Growing up in LA, Ursula Siker spent a lot of time at one of the city’s oldest delis, Canter’s Delicatessen. Siker, whose father is Jewish, yearned for a deli like Canter’s in Chicago, a place where customers could hang out all day and enjoy pastrami, corned beef, and fresh bread. That’s why Siker, the baker at Hoosier Mama Pie Company in West Town, plans on opening Jeff & Judes this early next year in the former Lockdown Bar & Grill space at 1024 N. Western Avenue in Ukrainian Village.
“All I want to do is make LA-style Jewish deli food,” Siker said.
Jeff & Judes has been popping up across town at bars like Best Intentions and Sportsman’s Club and at restaurants like Table, Donkey and Stick. The restaurant will have a to-go counter selling leavened breads like marble rye, country loaf, and challah. Customers will be able to get broth to go and potato and pasta salads. Siker hopes for a late February or March opening.
Bagels are a polarizing topic in Chicago. There will be bagels at Jeff & Judes, but Siker won’t be making them onsite, opting for another supplier she hasn’t determined. Siker said there’s not enough kitchen space to make them properly in her restaurant: “I want them to be as good as they can be from Chicago,” Siker said.
The restaurant also has a full bar, but Siker isn’t ready to talk cocktails, and she doesn’t want to talk about malört. It’ll be open for breakfast and lunch during the week. Siker also has plans for dinner service a few times a week with specials.
Though Siker is making the transition from Hoosier Mama’s pie toward the savory side of cooking, she’s not abandoning sweets. Cinnamon roll challah French toast, black and white cookies, and rotating pastries will be available.
The deli is “Jew-ish” — Siker will respect tradition but not be confined it. A patty melt will be one of the signature items, so they won’t separate meat and cheese. Many of the recipes come from family including her grandfather Charles Yates’s chicken and dumplings. The deli will also serve traditional matzah ball soup. Siker said she’s incorporating some southern touches, too. Her stepmother is from North Carolina. Imagine a sweet potato and pimento knish. The deli’s name comes from Siker’s father and stepmother. The two met in Chicago and the restaurant is a tribute to their hard work.
Siker said she’ll keep Lockdown’s memorable mural inside, but the space will overall feel much brighter and airier compared to the prison-themed burger spot she’s replacing. She’s keeping the old bar but replacing the rest of the seating with booths. Siker said she wants to make the space comfortable so customers could linger if they desire. It’ll have Wifi if diners need to get a little work completed.
The state of Chicago’s deli scene has been an interesting topic of late. Manny’s and Eleven City Diner come to most people’s minds when it comes to Jewish delis. Steingold’s of Chicago has pushed expectations, showing the city modern deli food in Lincoln Square and at Fulton Galley food hall. The city’s Italian deli scene is bigger, Siker said. That’s why she felt compelled to open her own.
She feels West Town is a great location and that her deli will fill a void. During her pop-ups, she’s felt support from chefs at restaurants and bars like Funkenhausen, Table, Donkey & Stick, and Sportsman’s Club.
Many popular delis sell T-shirts, mugs, or other merchandise. Jeff & Judes will do so, too. One of her favorite mantras is “all my friends are bread.” Expect to see that motto emblazoned on some merchandise. Siker wants to donate proceeds of sales to charity. Check back for updates as opening day grows closer.