Manny's Cafeteria: Dive Into Retro Home-Cooked Meals in Chicago

Dive Into Retro Home-Cooked Meals in Chicago

This iconic Chicago eatery has been pleasing the hearts and bellies of Chicagoans for 60 years. And it seems hardly changed since its doors opened in 1942. The cafeteria-style restaurant is a no-frills establishment, full of history, family tradition, and best of all, mile-high corned beef sandwiches.

Owner Ken Raskin keeps his family’s recipes close to heart, serving up traditional Jewish comfort food in the cafeteria line at Manny’s. Diners pick up their trays and silverware at the door and meander down the food stations, where snarky employees dish out meals like cafeteria ladies. Customers can choose from a wide range of dishes including matzo ball soup, hearty beef stew, brisket, and kugel that tastes like your grandmother’s own.

Though you can’t go wrong with most everything on the menu, true Chicagoans know that the corned beef sandwich is what Manny’s is really about. The meat is sliced thin and piled so high you lose sight of the sliced bread it’s sandwiched between. Pair it with a side of crisp potato pancakes and a pickle and you’ve got yourself a signature Manny’s meal.

When customers have filled their trays to capacity, they are led to the modest, brightly lit dining room to set down their trays in true cafeteria fashion. The walls are covered in newspaper clippings and photos of Manny’s over the years. It speaks to the restaurant’s rich history in Chicago and its eternal ties to family and community. It is a comforting, nostalgic atmosphere, where patrons from all over come to enjoy a communal experience. Politicians in crisp blue suits, National Wrecking workers in their dirt-ridden hard hats, and families venturing from the suburbs all flock to Manny’s for a taste of old-school, family food.

If you skipped out on the homemade apple pie, there’s a second chance to grab a dessert at the register. On a table just before you pay (don’t throw away your receipt because you pay on your way out!) lie dozens of frosted sugar cookies in the shapes of animals, food, and of course, Chicago sports team logos. The cookies are dense and have significant weight to them, but they’re easier to gobble up than you might think.

Manny’s truly transcends time and makes you forget that the 21st century is tech-crazed, and fast paced. Just don’t forget to tip the valet. Yes, there is valet.