Chicago's iconic Manny's Deli asks for support to survive COVID-19 pandemic

Wednesday, July 15, 2020
Manny's Deli asks for support to survive coronavirus pandemic, and customers heed the call
The famous and deeply beloved Manny's Deli reached out to its social media followers for help, admitting they were struggling to stay afloat during the COVID-19 pandemic, and their customers came out in droves to help.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- The famous Manny's Deli is pleading with their regulars to return, and their customers are responding in droves.

The owner at Manny's Deli said like many businesses right now, the pandemic is creating a tough situation. They are trying to keep their business afloat and are taking to social media to find help.

Fourth-generation owner Dan Raskin sent out a tweet Tuesday, saying, "We are struggling. This isn't a joke. Support your fav deli for dinner tonight. Thx"

They are not in danger of closing yet, but things are not looking good. Manny's catering and take-out business wasn't enough after the pandemic began.

Raskin has even set-up a GoFundMe page to help raise money for meals for frontline workers in turn that will keep their own employees working. So far, the page has raised over $28,000

"We've been trying every single thing we could do to stay busy," Raskin said. "When the pandemic started, we really wanted to keep as many or all of our employees employed, and we did that for the first few months. ... We can't keep taking losses in the restaurant."

Dan's father Ken said catering was good the first few months, but once other restaurants started to open Manny's saw a "big dip."

After asking for support, Manny's tweeted out "We are crying with joy - Chicago, you came through"

"He (Dan) wanted to express to the public things aren't great, not normal, and we really need them to start coming back, and they are coming back in droves; it's wonderful," Ken said.

Customers heeded the call; for several hours Wednesday there was a long line to get in. Some drove miles; others were first-time customers.

"When I moved to Chicago and asked everyone 'where should I go, where are the places to eat,' everybody always mentioned Manny's," customer Josh Nelson said.

Manny's Cafeteria and Delicatessen has been a staple in Chicago for more than 70 years. The restaurant originally opened in 1942. It's long-served as a meeting place for politicians and the spot to go for a hearty meal.

Former President Barack Obama was a regular. Former Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn celebrated his gubernatorial win there.

Regulars say you haven't lived until you've tried Manny's corned beef and potato pancakes.

"One does not go without the other," customer Kevin Barry said. "It's a Chicago tradition; it's worth the 45-minute drive to get the sandwich."

Almarie Burton, another customer, said "we've been coming here for years and years and years."

And former politicos responded as well. Former Obama aide David Axelrod tweeted his support, and Mayor Lori Lightfoot was going to stop by, but didn't have time to stand in line.

The Raskin Family is confident it can stay in business during the next few months, especially after Wednesday's response, but worry about the long-term.

Because companies in the downtown are having employees work remotely, business has slowed down for many places.

Eden restaurant in the 1700-block of West Lake Street, which opened four years ago, is closing its doors. In a statement, the restaurant group that owns the eatery said in part, "... the larger economic impact resulting from the coronavirus pandemic has made it impossible for us to sustain operations"

An earlier version of this story reported that Kiki's Bistro had also closed permanently. The restaurant clarified on its website and social media accounts that while it has cut some services and is currently closed due to the pandemic, it is not permanently closed and is still working on plans to reopen.