Manny’s Coffee Shop

Review by: Jane & Michael Stern

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. Maxwell Street is tame today, but the restaurant Manny Raskin opened just after the Second World War bursts with the personality of downtown Chicago. A big, cafeteria-style eatery frequented by cops and wise guys, politicians and business people, and cured-meat lovers from the distant suburbs, Manny’s is one of Chicago’s grandest eating experiences.

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

Corned beef sandwiches are Manny’s signature dish. 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.

Handfuls of this magnificent meat are stuffed 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.) The sandwiches get made and sold so quickly that during busy mealtimes Gino always sets up four or five ready-made with a potato pancake on the plate, so customers in a hurry can bypass the hot food at the beginning of the cafeteria line and nab what they want without fuss at the sandwich counter. No prepared sandwich remains on the counter longer than forty-five seconds before a customer speeds past and pulls it down onto a tray.

There is a huge menu beyond corned beef, including daily specials by which many Chicagoans arrange their culinary week. Monday, count on corned beef hash, stuffed green peppers, and breaded veal chops. Wednesday is the day for chicken pot pie or turkey drumsticks and mushroom barley soup. Friday is fried smelts, perch, and macaroni day. Thursday is a thrilling day for oxtail stew aficionados because Ken Raskin can make only a limited amount, which usually sells out by noon.

Directions & Hours

9:30am - 3:30pm
  • 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

DISH
Blintzes

DISH
Matzoh Ball Soup

DISH
Apple Slice

DISH

Manny’s Coffee Shop Recipes

Discuss

What do you think of Manny’s Coffee Shop?

One Response to “Manny’s Coffee Shop”

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.

Reply

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