St. Patrick’s Day is serious business in the Windy City, as evidenced by the emerald-green river, raucous parades, bar crawls, endless array of greens getups, and general shenanigans. While I’m sure many people would claim beer as their primary food group on March 17, everyone knows the culinary MVP of the holiday is corned beef (despite the fact that it may actually be Jewish immigrants you have to thank for it rather than your Irish ancestors), traditionally served at Grandma’s house alongside cabbage and cooked-to-oblivion veggies. But, if you’re taking to the streets to celebrate all things Irish, there’s no better way to satiate that corned beef craving than with the humble grab-and-go corned beef sandwich (which just so happens to be an excellent means to soaking up the aforementioned beer). Fortunately, Chicago has no shortage of classic delis, groceries, and diners where you can find the oversized corned beef sandwich of your dreams. Check out our lineup below to map out your St. Paddy’s lunchtime attack plan.
3905 W. Dempster, Skokie, 773-KAUFMANS
With nearly 60 years of business under their belts, Skokie’s very own Kaufman’s Delicatessen knows a thing or two about sandwiches. Here you can choose from four different cuts of corned beef — regular, deckle, lean, or super trim — and any bread, cheese, veggie, or condiment you can imagine to complete the masterpiece. While customizing is part of the culture here, the menu is jam packed with fun combinations to try, like The New York Special — corned beef, chopped liver, onions, and horseradish on rye — or the Hennessey-Goldstein — hot corned beef, hard salami, brown mustard, spicy mayo, and coleslaw, on rye.
1141 S. Jefferson St., Chicago, 312-939-2855
It doesn’t get more classic than Manny’s with its cafeteria-style setup and head-spinning array of Jewish deli offerings. Sandwiches here run the traditional route with reubens and corned beef/pastrami combos anchoring the menu. While you could easily make a meal of the enormous sandwich alone, you’d regret not adding a knish or potato pancake to your tray. Just saying!
1112 S. Wabash Ave., Chicago, 312-212-1112
Eleven City Diner combines two of the greatest food establishments ever — the diner and the deli — into one charming destination. The sandwich list here is modest but to the point, covering all of the standard bases. While the straight-up corned beef on rye is hard to beat, you can always add on a slice of Swiss cheese, a “shmear” of chopped liver, or any other condiments you wish to doll it up. Order up an egg cream and snag a black and white cookie on your way out for the ultimate deli/diner hybrid experience.
1709 Benson Ave., Evanston, 866-999-3354
Inspired by the famed Zingerman’s Deli in Ann Arbor, Michigan, Bat 17 houses an astonishing sandwich menu that is chock-full of old standbys and new recipes alike. All of the corned beef sandwiches start with Kelly Eisenberg corned beef made right here in Chicago from a secret Eisenberg family recipe. Some notable menu selections on the corned beef front range from the simple (the Slim Shady Eisenberg is just corned beef stacked high on rye) to the extravagant (the Double Deuce Kelly Eisenberg pairs both corned beef and pastrami with a double dose of cheese — muenster and Swiss — and mustard — hot and regular — on pumpernickel bread), all prepared with the best ingredients possible.
4750 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago, 773-728-7243
Nestled right in the heart of Lincoln Square, Gene’s has all of your meat needs covered. Their deli case is chock-full of every cold cut (corned beef, pastrami, turkey, salami) and cheese under the sun so you can create your ideal sandwich combination. Don’t forget to add a side of one of their many Eastern European specialties like the blintzes or cabbage rolls for the ultimate Gene’s experience.
3107 N. Broadway, Chicago, 773-477-0300; Old Orchard Shopping Center, Skokie, 847-677-0100
A Chicago institution that has been satisfying both city dweller and suburbanite deli cravings for more than 60 years. Choose from their lengthy sandwich menu or make up your own. Some notable corned beef selections include Barb’s Bonanza, which features corned beef and chopped liver on rye; the Lawrence and Kedzie, which goes 50/50 on both corned beef and pastrami; and, of course, the classic reuben piled high with sauerkraut, Swiss cheese, and lots of Russian dressing.
1009 West Lake St., Chicago, 312-666-2536
While it may be the youngest business on the list, the Corned Beef Factory has made a big splash in the West Loop with its sky-high deli sandwiches that don’t break the bank. With only eight selections on the menu, it’s easy to be decisive here, especially if you have corned beef on the brain. For the purist, try the Corned Beef with mustard and Swiss cheese on rye or the good ol’ classic reuben, and, for the more adventurous, try the Tom and Jerry Combo with corned beef, pastrami, two types of mustards, and Swiss cheese on rye. Be sure to make an ATM run before lunch as they’re a cash-only spot.
606 Green Bay Road, Winnetka, 847-446-6707; 341 Hazel Ave., Glencoe, 847-835-2842
If you’re looking to bring the deli to your own home this St. Patrick’s Day, look no further than The Grand Food Center. This North Shore grocer prepares a special corned beef recipe this time of year and customers go crazy for it. The beef is mixed with a secret blend of spices and left to cure in barrels for nearly a month to develop fantastic flavor. The Grand sells their special corned beef for $5.99/pound and has tons of sliced cheeses, breads, and condiments to round out your spread. Invite some friends over, pop open a Guinness, and you’ve got yourself a party.
Maddie LaKind is a Chicago-born personal chef, caterer and writer. Her love of gastronomy began with an introduction to the Food Network as a teenager and has since blossomed into a deep-rooted passion. She spent her early career in the food world working at the famed Zingerman’s Deli in Ann Arbor, Michigan, before moving on to other notable spots including Detroit’s Sister Pie bakery, and Floriole Bakery, Read It and Eat bookstore and The Social Table in Chicago. In her spare time, she can be found practicing yoga, hosting dinner parties for friends and sifting through her ever-growing cookbook collection. Maddie is also a supporter of PAWS Chicago. Since adopting her two cats from the shelter, she has served as a volunteer and donated her cooking services as an auction item at fundraisers.