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Katie Davis



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Oy Vey!

Thursday, October 7, 2010 @ 05:10 AM

026 There are certain restaurants in cities that have such a following that it really doesn’t matter where they are located or how old they are, they are just THAT good!  So good in fact, people will flock to them daily to grab whatever it is they are known for.  Well, in the case of Manny’s Cafeteria & Delicatessen, they have been catering to their loyal following since 1942.  Located in Chicago’s South Side Neighborhood, they have been serving their patrons large portions of home cooked Jewish deli-style favorites just like their mother and her mother before her did it. 

According to their website, “Even when Manny’s opened at this location more than 35 years ago, it was among the last of the unique style of urban eatery – the home style, family run cafeteria bubbling with the spirit of its neighborhood and attracting patrons from all walks of life.  In those early years, if you lived or worked anywhere in the vicinity, you could hitch a ride on the Manny’s van that circled around making deliveries and picking up customers for lunch.

Still, to get the full effect of the rich history surrounding Manny’s, you have to view the dining room walls decorated with news clippings, reviews, snapshots, and memorabilia demonstrating how deeply Chicagoans treasure this historic restaurant…as a place to eat and meet, and as a memento of downtown as it was a half century ago… a relic of the past.”  And I would agree, there is so much to take in at Manny’s.  They have had a very full history and really do not need much advertisement or television features for people to know how good they are.  In fact, Adam worked near them and often visited them on his lunch hour for a LARGE corned beef or pastrami sandwich…long before we were aware that they were so well known nationally.  Publications such as Gourmet and U.S.A. Today have both written glowing reviews.  The Travel Channel even featured Manny’s on a special they did about President Obama’s favorite places to eat; and it was a feature restaurant in a famous old movie called “The Big Town” with Matt Dillon.  Needless to say, I was a bit bummed that I never took the opportunity when I was living there to go visit, but I knew we would be back to Chicago some day and I would get the chance to remedy that.

Lucky for me, someday came sooner rather than later, and we happened to be in town for a Bachelor/Bachelorette Party weekend this summer.  We decided to take advantage of the trip into the city and go a bit early so we could grab a late lunch at a PCC spot.  After a failed attempt to visit Hot Doug’s (FOR THE SECOND TIME…but stay tuned and you might get to see if we eventually made it ;)), we realized this was an opportunity for me to try Manny’s for the first time and for Adam to fill the deli void he’d had since moving away. :)  So we made our way in the opposite direction to the wonderful Deli, which happened to work out well because we were stopping through later in the day, so there was almost no line (which according to Adam there typically is).  So we were easily able to take out time, peruse the whole deli spread, and choose all the lovely dishes we could.


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Let’s just say there was no shortage of food to choose from, so we decided to get a little of everything and share.  My eyes may have a tendency to be a little bigger than my belly, but I ordered a knish and a bowl of matzo ball soup, while Adam got a pastrami sandwich and a side of mac & cheese.  That may not sound like a lot…, but just wait until you see the portions!:

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Yeah I was not kidding when I said the portions are huge!  Lucky I was starving, because I was actually able to enjoy everything we ordered, and soon my belly made way for a very happy girl.  Oh….and the Pastrami…OH…MY…GOLLY-GEE!…  You would have thought I died and gone to deli heaven when I took a bite.  It is everything Adam always talked about, and I’m guessing the way a pastrami sandwich should be…the kind I don’t know if I will be able to top anytime soon:


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So, yes…we stuffed our faces, quite literally.  But it is hard not to with the great flavors.  There are such unique spices that go into all of these traditional dishes that all complement each other so well.  What also makes these dishes so great is how warm and comforting they are.  Now we were visiting in August, when those types of foods are not something I crave.  But for a very hungry girl, they totally hit the spot.  They also made me wish I were closer, so I could grab up some of that comfort food when it’s cold and miserable out. 

