CHICAGO (WLS) -- Traditional Jewish delis are about as rare in Chicago as giant slices of New York-style pizza. But our Hungry Hound says a new business - opened during the pandemic - is hoping to both update the old model, while honoring tradition. It's being run by a former baker from Los Angeles, who moved to Chicago a few years ago, and missed the delis of her youth.
At least for the next few weeks, it's not a traditional deli like you're thinking of. You can't go inside to peruse a deli case, and it's only open a few hours on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. But the few items on offer are certainly worth driving to pick up, especially if you miss the hearty breads and smoked meats, like I do, from a bygone era.
Ursula Siker was a baker in L.A., so when she decided to open Jeff & Jude's Jewish Deli - an homage to her folks, located on the cusp of Humboldt Park and Ukrainian Village - eggy, braided challahs and rustic country loaves would have to be a part of her menu.
"We had a really large Jewish deli community where I come from, and so when I moved to Chicago, one of the first things I noticed was there was a lack of it in the city itself. I decided that it was my opportunity to make the food that I missed," she said.
The menu is limited now, but she's slowly expanding. One thing that will likely stay is her pastrami. Consider what she has to do to whole briskets.
"It's a two-week brine that we do, and then after that two-week brine, for the pastrami, we'll de-salinate it in water overnight, and then we're gonna put it in our smoker with a rub on it; then for the corned beef we're gonna just let that broil overnight in the water in the oven for about 15 hours," said Siker.
The brisket has an assertive, peppery "bark" surrounding it, and hand-slicing reveals thick slabs perfect for stacking. But rather than the usual rye bread, she makes her own dark marble rye, slathers it with grainy mustard, then piles on the pastrami for a Jewish soul food throwback that'll jolt anyone's grandparents longing for nostalgia.
"We also do a classic Reuben, which is gonna be corned beef on rye with your 'kraut, your Swiss, your Russian dressing," she said.
Using Coca Cola, she also does another type of brisket.
"We have a sweet-and-sour brisket that we do, and that'll be served open-faced on our challah."
There'll be matzo ball soup of course, but like anything on her menu, the dishes will be time-consuming and labor-intensive. It requires a young chef who has the stamina, but in this case, also the skill and drive to make them without taking shortcuts.
"It costs a ton to make this food - takes a ton of time - but if you can taste that difference in our product, then it shouldn't matter what it costs," said Siker.
For the next few weeks, just Friday through Sunday, but in November she hopes to open more regular hours with a larger menu. Today, for example, they have pickups from 5 to 7 pm, so you can begin placing orders at 4 pm. And believe me, she sells out every week.
1024 N. Western Ave.
You MUST order online, one hour before their pickups begin.
Fridays, 5 - 7 pm (so ordering starts at 4 pm)
Saturdays and Sundays, 11 am - 2 pm (so ordering starts at 10 am both days)