Chicago is a city renowned for its diverse food scene, which includes some of the top Jewish delis in the country. Whether you’re looking for a classic corned beef on rye or something a little out of the ordinary, these delis keep it real.
But let’s start with a little backstory of why Jewish delis rise to the occasion when it comes to the overstuffed sandwiches and the meats they use.
What Are The Top Meats Found In A Jewish Deli?
The most requested sandwiches include pastrami, corned beef, and beef salami which is served in various traditional dishes regarding Ashkenazi Jewish cuisine. Ashkenazis were individuals descended from the medieval Jewish communities of the Rhineland in the west of Germany.
Migrating to America in the early 1800s, although we can thank the Romanian immigrants for pastrami, which was assimilated by the Jewish delicatessens.
One thing’s for sure, we can thank our lucky stars one of the centerpieces the Ashkenazis introduced America to was the bagel.
Corned Beef VS. Pastrami – What’s The Difference?
Pastrami is a type of cured and smoked meat that is typically made from beef. The meat that is mostly used is fine brisket. There are a number of different ways to make pastrami, but the most common method is to cure the meat in a mixture of salt, sugar, and spices, then smoke it.
After the meat has been cut, they dry it with traditional herbs and spices. These include garlic, salt, black pepper, cloves, coriander, and mustard seeds. Finally, they smoke and steam it to preserve it for a long time.
Corned Beef is made by boiling the brisket of beef, there is no corn used in corned beef. It is called corned beef because it uses large corns of salt. Sugar, herbs, and other spices are also key ingredients in the corned beef recipe, which gives it great preservative qualities.
So, corned beef is boiled and going to have a higher salt content. There’s also a difference in the type of cuts between these 2 slices of meat. The takeaway is if you’re hungry, in the area, and like your deli meat piled high, you’ll find these top Jewish delis in Chicago won’t disappoint.
Max And Benny’s Restaurant –
461 Waukegan Rd, Northbrook, IL 60062
Typical of most of these top Jewish delis, this was also named after their children. Here you can pick up Shabbat dinner boxes and at-home bagel-making kits if you want to shorten the distance from “just baked” to your mouth.
Called the “best Jewish deli in the Chicagoland area” by Chicago Magazine, you’ll find your classics like corned beef, pastrami, and Rueben sandwiches piled high and delicious. They also have a huge event room, so you can treat 100 of your closest friends to bagels done right.
Owner Lester Schlan fondly recalls the wonderful aromas from his Bubbie Gussie’s kitchen when she made kugel, gefilte fish, rugelach, and other Jewish delicacies. And Lester not only carries on the tradition but captures the same aroma and deliciousness in every item on the menu.
Steingold’s Of Chicago –
3737 N Southport Ave, Chicago, IL 60613
For more than half a century, Steingold’s has been a Chicago institution, serving up classic Jewish deli fare. From matzo ball soup to pastrami on rye, the food at Steingold’s is both comfortingly familiar and expertly executed. In a city filled with great delis, Steingold’s stands out as a true original.
In August 2017, Aaron Steingold along with his wife, Elizabeth Abowd, opened his restaurant in Irving Park, later relocating to Wrigleyville. Growing up on bagels and schmears, The bagel game is no joke at Steingold’s, and they take their bagel game very seriously.
A little fun fact, Aaron named his signature sandwiches after his deli-loving family members honoring them each with a sandwich worthy of their name. This includes Aunt Alice, Mama Jukie, Uncle Steven, and Dr. Tom.
Morry’s Deli –
5500 S. Cornell Ave Chicago, IL 60637
Morry’s deli is a Chicago institution, known for its delicious pastrami sandwiches. For over 50 years, Morry’s Deli has been piling on the deli meats high and mighty, to satisfy the long lines waiting to indulge.
His daughter Suze helped out behind the counter, although she is now front and center, famously known to us as financial guru Suze Orman. No doubt she never misplaced a receipt.
If you’re looking for a classic Chicago Jewish deli experience, Morry’s is the place to go. Ranked as a top 10 ten contender for the best of the best eateries on Eater Chicago, no need to be shy about devouring their sky-high triple-decker sandwiches. It’s the fashionable thing to do in Chicago.
Sam & Gerties (Vegan) –
1309 W Wilson Ave, Chicago, IL 60640
We wouldn’t want to neglect a top Jewish deli in the Windy City that caters to the vegan crowd, and the masses have spoken, Sam & Gerties nails it.
You’ll get the same delectable gourmet menu items found in other Jewish delis including latkes, bagel sandwiches, and challah dogs. The knishes are huge and delicious and you can even order meatless chopped liver. Who knew?
Breaking a small tradition of naming your deli after your kids, owner Andy Kalish opted for his maternal grandparents, Sam and Gertie Stuart. If you’re vegan, hungry, and craving eggless egg salad or chickenless chicken salad, look no further than Sam & Gerties.
Manny’s Cafeteria & Delicatessen–
1141 S Jefferson St, Chicago, IL 60607
With huge portions served up high, it might be best to go for half a pastrami sandwich so you have room for the chicken noodle soup, aka “the talk of the town.”
Up and running for over 50 years, founder Jack Raskin (yes, this one is also named after his son, Manny) used to pick up riders like a bus service as he did his daily deliveries.
Anyone who needed to hitch a ride could hop on the delivery truck. That same hometown camaraderie lives on at one of our top Jewish delis in Chicago.
Standing in line at the counter to get your food, you’ll most likely be rubbing shoulders with the who’s-who of Chicago – politicians and wise guys alike. Aside from the humongous corned beef sandwiches, don’t miss out on the glorious kugel.
If you like your perfectly cured and seasoned pastrami, roast beef, and corned beef piled chin-high then you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better sandwich outside of our top Jewish delis in Chicago.
With old-world recipes brought over to America and preserved through family tradition, you’ll be enjoying quality crafted homemade meals just the way your bubbie used to make them. And those Kosher pickles. Don’t get us started!