Having never tried a Knish, I was totally shocked at how much I enjoyed it.  Who knew a meat filled roll could be so tasty?  And the gravy… oy vey…so great!  And like I said, the pastrami may have ruined me for anywhere else again (well except maybe in New York), and as for now, it stands as the best I have ever had.  As for the mac & cheese, although not something I die over (I typically do not like deli versions of this dish), this was outstanding.  I loved the non–macaroni noodles, which reminded me more of just a wonderful cheesy pasta dish…and who doesn’t like cheesy pasta…come on! 🙂

Overall, I am lucky I didn’t roll out, because it was THAT good.  And before we left I was able to snap a few shots of the cafeteria itself, which is large and can accommodate a lot, which is good seeing how at meal times they are typically packed according to Adam.

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SIGNATURE DISH:  Although Manny’s does not have one dish in particular they are known for, they are extremely well-known for their menu.  Being a traditional Jewish style deli, they serve up many wonderful dishes including many types of meats, vegetables, sides, etc.; and what they are probably most known for are their typical dishes such as the Knish, Matzo Ball Soup, and without a doubt…their mile-high Deli Sandwiches served with a potato cake.  I would say their corned beef or pastrami are what have put them on the map, so much so that they can even be shipped anywhere in the country, and I would know, because I had some shipped to Dallas for Adam for his birthday last year. ;) 

TASTE:  If you didn’t gather from above that I liked it, I will say it again…it was amazing!  So warm, so comforting, and most of all so delicious!  The pastrami sandwich was my favorite dish.  The pastrami itself just had so much flavor, and with the rye bread and their deli mustard, it is literally all you need.  They don’t mess around with condiments, because they are just unnecessary.  Simple yet delicious is the way to go.  The knish was my second favorite item.  I now have discovered I like them and realized I have been missing out in my life.  However, something tells me many will just not compare to the one I had at Manny’s.  Adam has eaten at Manny’s now multiple times, so it is safe to say, he loves the taste!

AMBIANCE: This is not the place to go if you are wanting to be wined and dined.  Located in a working class area of Chicago, it is not what you would call a “ritzy” spot.  However, what it might lack in physical appeal, it gains in character.  This deli feels authentic the minute you step inside, and it feels just like what you might think a cafeteria/deli should feel like.  You parade down the line with your tray, pick whatever items you choose, and pay at the end of the line.  It is big and open, simple chairs and tables line the linoleum floor…and all of it lending to the whole places character.  Its non-fussy make-p makes me know that they care about the food they are putting in front of you most of all.

PRICE:  Although our meal was probably pretty expensive, we did order enough to feed an army; and when we checked out (which you do on the way out the door), we also bought 2 t-shirts and a thing of their mustard.  Still, I felt for the amount of food they give you, their prices were very reasonable.

SERVICE: Because this is a cafeteria style deli, you order with those at the counter as you process down the line and they present you with your dishes.  I would not say they are overly friendly, but they aren’t rude either.  In fact, according to Adam, it’s kind of expected for you to feel rushed and know what you want…if you don’t they will let you know. ;)  They are simply quick and to the point, trying to move you down the line as fast as possible.  I would say if you are finicky or a stressed out orderer, try to visit at a non peak time, since they likely won’t have much patience for how slow you are.  Still, we had no trouble since there was almost no one there later in the day.


In all, I had such a great time at Manny’s, and it truly changed my perspective on a number of dishes.  I hope to visit it again real soon.  I give Manny’s 4 1/2 ‘Little Piggies’.

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4 Responses to “Oy Vey!”

  1. I’ve surprisingly never heard of this place but I’ll have to check it out on one of our trips to Chicago 🙂 …not this weekend bc I’m thinking it wouldn’t be good pre-marathon food ha!

    ps. you look super cute in those pics!

    • Katie says:

      Hey Natalie,

      Sorry I didn’t see your comment until now, but it is kind a hidden gem that I think more people should know about. But agreed, probably not want you want in your belly after running 26.2.

  2. A Walsh says:

    I’ve never heard of this place either, but I’ve recently moved to Illinois for school so I might just have to check it out on my next trip up to the big city.

    Great writing: I love this kind of review with a personal touch. It’s the kind of thing I like to try to write myself. Great pictures as well, they add so much! They’re really making me hungry. Keep up the good work.

    • Katie says:

      Thanks, we love traveling, eating, and writing up these places so people can get a real idea of what they are all about. And if you do make it to Manny’s you won’t be disappointed!