The key to a good deli is a great corned beef sandwich
Always on the hunt for a great corned beef sandwich. It’s not easy when you live in Chicagoland’s Southwest Suburbs, but there are a few that come close. Nothing like the great corned beef sandwiches you can get at Manny’s in the south Chicago Loop or Max’s in Highland Park. But, we can still hope
By Ray Hanania
I am constantly on the hunt for a good corned beef sandwich. They are not easy to come by. There are a lot of delis that offer them, and many are good. But, it’s hard to find one that is great.
Maybe I am spoiled. I am from a Christian Palestinian family and that means I grew up with very close ties to Jews. We may not always get along when it comes to politics, but when it comes to a great corned beef sandwich, we usually see eye-to-eye.
There are several delis that offer great corned beef sandwiches but few of them are in the Southwest suburbs.
One is in Chicago, Manny’s Cafeteria & Delicatessen has been making corned beef sandwiches since 1942 so they have the formula, and the ingredients, down perfectly.
I’m not a restauranteur and I may not know how to run a great deli but I do know one thing, the most important part of a great corned beef sandwich is to have great corned beef. And, you can’t be cheap when it comes to slapping that thinly sliced corned beef.
Now, corned beef is actually a slab of beef, usually a section of the brisket, which is soaked for about a week in a seasoned brine consisting of water, curing salt, and spices. The soaking, or the curing process usually takes a few days.
Of course, you can get different quality. The prefect corned beef, and the not-so-perfect which you can usually buy in thin slices in plastic packing in the deli section of your favorite grocery store. You can usually find the “OK” corned beef in some fast food restaurants where “processed” meat sold for greater profit is the rule of thumb.
I have driven dozens of times from my home in Orland Park to Manny’s Deli just to bring back their sandwiches for the family. Usually, they come with a potato latke, large pickle on rye.
Wow, do those sandwiches taste great!
When I am up north, Max’s Deli and Restaurant in Highland Park, at 191 Skokie Valley Road. These two restaurants are tied for first place when it comes to the best tasting corned beef sandwiches in the Midwest.
Now, like I said, you can come close. But then, who likes to really play horseshoes when you are hungry?
Last week, a new deli opened up in Orland Park, which isn’t really the best place for Jews or Kosher delis. My wife and son are Jewish and they have to drive 45 minutes to get to their synagogue because there isn’t one in the Southwest suburbs at all. And there are no Jewish delis in Orland Park, either, which is probably why there are no synagogues, I imagine.
But McAlister’s Deli just opened a second location in Orland at 143rd Street and LaGrange Road in a small mall on the Southeast corner of the very busy intersection. They have one in Naperville and are planning another one in Mokena. It has that nice New York Deli look with a wide assortment of sandwiches that includes “The New Yorker,” a corned beef and pastrami combination on marbled rye bread.
It was OK. And I hate to criticize any restaurant because having once owned a brick-and-mortar small business, I know how hard it is to satisfy everyone. It wasn’t bad. But the corned beef and the pastrami tasted like that “medium” quality meat that you buy at Jewel that comes pre-packaged in plastic — not cut at the meat counter. It’s shiny, wet, and tastes like it’s a little processed too much.
It’s a good sandwich and McAlister’s is very generous with its portions. But it’s just not quite there, even at $9.99 a sandwich. They do have other sandwiches I will certainly try like the Reuben for $8.99, a Black angus cut called “The Big Nasty” for $9.99, and a smoked turkey cut with Black Angus roast beef, and provolone for $7.99. That’s just the start of the menu.
They have a nice clean and roomy dining area, too.
Well, like I said, I will definitely swing by there again, but I am still on the hunt for that perfect corned beef sandwich in the Southwest suburbs.
I also have to check out DA’s Deli in Tinley Park … I hear they have great corned beef sandwiches. I’ll let you know in a future post.
One day, my goyish pals, we just might find the perfect corned beef sandwich in the Southwest Region.
Until then, settle into the driver’s seat and get down to Manny’s. It’s worth the 50 minute drive.
(Ray Hanania is an award winning columnist, author and former Chicago City Hall reporter. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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