Manny's Coffee Shop & Deli -- A Chicago Legend

July 29 2005 - 12:51 PM

Manny’s Coffee Shop & Deli has been a personal favorite of mine since I moved to Chicago. Located amongst a rather undescript collection of clothing stores, tailors and small strip centers, its also home of some of the best deli food in the city.

When you walk into Manny’s, you know immediately you’re not in any old regular Chicago deli or coffee shop. The menu items are familiar, but the place is an ‘old-school’ cafeteria where you get in line, grab a tray, maybe some silverware and proceed. Only open mornings and afternoons, I prefer heading there for lunch. They do have a full breakfast menu too, but its the deli items — sandwiches in particular — that have kept this joint in business for more than 60 years.

The word ‘deli’ is synonomous with New York City and for good
reason. There are countless delis there — famous ones like Carnegie
and corner stores that offer up prime meats, sandwiches and sides. In
Chicago, however, I think the selection of good, ol’fashioned deli
sandwiches is a little weak. There are some places like Ashkenaz in the
Gold Coast, The Bagel in Lakeview, and a number of others that have the
proper menu, but not the proper touch. Manny’s, by comparison, is a
stand-out.

If you like corned beef or pastrami or brisket, there is no other
place to go if you want a sandwich that fills you up, tastes great and
compares favorably with the great delis of New York. The highly
personable guys on the meat slicer do not measure what they give you,
they ask you what kind of bread you want and just keep heaping on slice
after slice of meat. A typical corned beef sandwich probably has enough
of the good stuff to fill four or five sandwiches at most of the other
establishments around the city. With each sandwich, you get a standard
pickle and a golden brown jewel of a potato pancake. Without a doubt,
its the best potato pancake in the city — no others even come close.

Sandwiches are not the only reason to go the Manny’s though. If
you’re in the mood for some matzoh ball soup and kasha varnishkas, they
have you covered. If you feel like beef stew or spaghetti &
meatballs — comfort foods — every day brings a new selection.
Salads, sides and numerous desserts are available too.

All in all, I’d recommend Manny’s to anyone that is not pretentious
about where they eat or the service they receive (its cafeteria-style
after all), but likes very good, familiar food. There is no sandwich
comparable in Chicago and despite being around for years, the
restaurant is still somewhat of a hidden gem given its location.

Manny’s Coffee Shop & Deli (1141 S. Jefferson St.)

Open for both breakfast and lunch. And bring cash — no credit cards accepted, but there is an ATM in the dining area.

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