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Manny’s Cafeteria & Delicatessen

May 16, 2022

  • 1141 S. Jefferson Street
  • Chicago, IL 60607
  • (312) 939-2855
  • Website
  • Menu

We started a tradition with my bachelor party in 2009. I didn’t want to do any of the traditional bachelor party crap. I just wanted to go to a baseball game.

We got all of my groomsmen and my dad, ordered wings for a tailgate, and watched the Boston Red Sox beat the White Sox at US Cellular Field.

Every year since 2009, my dad, my brother, and my best friend from grade school have continued to get together for a game at what is now Guaranteed Rate Field. My buddy has access to a season ticket plan with seats right behind home plate, we continue to get wings every year, and we ended up drinking a little bit of beer while waiting to see what is almost always a loss.

Finding a weekend we’re all available is getting harder and harder. We all have kids in sports and now that my friend and my brother are getting towards the high school aged kids, even early in the season is getting tough.

We had to pick between a weekend in April and a weekend in May. We chose the weekend in May because my brother doesn’t do cold very well.

My kids are starting to get old enough I’m getting into sports as well. My son had a T-Ball game Saturday morning and J had a work event so I needed to stay home until everything was done. The Sox game was at 6:10 Central so that wasn’t really an issue.

I left Kalamazoo around noon. It was still way to early to leave but I did have plans to stop for lunch before heading over to the park.

I pulled in to Chicago around 1:30 Central. I headed straight to Manny’s Cafeteria and Delicatessen for lunch.

Manny’s Cafeteria and Delicatessen is in Chicago’s Near West Side on Jefferson Street near Roosevelt Road just a few blocks off the Dan Ryan Expressway. The family owned classic Jewish deli has been a Chicago staple since the 1940’s. It really came in to the national conversation when former President Barak Obama shared that it was one of his favorite Chicago lunch spots.

There is a lot of street parking in the area surrounding Manny’s but there is also a free private lot for Manny’s customers. I was just about to get out and pay for street parking when I noticed the sign behind the building for the parking lot.

The building is pretty large. To get to the front door, you have to walk back around to the Jefferson Street side from the parking lot then about half a block to the entrance.

Right inside the door, there is an area to grab a cafeteria tray and some silverware. It’s suggested even if you’re doing carry-out to grab the tray. It just makes it easier to get to the check out area. I was not in a hurry and there was plenty of open seating so I decided just to eat in.

The service line really is like a cafeteria. There is a metal rail to put your tray. You can see everything on the menu out for display. There are several people working different parts of the line. When you see something you want as you make your way down the line, you just ask for it.

There are a lot of traditional deli foods to choose from but, of course, the one that caught my eye was the mac and cheese. I got the attention of the guy working the soup area and he plated up a “side” of mac & cheese for me then handed it over the counter.

I kept moving down the line to where the sandwiches were being made. I knew without hesitation I wanted a pastrami sandwich. The guy putting sandwiches together reached into a serving tray of meat and pulled out a big handful of pastrami and piled it up on a slice of bread. He then grabbed a handful of pickle spears and asked me if I wanted a potato.

You pass a self service dessert station and an area with bottle and canned drinks before getting to the register. I passed on both of those but got a fountain pop when I paid. The total for my sandwich and mac & cheese was a little over $35 before tip.

The dining room is pretty massive. Manny’s seemed pretty busy on the Saturday afternoon I was in there but at least half of the dining room was still unused. I found a table away from other people after getting a Pepsi then started to dig in.

I started with the Mac & Cheese first. This was a little bit of a different take on traditional macaroni and cheese. The baked mac and cheese is made with spaghetti noodles instead of macaroni noodles. There’s a thick layer of baked cheese and breadcrumbs on top. The noodles themselves had an amazing flavor to them. I don’t even know how to describe it. I’m guessing the noodles are homemade because they just have a texture and flavor to them you can’t get from dry pasta. My kids would have hated it because it was different but I thought it was incredibly tasty.

The sandwich is everything you hope for when you walk in to a Jewish deli. The rye bread is hilariously small and not nearly enough to hold on to the literal mountain of Pastrami that is between the bread. I did my best to try to eat this as a sandwich but ended up using my fork for a lot of it too. The sandwich looks like a monster and it is…but I hadn’t really eaten anything all day knowing that I was going to stop here for lunch. The wait was worth it.

The sandwich doesn’t come with any condiments but they have yellow mustard and their own horseradish mustard on the table. I put a pretty generous squirt of the horseradish mustard on each of the slices of bread.

As the guy making my plate was handing it to me, he asked if I wanted a “potato.” I had no idea what that was so I just said yes.

The “potato” is a pan fried potato pancake. I was pretty stuffed by the time I got to this. I took a bite to see what it was and it was mostly fried breading around a soft, warm potato center. Not totally my cup of tea but it wasn’t bad either.

I have been trying for years to stop at Manny’s Cafeteria & Delicatessen for lunch and have never made it work. I don’t think there’s a whole lot my family would eat so I’ve never drug them there. I’ve had this place built up in my head for a long time and it not only lived up to those expectations but exceeded it. There’s no doubt Manny’s should be in the same conversation as all the famous New York deli’s.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Ebenezer Craft permalink
    May 17, 2022 6:37 pm

    Interesting, well written, descriptive article. Expensive (overpriced I’d say) deli but sounds really delicious 🍀.

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