An authentic Jewish deli, straight from…Detroit?
The chicken broth at Steve’s Deli is fairly weak stuff, but there are reasons to forgive that. First, the chicken soup seems to be assembled to order—chicken, carrots, matzo balls and noodles are added to broth moments before the soup is served. This is the reason the broth is so weak, of course—there’s little to no marrying of ingredients—but it’s also why the chicken retains a certain freshness and why the noodles don’t turn to mush. It also helps the soup that the matzo balls are light and the kreplach filled with robust beef. So maybe the carrots I got were barely cooked, and their tough crunch was an annoyance. Doesn’t matter. Nobody’s ordering this soup for the carrots. Carrots you can get anywhere in this city; good matzo balls—even halfway good matzo balls—you can’t.
And good sablefish? Good lox? These are the yeti of Chicago food, often reported but rarely seen. And so the delicately smoked fish at Steve’s is another reason to forgive bad broth, because this is the stuff you’ve always wanted to put on your bagel but have to travel to other cities (Detroit maybe, where the original Steve’s is) to find. No, the bagel you put the fish on isn’t great. And this isn’t a corned-beef place, either—the beef is leaner than the economy. But this, too, can be forgiven. Because what would a Jewish deli be without something to kvetch about?
354 W Hubbard St at Orleans St (312-467-6868). El: Brown, Purple (rush hrs) to Merchandise Mart. Bus: 11, 65, 125. Breakfast, lunch, dinner. Average sandwich: $8.75.