We make no secret of our disdain for the lack of viable deli options in Chicago. As we have chronicled in past reviews, somewhere along the course of history, Chicago decided to discard the art of the Jewish Deli like Justin Timberlake ditched *NSYNC when he had the chance. This is a problem, because lord knows Joey Fatone and Chris Kirkpatrick can’t carry a successful music career on their own. And that’s what the Chicago deli scene is right now, a Justin Timberlake-less, Joey Fatone and Chris Kirkpatrick-led boy band. Not gonna cut it.
In our diligent effort to find a spot that fills this void, we ventured out to Hyde Park for some afternoon eats at the second location of Bergstein’s New York Delicatessen - the original is in Chicago Heights. Here’s an exact quote from their website, “When I was growing up in Brooklyn, New York in the mid 1960’s it seemed like there was a deli on every block. You could get a great corned beef Sandwich with a potato pancake and a bowl of matzo ball soup 24/7. It was one of the things that I missed most after moving to Chicago.” Our initial reaction? Holy sh*t! Bergstein’s just gets us. We had high hopes that the Bergstein’s experience would be our grand deli conquest, but instead of finding our missing JT, we stumbled upon Lance Bass. For those of you not up to date with your 1990’s boy band history, here's the bottom line: Bergstein’s is far from the superstar deli we hoped it would be.
Even calling it a “traditional deli” is a stretch. For starters, it lacks the sense of character we expect from a true deli. We realize you can't create history, which is part of what makes certain delis so great, but something about that "it" factor is still missing. And more importantly, the corned beef kind of sucks, which pains us to say. Rather than classifying Bergstein’s as something it’s not, here’s what it is. It’s a decent place to grab a sandwich and a quick bite if you’re in Hyde Park. It’s casual, affordable, and they do offer a number of traditional deli staples that will scratch an itch if need be. If you are a University of Chicago student, live or work in the area, visit the Museum of Science and Industry, or are just wandering around Hyde Park on a sunny day, Bergstein’s Deli might be worth a stop. Order a sandwich at the counter, await your food, and if it’s nice out, head out the back door for a very tranquil patio seat. Let’s just back up on the whole "traditional New York deli" claim.
Mustard based with a good mix of creaminess and potato chunks. Simple but it works.
Bergstein's tuna salad has a very noticeable sweet taste to it. We personally are cool with it, but be prepared for a tangy kick.
Corned Beef Reuben
Classic Reuben with corned beef, sauerkraut, swiss, and thousand island on rye. For a place that prides itself on the New York deli experience, the corned beef is rubbery and not good, which is a huge eyesore overall.
We like to build our own simple sandwich on challah with some spicy mustard. The salami is good, get it grilled.
The Big Egg
Grilled salami, egg, cheddar, muenster, and a potato pancake on a pretzel roll. This breakfast sandwich alone would bring us back. The potato pancake is thick, crispy, and delicious. We prefer the sandwich on something other than the pretzel role it comes on, but either way it's pretty good.