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Modern Jewish Deli Debuts in Ukrainian Village From Former Hoosier Mama Baker

Jeff & Judes, a love letter to LA’s Jewish delis, features a limited menu of Ashkenazi classics via walk-up window

A corner space with a large white sign that reads “Jeff & Judes, A Jewish Deli.”
Jeff and Judes is open in Ukrainian Village.
Naomi Waxman/Eater Chicago

Fans of Jewish delis typically have no trouble rattling off a list of their favorite Ashkenazi-style dishes, listing Eastern European Jewish deli classics including pastrami sandwiches slathered in Ba-Tempte mustard, steaming bowls of matzah ball soup, and plump knishes. Jeff & Judes, a new deli in Ukrainian Village that opened over the weekend, aims to eventually satisfy those cravings.

For now, the deli’s open with a limited menu that includes Reuben sandwich kits. Owner Ursula Siker’s menu at Jeff & Judes highlights what she sees as the unsung hero of the Ashkenazi Jewish deli: great bread.

“I think that when you have a really phenomenal sandwich, even if you’re not realizing why that is, it’s because of the texture of the bread,” says Siker, who notes that Jewish delis are usually associated with bagels rather than bread. “It makes such a big difference for what’s inside of it. If you take [the bread] for granted, that means it’s good — somebody is doing something right.”

Patrons can count on three varieties: a country loaf (a standard sourdough), a marble rye (with caraway seeds, molasses, and cocoa powder), and challah. Loaves are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Jeff & Judes, named for her father Jeff and stepmother Judy — or “Judes,” — is currently selling via a pickup window at 1024 N. Western Avenue on the Cortez Street side of the building. Due to the pandemic, she’s put all dine-in service on hold. The best way to track the deli’s offerings is on Instagram, where Siker posts menus, hours, and means to reserve and pay in advance.

Siker, formerly of West Town’s Hoosier Mama Pie Company, describes Jeff & Judes’s staggered opening as an “extended pop-up of sorts.” She doesn’t have a set menu at this stage, as resources are limited by the fact that she is currently the deli’s sole employee, but says customers can expect sandwiches, deli items such as potato salad and whitefish salad, as well as loaves of bread and pastries. She describes one creation as a “huge savory hamantaschen” — a triangular cookie (usually sweet) that’s served for the Jewish holiday of Purim — with a rye crust that’s filled with salmon and dill cream cheese. There’ll be Southern touches too — Silker’s stepmother is originally from North Carolina — so the deli will feature meat and vegan versions of “Papa’s chicken and dumplings,” alongside matzah ball soup.

Siker is also making used of the smoker left by the prior tenant, prison-themed burger spot Lockdown Bar & Grill. She’s using the rig to smoke pastrami, corned beef, and lox. Eventually there will be bagels, but Siker hasn’t chosen a baker; she doesn’t have the space inside to make them herself. She’s keeping Lockdown’s once-controversial heavy metal mural outside “to honor what once was,” but the deli’s as-yet unfinished modern interior space is a world away from former dive’s gritty aesthetic.

Visually, Jeff & Judes marries classic deli design elements like exposed brick and white subway tile with natural elements — a wall with wooden butcher-block shelving will hold green potted plants. There’s also a deli case with a curved glass front. Eight stools line a sleek light wood bar, and between a few tables and banquettes, the interior will eventually seat 34. The space also includes an outdoor patio, which Siker plans to transform into a beer garden with a full cocktail menu next summer.

Siker fondly remembers family excursions to the famed Canter’s Delicatessen an icon for LA’s Jewish population. This deli is a dream. But after two years of preparation, a walk-up window is not exactly the opening Siker anticipated. She started popping up since 2018 at bars like Best Intentions and Sportsman’s Club, and at restaurants like Table, Donkey and Stick.

Jeff & Judes joins Chicago’s small but passionate cadre of Ashkenazi spots, including local icon Manny’s, Andersonville institution J.B.’s Deli, and modern New York-style establishment Steingold’s of Chicago. Siker says she’s ecstatic that Eastern European Jewish food, both classic and contemporary, and is making a comeback in various U.S. cities, including Chicago. “I don’t need to be the only one,” she says. “I want to celebrate culture and community.”

Jeff & Judes, 1024 N. Western Avenue, Check Instagram for hours.

Jeff & Judes

1024 North Western Avenue, , IL 60622 (773) 661-1227 Visit Website