out here to Algonquin. I would think a great deli place would clean up.

                        2. Romanian Kosher Sausage Co. 7200 N. Clark Chicago, IL 60626 773 761-4141

                          Yes! Yes! Yes!

                          Romanian Kosher Sausage Co
                          7200 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60626

                          1. I've never been fortunate enough to dine at a "great" Jewish deli, I only know about the ones I've eaten at around Chicago. I don't get Manny's. The cafeteria style food just sits and sits there and they don't even bother stirring it to make it look attractive. They charge extra for EVERY little thing. My favorite, out of the slim pickings, is The Bagel at Old Orchard. The one on Broadway in Chicago comes in second. When I want Jewish food, I don't crave corned beef or pastrami. I like the pickles, the chopped liver, Nova Lox, Matzaball and Kreplock (?) soup, and potato pancakes. They have GREAT Lox, and a Mish Mash soup with noodles, kreplock, Matzoball, rice and I forgot the name of the grain. YUMMY! I feel sorry for the waitstaff though, they look like they're put through the wringer constantly!