Saturday, March 7, 2015

Episode XXXV: Manny's Cafeteria and Delicatessen (MDW)

So there I was, in the Second City the day after my birthday.  The night before I was able to meet up for drinks with friends from high-school, business school, and my past life in Boston.  It had been a great night until I came home and my wife told me she sprained her ankle and could not walk. She couldn’t even make it to the bathroom and I had to carry her. She couldn’t put any weight on it and I wasn’t sure what we were going to do. Our three-year was not going to be happy about his Mama being sidelined.

That morning we hastily arranged a trip to spend the week in San Antonio with my family. The extra help would give my wife time to do physical therapy and give Danny a chance to hang out with his Abeula. The injury itself was not serious but brought back lots of bad memories. It was a bad weekend to forget my Celexa in Atlanta but sometimes a Reuben is just what you need to cheer you up. 

All along this blog has been an outlet for me, an escape. It is something to keep me busy and remind me not to take myself too seriously.  A trip to Manny’s Cafeteria & Delicatessen in the shadows of the Chicago skyline is exactly what I needed.

Corned Beef Reuben
Stuffed with corned beef, grilled with swiss and sauerkraut, with 1000 island on the side.

Appearance – (4.2/5.0)
I have been critical of “your grandpa’s” style Reubens before. They are the type that piles high the beef just for spectacle. Manny’s piles it high but it looks great, once you move the huge potato pancake out of the way.

One thing that caught my attention was the marbling of the fat in the meat. We are usually referring to rye on this blog when we mention marbling but not in this case. It looks almost like prosciutto. You can see each thin slice of corned beef has just a sliver of white fat running through it.

Quality Of Ingredients – (4.6/5.0)
 Spared no expense. (For the first, I don’t know, 15 years of my life, when I watched Jurassic Park and the old guy kept saying “spared no expense” I thought he somehow found a way to get it for free. As if he found a way to spare the expense and did not have to pay for it. I kept thinking to myself, how did this guy build an entire dinosaur theme park for free? How many favors did he call in?)

Well Manny spared no expense in making this Reuben, particularly the Corned Beef. They have slicers going non-stop and it produces this mountain of meat. I was amazed to see all of the guys behind the counter still had all of their digits. I was concerned at first at what kind of 1000 island dressing would come on the side in that little plastic sample cup but it was great. All of the pieces were in place for a great Reuben.

Price – (3.9/5.0)
$14.95! That is not cheap but I think it was a good value. For one we were in Chicago $$$, they do provide free parking $$$, the potato pancake along was enough to fill me up $$$, and the portion was huge $$$.  So all things considered, it wasn’t crazy expensive. This also may be the only Reuben I did not finish. I took one half home to my temporarily-immobile wife.  My father-in-law picked up the bill so I was able to spare that expense.

Je Ne Sais Quoi – (4.7/5.0)
The guys behind the counter at Manny’s seem like they have been doing this for a very, very long time. These guys are flipping plates, throwing meat around, directing traffic, all while automatic meat blades are flying all around them. It was a great little place. A true old-world experience that you can tell the folks of Chicago are proud to call their own. 

They also seem to be very proud of the fact that a cow burned their city to the ground. We drove by UIC on the way to Manny’s and their mascot is the Flames. The MLS team is the Fire, and they embrace the Second City. I think it is one of those things where they can put it out in front to get it out of the way. Kind of like when you tell your co-workers about a stain on your shirt before they see it themselves. 

Taste – (9.6/10.0)
Not bad at all! I found myself opening up the Reuben at one point and just eating one strip of Corned Beef at a time. It was so good. The dressing on the side worked well because it allowed me to control how much of it I wanted. Turns out, it is also great for dipping with the potato pancake.

The Swiss cheese was good but it was not freshly melted by the time I got it. They pre-grill the rye bread with Swiss and sauerkraut and when you order the Reuben, they fork it open and pile in the Corned Beef. It keeps the line moving but you do lose just a bit of flavor by having the Swiss, sauerkraut and bread just sitting around.

Overall – (27.0/30.0)

Would I order it again, yes! Although I would want to go with a big group so we can all order different stuff. The menu is huge and there were lots of things I wanted to try. The Matzo Ball soup looked great, the pastas, even the liver and onions! It is the type of place you just don’t see that much anymore and I am glad I got to go.   
Manny's Cafeteria & Delicatessen on Urbanspoon


  1. When you are ready to try the Reuben at Twain's in Decatur, let me know.

    This is my new favorite blog.

  2. I am glad that I finally got a chance to check out this place. Great views, food is nice. The quality of service at NYC events was great, and the environment were pretty comfortable. I’ll say I will look forward to visit again.