Manny's Coffee Shop & Deli will unveil the biggest change in the Chicago landmark eatery's 74-year history when it opens its deli counter on Tuesday. The fourth-generation family business has expanded, taking over the two neighboring businesses to the north. The extra space allows for more baked goods and an expansion of their catering business.
Co-owner Dan Raskin said his family wants to keep the cafeteria and deli counter as distinct entities. The new space lacks seating, as it's strictly a to-go concept. Patrons can now grab a latte from La Colombe, pastries from Patti Raskin or smoked fish to go. Ownership sees Manny's as a resource for the South Side and the entire city.
"There's just more of a need for this," Dan Raskin said. "There's nothing like this in the city."
While they'll continue to keep the cafeteria closed on Sundays, a practice Raskin said started in the late 1960s after the Chicago riots, the counter will be open on Sundays. Construction began eight months ago, but Raskin said he floated the idea about 10 years ago. It took a decade to convince his father, Ken Raskin.
Most patrons will first notice the candy that was once near the exit has been moved to the deli counter. But that's not the only change for the main room, which has been reopened for three weeks. While it still seats 275, Raskin said they've redone every surface with new materials while retaining the restaurant's charm. They've added portable walls so they can better host private events and doubled the size of the salad bar. But not everything's about healthier diets, as they've added ice cream so staff and serve shakes.
Manny's will also better utilize its liquor license, serving wine and beer from local breweries. Raskin acknowledged the struggles facing Jewish delis across the country, as many are closing while facing dwindling profit margins. That's another reason to grow the business. However, they're not pinning their hopes on alcohol: "A Jewish deli is not just ever going to have a huge bar business," Raskin said.
And despite adding La Colombe, Manny's isn't going after the WiFi/coffee shop set. It's okay if customers won't eat lunch and work over a couple hours, but they're not looking for loafers. "We'll throw them out," Ken Raskin joked.
The changes are part of a mission to better serve the customer, and everything, including the bagels from New York Bagel & Bialy in Lincolnwood, are prominently displayed. "If customers don't see it, they aren't going to ask for it," Dan Raskin said.