Modern meets traditional at Steingold’s, new Jewish deli in North Center – Chicago Tribune

Posted By on August 24, 2017

Chicago has one of the largest Jewish populations in the United States, and while there are select delis that have thrived here, the deli is not nearly as prevalent as it is in New York City, where bagels and pastrami on rye are as symbolic of the city as the Statue of Liberty.

With their new BYOB restaurant, Steingolds (1840 W. Irving Park Road), opening in North Center at the end of the month, Aaron Steingold (Table 52, Farmhouse Tavern) and his wife Elizabeth Abowd are seeking to both boost the relevance of New York City-style Jewish delis in Chicago and reinvent the deli with modern twists.

The first step in that reinvention is combining traditional Middle Eastern dishes with traditional deli fare. Abowd, who is Lebanese, was the inspiration for the merging of the cuisinesand because of the close proximity of Lebanon and Israel and the similarity between the countries foods, the menu additions make sense. Steingolds maternal side being Greek played a role in the merge as well.

Steingold believes that the inclusion of Middle Eastern foods will increase interest in the deli in Chicago.

We live in a neighborhood with a lot of great Middle Eastern food and we eat it often. Though we are firmly rooted in traditional Jewish deli cuisine, the highlights and influence of (Lebanon) are going to come out, he said.

Lamb and chicken shawarma, a Middle Eastern dish typically served rolled in pita, will be a weekly special at Steingolds. The pita itself will be homemade at the deli.

Labneh, a Lebanese cheese resembling Greek yogurt, will be served on latkes, which will be made with other root vegetables like parsnips, in addition to potatoes. The deli will also serve labneh in lieu of sour cream with its caviar service, one of the aspects Steingold is most excited foran interest which stems not only from his personal taste for it, but also from his Eastern European Ashkenazi roots.

Caviar is such a specialty item, and Ive been a huge fan for a long time, Steingold said. There arent a lot of places in Chicago to eat it. Its a very special occasion (when you get to eat it.) My heritage is Eastern Europeanmy fathers side is from Poland, Lithuania and Bulgaria. We are going to be offering the type of caviar that you cant just purchase at Whole Foods.

Caviar served on blinis, a common food eaten during holidays in Russia and surrounding countries, was popularized in the United States by Eastern European Jewish immigrants. Steingolds stock will come from Rare Tea Cellara wholesale company in Chicago selling rare food and drink items. In addition to caviar, Steingolds will also sell Rare Tea Cellars tea and spices.

Rare Tea Cellars isnt the only collaboration Steingolds will have in Chicago. The deli will work with Paulina Meat Market to offer an affordable lunch option, the Urban Achievera wink at one of Steingolds favorite films, The Big Lebowski. The special will include your choice of either a beef hot dog or a traditional wiener on a challah bun with caramelized onions, peppers and mustard. The $6 special also comes with a side of schmaltz potato chips and a Dr. Browns soda.

Steingold is heavily invested in the concept of approachability at his deli, both in price points and atmosphere. The restaurant will be counter service, but with attentive staff walking the floor ready to refill your glass, grab you a coffee or clear your tray. The presentation of the food itself is also an important aspect of service.

Ive worked in several casual dining restaurants and at almost all of them, I tried to bring a lot of elements of high-end, fine diningthe service techniques and models, while still being casual, Steingold said. When you eat here you will get a beautiful tray with your food and deli paper. Just little touches. Very casual counter service with touches of luxury is my goal here.

Steingold wants to reach both the customers coming in for a sit-down meal and a chat, and the commuters rushing to grab lunch on the way to the trainbeing only steps away from the Brown Line, he thought a lot about how to please them.

Of course, when youre not in a rush, Steingold wholeheartedly welcomes you to make his deli your own. He even wants to be present at your holidays and family meals. Besides looking to cater Seders (Passover feasts), weddings and bat and bar mitzvahs, Steingolds will offer a Thanksgiving package, which you can pick up the morning of the holiday. It includes a turkey and sideswith all the hard work done for you so you can enjoy a delicious meal without fret.

Though Thanksgiving isnt inherently religious, some may find it interesting that a Jewish deli would offer a special for the holiday. One look at the menu, however, shows that Steingolds is all about reaching every customer, Jewish or not. An embracement of the long-time stereotype of Jewish people loving Chinese food, particularly on Christian holidays when most other restaurants are shut down, is something Steingold plans to poke fun at around Christmastime.

Theres always some truth in stereotypes, he said. At Christmastime we are going to do a Peking duck special. I think its better to have fun with stereotypes; its easier to embrace the less negative ones than it is to fight them.

The Uncle Paul, Steingolds version of a BLT, may also cause some head scratching. Steingold hadnt planned on offering pork on the menu until he visited a deli in Brooklyn that did so.

If a Jewish deli in Brooklyn can have pork on the menu, surely in Chicago I can get away with it, Steingold said of the controversial menu item. The Uncle Paul is named after my Uncle and my brother-in-law, who is also named Paul. I think a lot of Jewish families have a Christian uncle that married into the family, so thats where we are offering bacon.

Family plays a big part in the rest of the menu items as well. Perhaps the most inventive sandwich is the Sister In Law.

My sister-in-law is Korean, and shes an amazing cook. Im pretty competitive when it comes to cooking, and she blew me out of the water, he said. (The sandwich) is kind of a play on the Reuben, but using kimchi as the sauerkraut and were also using a hot Chinese mustard. I think people are going to be pretty excited about it.

Besides their names, Steingold will borrow a few other things from his family. The matzo ball soup is his great-grandmothers recipe, and the brisket, which uses cola spices, is a tribute to his grandmother, who cooked her brisket in Pepsi. His fathers nannys fried chicken is also on the menu and speaks to Steingolds southern upbringing.

Growing up Jewish in Greensboro, North Carolina was a unique experience. Being Jewish in the South is a huge part of the menu, he said.

For many of us who grew up eating matzo ball soup and our mothers perfected brisket recipe, Steingolds serves as a focal point for both nostalgia and ideals of the American Jewish community. But with modern menu additions and global influence, Steingolds refuses to be put in a corner.

We want to appeal to everyone, Steingold said. We want to appeal to the grandmother that goes to temple every Friday night and the guy that comes to pick a bong up at the head shop next door. If you can get you what you want and get it fast, or be able to order a bottle of champagne and caviar and sit here for five hours, I love that as well. I hope people do both.

Steingolds is set to open Aug. 29.

@AudreyGorden |

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Modern meets traditional at Steingold's, new Jewish deli in North Center - Chicago Tribune

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