Open for about three weeks, Brendan Sodikoff's old-world deli has already survived an identity crisis. Dillman's, formerly known as Dillman's Delicatessen, is a River North-appropriate deli-inspired American brasserie, serving up traditional Jewish favorites along with classic cocktails. The upscale look makes Dillman's to a deli what Au Cheval is to a diner, with crystal chandeliers and upholstered arm chairs both impressing and confusing the restaurant's clientele. Check out the early word on Dillman's:
The Good News: Chicago Magazine checked out the food and declared, "The thing that tasted best at Dillman's Deli was: everything we tasted." The staff claimed to have downed some of the meal before they even remembered to take a photo. "The corned beef on rye brought me back to before Jewish delis put calamari on the menu, and the lox and whitefish terrine had just the right this-millennium touch." [Chicago Magazine]
The Bad and Quick-Fix News: Almost immediately after opening, Sodikoff dropped "Deli" from the restaurant's name. Crain's reports, "Since day one he has been hearing from customers—mostly older diners—that they're having a hard time understanding the concept, and get angry that the restaurant doesn't have a deli case selling corned beef, pastrami and turkey." Sodikoff hopes that losing "Deli" from the name and instead promoting the concept as a deli-inspired restaurant will adjust guest expectations. [Crain's Chicago Business]
The Recommendation News: According to Thrillist's Sean Cooley, "Being a credible Jewish deli doesn't mean having a signed headshot of Larry King on your wall—it means being serious about the noshables." Cooley says that Dillman's "looks glorious" and specifically highlights "the house-cured corned beef, which is brined for 10 days, steamed, and stuffed by the half-pound in each rye sandwich." [Thrillist]
The Ambiance News: Urban Daddy describes Dillman's as "Gilt Bar if it were reimagined as a delicatessen." Although you could certainly show up to Sodikoff's new place on a number of occasions, the site dubs Dillman's a "date-worthy" deli. [Urban Daddy]
The Comparison News: Chicago Reader commented, "It's interesting that people pretty much took to Au Cheval instantly, for all the ways it's a diner that's not like any diner people had seen before, but they reacted so strongly to this being a deli that's not like other delis." Sodikoff replied that the traffic has actually been about the same, but agreed that Dillman's was not what guests were expecting. [Chicago Reader]
The Jewish Grandma News: Although your older relatives may not recognize the format of Dillman's, they might be more likely enjoy the food itself. Hungry In Chicago blogger Kara Lichtenstein tweeted, "Potato latkes with apple sauce & sour cream. My grandma would be proud." Kat Levitt of A Girl and Her Food agreed: "Besides my babcia's potato pancakes, these are my fav in CHI #latkes & your bubbie would approve." [Twitter]
Eater Chicago intern Janna Kaplan contributed to this story.