I’ve been very impressed with Barack Obama’s moves since becoming the President-elect. But this afternoon Obama did something to make me swoon: He had lunch at Manny’s Delicatessen in Chicago. All I can say is that this lean arugla-lover has found some soul — or at least soul food.
Back when Gitell.com started, I included Manny’s on my list of approved delis: “Cantors in Los Angeles, Nate & Al’s in Beverly Hills (catch Larry King at breakfast), Manny’s in Chicago, Zingerman’s in Ann Arbor, Katz’s Deli on Houston Street, Harold’s in Edison, New Jersey (home to the pickle bar), Smallman Street Deli in Pittsburgh. I cannot neglect to mention Schwartz’s Smoked Meat in Montreal, worth a trip to Quebec.”
In retrospect, I don’t think I provided enough detail on Manny’s, about which I had not heard until I ate there with my sister-in-law and her husband, a native Chicagoan. Located near the historic Hull House, Manny’s is most remniscent of Katz’s on the Lower East Side in Manhattan. We walked in on a frigid January day to find a food oasis. It’s the kind of of pleasantly ungentrified place where the odor of corned beef, pickles and pastrami is embedded into the walls. I had a hot corned beef sandwich with a potato pancake and matzo ball soup. It was one of the first restaurants that disavowed me of the notion that good, authentic deli had to come from New York.
My brother-in-law Mitch, my guide to culinary Chicago, Super Dawg, Italian beefs, deep dish pizza, etc., filled me in. Manny’s, he said, was a place where I was just as likely to find a local alderman, judge or political columnist as I was a hungry Bears fan. Or the president-elect and his top adviser.