Ernie’s usual corned beef joint, Elliott’s, closed down before we had a chance to go there together. Fortunately for us, I ran into a fellow bearcat during a Young Alumni meeting and he recommended Manny’s Coffee Shop & Deli on the south side of town. After a successful trip to the Randolph Street Antique Market (where we scored a solid reclaimed wood bench and 1800’s treasure chest), Ernie and I hit up the deli. The outside is honestly a little sketch. There was a whole group of people out front staring at us as we drove by, and again as we parked around back and walked into the front door. It was awkward.
The set up is a little different – it’s cafeteria style. When you walk in, pick up a tray and silverware and line up along the cafeteria counter to be served by a number of servers. Though there was a variety of a food, we went straight for the corned beef. I’d been craving it since Thursday night’s meeting. I ordered mine without bread, which sparked a conversation with the nice man serving who asked if I had Celiac. To avoid having to explain that I’m gluten-intolerant rather than a full fledged Celiac, I just nodded yes. Then he mentioned that he has two friends with Celiac and started giving recommendations on where to buy brown rice in bulk. While I appreciated the friendly conversation, I was really eyeing that corned beef!
The helpings are enormous. Maybe half a pound of beef? It came right out of a steamer with thinly sliced meat. He kept adding more and more to the plate and topped it off with two dill pickle spears and a half boiled potato. You can get the regular corned beef sandwich with a potato pancake, but Manny’s does in fact at a bit of flour to their potato pancakes so it’s best to avoid these. There are other side options like potato salad, apple sauce and jello as well.
Lunch for two cost us almost $40. That was more than I expected! We each had a sports drink, corned beef (Ernie’s with rye bread and the potato pancake), half boiled potato and two servings of apple sauce. You tally up the bill after you get your food then go sit down at the very clean eating area. Old vinyl chairs and 70's style tables makes you feel like you're on the set of "Happy Days." The restaurant is quiet large with two main rooms for eating. The walls are covered in news articles, many containing pictures of Obama enjoying the food there. There’s also a little sports ticket counter which you would think is out of place, but it didn’t seem so.
The clientele was very diverse with lots of Caucasians (several Jewish families included), Asians, Black people and Hispanic people. I guess when it comes to excellent corned beef, it doesn’t matter who sits down to dine in!
Just like a good little-Chinese girl who grew up in a predominantly Jewish neighborhood, I LOVE corned beef (and yes, salmon lox too!). The corned beef was delicious. It’s very similar to, and possibly better than, the Jewish styles of my home town’s Jack’s deli and Corky ‘n Lenny’s. It’s definitely worth the drive down to sample the foods. I even brought home about a quarter pound to enjoy later.
Manny’s Coffee Shop & Deli
1141 S. Jefferson
Chicago, IL 60607