The key to a good deli is a great corned beef sandwich

The key to a good deli is a great corned beef sandwich

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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.

Corned beef sandwich from Manny's Deli on south Jefferson Street at Roosevelt Road in Chicago, Photo courtesy of Ray Hanania

Corned beef sandwich from Manny’s Deli on south Jefferson Street at Roosevelt Road in Chicago, Photo courtesy of Ray Hanania

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?

McAlister's Deli in Orland Park. Photo courtesy of Ray Hanania

McAlister’s Deli in Orland Park. Photo courtesy of Ray Hanania

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.

A corned beef sandwich at McAlister's Deli in Orland Park. Photo courtesy of Ray Hanania

A corned beef sandwich at McAlister’s Deli in Orland Park. Photo courtesy of Ray Hanania

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.

A corned beef sandwich at McAlister's Deli in Orland Park. Photo courtesy of Ray Hanania

A corned beef sandwich at McAlister’s Deli in Orland Park. Photo courtesy of Ray Hanania

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 rghanania@gmail.com.)

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This post viewed: 3906 times

Ray Hanania

Ray Hanania is an award winning political and humor columnist who analyzes American and Middle East politics, and life in general. He is an author of several books.

"I write about three topics, the Middle East, politics and life in general. I often take my life experiences and offer them in an entertaining way to readers, and I take on the toughest topics like the Israel-Palestine conflict and don't pull any punches about what I feel is fair. But, my priority is always about writing the good story."

Hanania covered Chicago Politics and Chicago City Hall from 1976 through 1992. Hanania began writing in 1975 when he published The Middle Eastern Voice newspaper in Chicago (1975-1977). He later published “The National Arab American Times” newspaper which was distributed through 12,500 Middle East food stores in 48 American States (2004-2007).

Hanania writes weekly columns on Middle East and American Arab issues for the Arab News in Saudi Arabia at www.ArabNews.com, and at www.TheArabDailyNews.com, www.TheDailyHookah.com and at SuburbanChicagoland.com. He has also published weekly columns in the Jerusalem Post newspaper, YNetNews.com, Newsday Newspaper in New York, the Orlando Sentinel Newspapers, and the Arlington Heights Daily Herald.

Palestinian, American Arab and Christian, Hanania’s parents originate from Jerusalem and Bethlehem.

Hanania is the recipient of four (4) Chicago Headline Club “Peter Lisagor Awards” for Column writing. In November 2006, he was named “Best Ethnic American Columnist” by the New American Media. In 2009, Hanania received the prestigious Sigma Delta Chi Award for Writing from the Society of Professional Journalists. He is the recipient of the MT Mehdi Courage in Journalism Award. He was honored for his writing skills with two (2) Chicago Stick-o-Type awards from the Chicago Newspaper Guild. In 1990, Hanania was nominated by the Chicago Sun-Times editors for a Pulitzer Prize for his four-part series on the Palestinian Intifada.

His writings have also been honored by two national Awards from ADC for his writing, and from the National Arab American Journalists Association.

The managing editor of Suburban Chicagoland Online News website www.SuburbanChicagoland.com, Hanania's columns also appear in the Southwest News Newspaper Group of 8 newspapers.

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