Jake’s Deli: The Modern Diner

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Jake’s Deli, located at 1634 W. North Avenue, looked like a typical diner, except the soulful voice of R&B artist Miguel was playing from the radio overhead. As I stepped in, the cashier was hollering a farewell, “Good-bye Ms. Beth, see you tomorrow!” It seemed all of the employees took the time to get to know the customers, always a good sight to see.

A cashier was just off of the main entrance to the left, with two chefs working away behind a deli counter to the right of the entrance. The two chefs, stationed across from each other, were working together, constantly shouting back-and-forth to each other about quantities of food inventory, “Six pastrami left!”

I walked up to place my order.

The menu itself was not very extensive, just a few sandwiches and soups, so it was not very difficult to choose my corned beef sandwich and matzo ball soup, while my guest ordered the pastrami dog with the corned beef and cabbage soup. The menu at Jake’s Deli is kosher; dairy products are not mixed with meat, so I was surprised that the cashier offered cheese on every sandwich.

We noticed a plain-clothed police officer just to the right of the main entrance with his badge and gun in tow. I wondered about the need for that, especially in the middle of the afternoon. I wasn’t concerned, though, because it seemed he was simply relaying messages between the work stations and greeting customers, rather than acting as a form of security. Anyway, I was there for the food.

After we placed our order, I got a good look at the industrial interior. Old-timey light fixtures, reminiscent of the 1940s, hung from the ceiling. There were five booths along the western wall and five tables in the center, all with comfortable seating for four. We walked in roughly around 3:30 p.m. on a weekday and were told waitress service ends at 3 p.m. daily. The deli closes at 5 p.m., so it is intended to be a late lunch or early dinner.

I inquired about our orders about 15 minutes after they were placed and was told the food was at first made incorrectly. After finally getting our orders, we received our soups wrapped in aluminum foil-covered plain Styrofoam containers, slightly off-putting to the eye. We set those aside and immediately dove into the sandwiches.
My corned beef sandwich, perfectly toasted on rye bread, was so tender and juicy, it absolutely stole my heart. I sampled my guest’s pastrami dog, which was a beef hot dog split down the center and layered on top with pastrami, a popular Jewish beef brisket, smoked in peppercorns, all inside of a pretzel hot dog bun. I thought it was tasty, but needed more of the spicy brown mustard to kick up the flavor.
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Next came the matzo ball soup, the “ball” being a sticky Jewish dumpling, which was at a temperature of a blazing inferno, but I was too impatient to wait for it to cool. The soup was made with what tasted like homemade chicken stock; it was perfect for this chilly fall day. The corned beef and cabbage soup was also tasty, with mild flavors perfectly blended, but a little too mild for my taste.

Midway through our meal, as in the style of the deli, a chef yelled out to us from across the restaurant, “Is everything good?” We replied with two thumbs up and mouths full of delicious deli bites.

After finishing up our sandwiches and repackaging our leftover soups, we got up to leave and were asked again if our food was good. We nodded and said our goodbyes. Our meals were tasty and warm on that cold fall day, and were also easy on the wallet.

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