As at New York’s famed Katz’s deli, “you stand in line to get your food” from the counter. “It’s right next ot the old Jewish section, on Jefferson near Maxwell Street. The corned beef and the chicken soup are really good. Lots of politicos go there for breakfast.”
– USA Today
“The closest thing Chicago has to a New York deli” is this Near South Side cafeteria where the mighty and the humble stand elbow to elbow for “Jewish comfort food” that includes “humongous corned beef sandwiches,” “wonderful kugel,” and “chicken soup that’ll cure what ails you;” addicts call it a “treasure” and “the most interesting lunchroom in town” (they serve breakfast too, but no dinner).
If you are in need of winter fortification with a dose of nostalgia, head to Manny’s. This cafeteria-style Chicago institution seems hardly changed since it opened in 1942; its colorful history is told in the newspaper and magazine clippings on the walls. Ken Raskin, genial son of Manny and grandson of founder Jack, carries on the Raskin family tradition as he patrols the room and works the cash register. The locals packing the Formica-topped tables at lunch are the latest of several generations of Roosevelt Road-area merchants, politicians, and police officers loyal to Manny’s. Take a fiberglass tray and get in line for deli sandwiches ($3.95 to $6.25) made with meats sliced to order by wisecracking servers. There’s honest corned beef, excellent brisket, and tasty, peppery salami. Calorie watchers can choose moist turkey breast or turkey “pastrami.” Get a side of the crisp potato pancake made with onion and egg (the recipe is reprinted in a clipping on the wall) and a Dr. Brown’s celery or cream soda to wash it down.
Besides sandwiches, there is a daily menu of generally well-made steam table entrees ($4.95 to $7.95) that are so unconsciously retro they seem trendy; short ribs, meat loaf, and liver and onions among them. Each day there is also a changing array of half a dozen or more specials. Whether it’s Salisbury steak on Monday, the stuffed cabbage on Tuesday, the chicken pot pie on Wednesday, or the gefilte fish on Friday, you’ll find something to stoke your furnace on a cold day. Besides the ever-present chicken soup with a choice of a big matzo ball, kreplach, noodles, or rice, there’s a daily changing soup; if you are lucky enough to go on Thursday, it’s sweet and sour cabbage. Any day, finish with cheesecake of homemade apple pie that tastes transported from mid-century America.
– Chicago Magazine, A Review by Dennis Ray Wheaton
““Manny’s Coffee Shop and Deli is at the edge of Chicago’s loop, not far from where the everything-goes bazaar known as Maxwell Street once thrived. Maxwell Street is tame today, but the restaurant Manny Raskin opened a half century ago fairly bursts with the personality of downtown Chicago. A big, cafeteria-style eatery frequented by cops and wise guys, politicians and business people, and cured-meat lovers from the distant suburbs, Manny’s is one of Chicago’s grandest eating experiences.”
– Chicago Tribune, Bill Daley, May 31, 2006