New York is coming to Chicago.
Chicago Avenue, that is.
Mensch’s, a pop-up/take-out New York-style Jewish deli (yes, that’s a mouthful, just like New York-style Jewish deli sandwiches) will re-open on September 23 for another six weekends.
Owner Jack DeMar ran ten-weekend test for Mench’s last spring, at his Picnic carryout in the 1600 block of Chicago.
Response was so strong, DeMar says, that he and co-owner Eric Kogan are bringing the pop-up back for another six weekends, opening at 9 a.m. instead of 10.
“People wanted their bagels a little earlier,” he notes.
But the bigger bagel … er, bigger story …, as Evanston Now first reported a few weeks ago, is that Mensch’s will open a full-service, bricks and mortar restaurant in the now-closed Golden Olympic diner in the spring.
It’s across the street from Picnic, and across a driveway from Mensch’s other restaurant, Pono Ono Poke.
“We’re well into the process,” of getting the new place ready, DeMar says.
“We have an architect, a general contractor, the lease is signed, and build-out will start the end of October.”
The new Mesch’s will use all 3,000 square feet of the old Olympic, with 80 seats for table service with a wait staff, 20 seat-yourself spots, a deli counter and take-out.
Customers will see (and smell) “all of the classics when you walk into a Jewish deli,” says Kiki Eliopoulos, business partner, head baker and Mensch’s manager.
That includes soups, salads, pastrami sandwiches, smoked whitefish and, a true New York staple, the black & white cookie (which is actually a type of cake, but that’s another story).
DeMar grew up on the North Shore “eating a lot of Jewish food.”
He thinks a downtown Evanston deli will lure more than just walkers from the neighborhood.
“We want to be a spot that’s a 15-20 minute drive to where people can get their nosh.”
Current plans are to be open for breakfast and lunch, seven days a week. But DeMar says down the road, he may add Friday and Saturday nights, aimed at the nearby student population at Northwestern.
“They want food after 9 p.m. that’s not pizza,” he says.
In order to truly give Mensch’s a New York feel, DeMar took a scouting trip to the Big Apple, to check out the real deal, and bring back the best ideas.
(Author’s note: As someone who grew up on a stem of the Big Apple – NYC suburbs – and ate at places like Epstein’s and Billy Rosen’s – I suggested that if DeMar really wants to re-create the New York experience, he needs to train his staff in brusqueness bordering on being rude. “Next, whaddaya want?”).
But DeMar says New Yorker deli counter people are not rude at all. They’re just “personalities and memorable characters.”
Mensch’s, he says, is a “love letter to the Jewish deli.”
Gimme one with a schmear.
Next. Whaddaya want?