18 Chicago Food Spots Where You Always See Jews You Know

18 Chicago Food Spots photo

What and where are the places you run into Jews you know? The question sounds easy enough. You've probably already listed five places while reading this sentence. I really wanted to try to find something new, to tell the world our little Jewish secrets. There must be something beyond talking about our favorite restaurant in Boca (TooJay's Deli), my mahjong game, or how many times we're going to see Hamilton.

What and where we are is a difficult question for me. I have a very Jewish job as the administrator for Kol Hadash. I see Jews all day everyday. Some days the only person I speak with is a rabbi. I also run the storytelling show known as You're Being Ridiculous, where the audience is made up mostly of Jews. I'm surrounded; I'm literally running into Jews I know all of the time and all over the place, so my perspective is a little skewed.

I decided to get very serious about it and ask my friends and family, "Where are we and what do we do?" I got so excited to discover new answers to this question that I asked without any explanation, so most of my friends and family thought I had lost my mind. I sent emails. I polled friends on Facebook. I even talked to my neighbors, and I make it a rule to never talk to my neighbors.

What I discovered is that there really is nothing new under the sun. It will come as no surprise for you to learn that the one common thread between all of the Jews I talked to was … food.

Every Jew I spoke to gave me a list of restaurants. Sure, I heard about all of the places you'd expect Jews to list like Hamakor and Spertus, but the Jews I know really wanted to talk to me about their Lettuce Entertain You Points and what to order from Wildfire.

So what I learned is what we have always known: Jews love food. We love to eat. Most of our holidays are attached to food, so it makes perfect sense.

Here they are then, in no particular order, the 18 restaurants you're most likely to run into a Jew that you know. If I've gleaned anything from my research, it's that you're probably reading this from one of the places listed below, and if you're not, you're more than likely on your way.

The Bagel

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The Bagel is the King of Jewish Chicago. This is the place to go if you're looking to find a Jew you know, or make a new Jewish friend. You're likely to run into someone you know here … Jewish or otherwise. Please have the Hoppel Poppel, please have the matzah ball soup, please eat all of your free pickles.

Ema

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I visited Ema -- a new-ish Mediterranean restaurant from C.J. Jacobson of Top Chef fame -- this summer with a group of awesome Jews I know. You will love the hummus, falafel, crispy broccoli, and everything else on the menu. However. Their frozen Greek yogurt is worth risking your life. When I tell you this yogurt is life changing, I mean it. Get there. Get that yogurt. Order a second helping, then a third.

Kaufman’s

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Kaufman's is one of the very best Jewish Deli's in the Chicago area. Bring your favorite Jew with you and shop in their bakery and adorable little grocery store while you wait on your favorite sandwich to be made.

Pita Inn

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Shawarma and Falafel and Kabob … oh my! Do you know Pita Inn caters? THEY CATER YOU GUYS. All I'm saying is … if you love your family … you know what to do.

Café Ba-Ba-Reeba

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Café Ba-Ba-Reeba is everything I think about when I think about Jews eating. There are a lot of small plates, a lot of food, and a lot of sharing. The sangria is everything. 

Maggiano’s

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Nobody does family celebrations better than Maggiano's. Nobody.

Hot Chocolate

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There are so many reasons to visit Mindy Segal's amazing and delicious Hot Chocolate. My favorite: the Mexican Hot Chocolate.

Jeni’s Ice Cream

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I love all ice cream everywhere, but Jeni's Ice Cream is my favorite in all of Chicago. The end. Amen. Stop reading and go to Jeni's right now.

Once Upon A Bagel

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Once Upon A Bagel is where Jews on the North Shore get their Jewish food. If I could marry chicken soup and tuna … this is definitely the chicken soup and tuna I would meet at the chuppah.

Dove's Luncheonette

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Dove's Luncheonette offers counter style seating on a first-come, first-serve basis. That might sound like a nightmare, but their Southern-inspired Mexican cuisine is so good you'd agree to eat it anywhere they'd let you.

Stan’s Donuts

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Stan's Donuts makes donuts sexy, and I've never been more excited to stand in line for 15 minutes to get a donut. They have bagels, but why would you pass up a glazed orange old-fashioned (or any other flavor) donut to eat a bagel? And the East Lakeview location is dangerously close to the North Side's most frequented synagogues …

Furious Spoon

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Furious Spoon is my new most favorite place for ramen in Wicker Park. If you haven't been here yet, grab a Jew you know and GO!

New York Bagel and Bialy

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Can you even buy bagels somewhere else? You'll be lucky if you don't run into someone you know at New York Bagel and Bialy. This is not the place to be if you're trying to avoid a Jew you know … you're gonna get caught here.

The Weber Grill

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Food cooked over charcoal, but indoors. There are a ton of great options here; my favorite thing on the menu is the meatloaf. I know that sounds ridiculously lame, but it's delicious. Just order it, you'll thank me later. The Weber Grill is also a magical place; it's where I met my husband. So you never know who you'll run into when you're here.

PF Changs

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Every day is Christmas Day at PF Changs (especially at their Northbrook location). The food is great; the Jews are greater (in number at least).

Walker Bros. Pancake House

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(Sang to the tune of Nicky Arnstein): "The apple pancake. The apple pancake. The apple pancake." Walker Bros. Pancake House speaks (or sings) for itself.

Max & Benny’s

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You can't talk Jewish food in the Chicago area and not have Max & Benny's on the list. If you don't see a Jewish friend here, you'll probably run into part of your family. You know what to order when you're here -- it's your favorite.

Eleven City Diner

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Eleven City Diner is the coolest (and most delicious) Jewish deli in Chicago. They have all of your Jewish favorites. Get The Schwartzy, the red velvet cake, and wash it all down with a Brooklyn egg cream. You're bound to see Jews you know here, if not … just pretend the people in the pictures on the wall are of your family.


Jeremy Owens photo 375
Jeremy Owens is the creator, producer and host of the live-lit/storytelling show ... Read More



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