Kaufman's Bagels and Deli in Skokie gears up for busy holiday season

Saturday, September 20, 2014
Kaufman's in Skokie gears up for Jewish holidays
You've got to take a number at Kaufman's Bagels and Deli, especially this time of year, as deli trays are assembled all day long.

SKOKIE, Ill. (WLS) -- The Jewish High Holidays begin next week, and for thousands of people in Chicago that means picking up a deli tray. One of the busiest places in the region is going to be on Dempster in Skokie, just like it's been the past 50 years or so.

The Dworkin family bought Kaufman's in Skokie in 1984, but back then, the legendary bagel bakery and deli had already been in business for some 20 years. A few years ago, a fire gutted the building. But after a year of renovations, the family re-opened a bigger, better Kaufman's, and are now getting ready for yet another busy holiday season.

You've got to take a number at Kaufman's Bagels and Deli, especially this time of year, as deli trays are assembled all day long. The fire forced the owners to not only add seating, but also a few other notable deli items.

"We've added salads, a whole new fish case, a great variety of fishes," said Judith Dworkin, owner of Kaufman's. "Nothing is really brought in except the lox. We smoke our sable, we smoke our sturgeon, we smoke the whitefish, we have whitefish salad - two different kinds of whitefish salad."

The Chicago version has mayo and eggs; the New York whitefish salad contains sour cream and onions. As for that smoker, the meaty, tender sturgeon and sable - also known as black cod - emerge from their smoky, temporary homes transformed, and truly exquisite. Be sure to add them to a bagel with a shmear of cream cheese, maybe a slice or two of cucumber and bite into an historic sandwich. What am I, chopped liver? Actually, the version here - replete with eggs, onions and schmaltz (that's chicken fat), is also spreadable on toast or bagels.

There's corned beef and pastrami of course as well as both new and old dill pickles, which you choose from one of the giant barrels up front. An extensive bakery has plenty of sweets and sandwich breads, but bagels rule.

"Bagels are a tremendous seller here and we make them the old-fashioned way: boiling before baking," Dworkin said.

Even if you're not celebrating the High Holidays, don't worry; they prepare and sell all of this Jewish "soul food" year-round. But the regulars know to place their orders well ahead of time, because just before Yom Kippur, the lines become, well, a bit longer.

"We used to joke and say we need a policeman to direct traffic," Dworkin said.

Kaufman's Bagels and Deli

4905 W. Dempster Ave., Skokie