Manny’s Coffee Shop & Deli | Corned Beef Chicago-Style

Review by: Michael Stern

Good Old Chicago

You will find Manny’s Coffee Shop and Deli at the edge of Chicago’s loop. It’s not too far from where the everything-goes bazaar known as Maxwell Street once thrived and where Chicago blues were born. Maxwell Street became a housing development. But the restaurant Manny Raskin opened just after World War II endures. Its big, old-Chicago personality lures cops and wise guys, politicians and business people, and cured-meat lovers from the distant suburbs. A great number of them come for corned beef, Chicago-style.

Corned Beef, Chicago-Style

“Step around for corned beef!” calls Ken Raskin, Manny’s son, to customers who crowd through the line at lunch hour. “Step around for sandwiches and latkes.”

Sandwiches of corned beef, Chicago-style, put Manny’s on the map. Gino Gambarota, Manny’s corned beef man for as long as anyone can remember, will cut the meat the way you like it — lean, fatty, or regular. But he will not cut it thick. “The art of cutting corned beef is to cut it as thin as possible, and against the grain,” Gino says. His slices are shaved so thin they verge on disintegration; but they stay intact and miraculously succulent. That’s corned beef, Chicago-style.

Gino stuffs handfuls of this magnificent meat into sandwiches so large that many customers eat one half and take the other back to the office. When a diminutive woman in a business suit asks Gino if he can make her only half a sandwich, he sasses back, “Lady, this isn’t Highland Park!” (Highland Park is a hoity-toity suburb on the North Shore.) During busy mealtimes Gino sets up four or five ready-made sandwiches with a potato pancake on the plate. That way, customers in a hurry can bypass hot food at the beginning of the cafeteria line. No prepared sandwich remains on the counter longer than forty-five seconds.

Daily Specials

There is a huge menu beyond corned beef, including daily specials by which many Chicagoans arrange their culinary week. Monday, count on Lake Superior whitefish, beef brisket, and noodle kugel. Come Friday and you can choose from among gefilte fish, fried smelts, and salisbury steak. Oxtail stew aficionados have made Thursday their red-letter day for ox tail stew. If that’s what you want, come early. The kitchen makes only a limited amount. It can sell out by noon.

Directions & Hours

9:30am - 8pm
  • Monday: 9:30 AM – 3:30 PM
  • Tuesday: 9:30 AM – 8:00 PM
  • Wednesday: 9:30 AM – 8:00 PM
  • Thursday: 9:30 AM – 8:00 PM
  • Friday: 9:30 AM – 8:00 PM
  • Saturday: 9:30 AM – 8:00 PM
  • Sunday: 9:30 AM – 3:30 PM

What To Eat

Corned Beef Sandwich


Matzoh Ball Soup

Apple Slice


Manny’s Coffee Shop & Deli | Corned Beef Chicago-Style Recipes


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One Response to “Manny’s Coffee Shop & Deli | Corned Beef Chicago-Style”

Skip Becker

July 27th, 2006

I brought three foodies to Manny’s: a NYC deli owner, a food critic, and a restaurant supplier. The first person ordered a hot dog with loads of sauerkraut (a NY dog), a knish, cole slaw, and a pastrami sandwich. The critic had a pastrami sandwich, chopped liver, and matzo ball soup and a potato pancake. The third person chose a corned beef sandwich, an order of kishke, and matzo ball soup.

The pastrami was inedible. It had been sliced ahead of time and was sitting in an aluminum pan. The sandwich man grabbed a hunk of it and placed it between two pieces of rye bread, cut it with a big knife and handed it over. The meat was dark brown and curled up, a sign that it was allowed to cool and then warmed up, not freshly sliced. There was way too much of that thin rubber band-like strip of fat. No slices at all. All scraps… terrible. None of the four of us could eat it.

The chopped liver had an oily sheen across the top and was a little loose, but otherwise wasn’t too bad. The matzo ball was tasteless. The kishke was dry – the thick brown gravy made it edible. The only half-decent food we tried was the corned beef. The potato pancake was cold and dry.

Perhaps if you come at 1:30PM like we did, the food is less than fresh and dried out. I’ve been coming to Manny’s for over 40 years. Last time, we arrived at 11AM and the food was fantastic. The pastrami was fresh and red, with whole peppered slices. As close to NY quality as you can get. What I had this time shouldn’t be served to prisoners.


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