Some say that the only good delis are on the East and West coasts—but that’s a fallacy.
What are we, chopped liver?
Chicagoland is definitely in the mix. We’ve got the old and venerable (Manny’s has been around since the ‘40s) and the brand spanking new (hello, “it” restaurateur Brendan Sodikoff’s Dillman’s in River North), with a respectable number landing in between.
This year, Hanukkah comes early, with the first night landing on the eve of Thanksgiving. With that in mind, keep this list around for those last-minute potato latkes and brisket. You never know when the urge will hit!
The breads are baked fresh daily at award-winning Bennison’s and the meats hail from Chicago’s own Kelly Eisenberg Gourmet Deli Products (the chicken and turkey are free-range). The enormous and inventive sandwiches come in regular and full sizes, but I dare you to finish either. 1709 Benson Ave., Evanston, 847-733-7117
Open since 1975, this hard-to-find, Kosher-style deli is a local treasure. The “Yummy” sandwich (corned beef, pastrami, melted Swiss cheese and a schmear each of mustard and horseradish on fresh rye bread) is one for the ages. 114 Greentree Center., Libertyville, 847-367-9687
This is not your Bubbe’s deli, but Dillman’s was certainly inspired by it. Warm Goat Cheese Schmear? Lox and Whitefish Terrine? This is updated deli food. But don’t fret; you can still find a Classic Reuben, a Potato Knish, some Matzo Ball Soup, even Pickled Herring. Don’t get fahrklempt!354 W. Hubbard St., Chicago, 312-988-0078
Eleven City Diner
Nothing kosher about this South Loop joint (hello, BLT!) and its newer sister restaurant in Lincoln Park, but you won’t be disappointed by these stylish sandwiches, especially “The Schwartzy,” moist, smoked beef brisket piled high on a tender challah roll. They also make a mean burger. 1112 S. Wabash, Chicago, 312-212-1112; 2301 N. Clark St., Chicago, 773-244-1112
Roaring back to life after last year’s fire, and better than ever, Kaufman’s is your source for Hanukkah platters laden with brisket, kugel and latkes, with some tsimmes on the side. All breads and baked goods are made from scratch on site. Counter service only, but you can grab a sandwich and a seat in the newly refurbished space. 4905 W. Dempster St., Skokie, 847-677-6190
Manny’s Coffee Shop & Deli
You’re here for the hot Corned Beef and Pastrami, preferably piled high together on some slabs of fresh rye bread. A little deli mustard, a nice dill pickle…it’s all happening here at Chicago’s longtime-favorite cafeteria. 1141 S. Jefferson, Chicago, 312-939-2855
Max and Benny’s
In the Schlan family for 25 years, this huge (300 seats) restaurant is full of classic deli choices, from beet borscht to chicken matzo ball soup and lox and bagels to kosher hot dogs. But you’ll also find “Bohemian Wraps” and a thoughtful gluten-free menu. Something for everyone! 461 Waukegan Rd., Northrook, 847-272-9490
Sometimes it feels like all of Highland Park and Northbrook try to squeeze in here for Sunday brunch. Styled on the New York delis of yore, the menu is stuffed with cabbage, kreplach and kishkes along with plenty of other tasty noshes. I love the Hoppel Poppel–scrambled eggs with chunks of salami, potato, onion and green pepper. Takes me back 40 years to lunch at the Esquire Deli with my grampa. 191 Skokie Valley Rd., Highland Park, 847-831-0600
Once Upon a Bagel
The blintzes! The corned beef hash! The huevos con chorizo! Wait! What? Lots of deli faves, fresh bagels, and a few Mexican dishes thrown in make this mini-chain (there’s also a Once Upon a Deli in Northbrook) a little different. Order and pay at the counter and the staff will bring it out to your table.1888 1st St., Highland Park, 847-433-1411; 1050 Gage St., Winnetka, 847-784-1411
Owner/”Macher” Phil Silverberg promises an “authentic Jewish Delicatessen Experience,” and he should know from that, growing up the “son of a deli maven.” The recipes are Bubbe Fay’s, from the fried matzo to the mish-mosh soup. 701 Milwaukee Ave., Vernon Hills, 224-206-7063
Srulies Essen Delicatessen
This strictly Kosher (and lactose-free) restaurant is a carryout deli located in the Wi-Fi Building, where you’ll find seating in the open lobby. It’s old-style with a twist, like a three-layer kugel with potato, lokshen and kishka, or a pastrami egg roll. They do big business in catering. 8170 N. McCormick Blvd., Skokie, 847-676-3333
The Bagel Restaurant
Both locations of this North Shore stalwart feature a ridiculously large menu, but you can’t go wrong with the omelettes, chicken soup, salads and deli sandwiches. I will be forever fond of the Old Orchard location, site of many family meals with young children, the bread basket and the pickle bowl on the table for hungry tummies. 3107 N. Broadway, Chicago, 773-477-0300; 50 Old Orchard Shopping Center, Skokie, 847-677-0100
Road Trip: Zingerman’s
This do-not-miss deli is all that and then some. It’s a must for any trip in Michigan; if your kids are headed to U of M, you are in luck! Happily, they have a bustling mail-order business, so you can order their amazing breads, cheeses, meats and condiments online. They even have a Zingerman’s Reuben Sandwich kit for overnight delivery. 610 Phoenix St., Ann Arbor, MI, 888-636-8162