Tribune Dining: Seedy Steakhouses & Bergstein’s NY Deli

• It was a bad idea for us to read the roundup of casino steakhouses that’s double-helmed by Phil Vettel and Chris Borrelli so close to the end of the day, because now we are lusting after big hunks of meat. The wonder twins (seriously, Tribune powers-that-be, do everything in your power to keep Borrelli on the food beat) visit seven steakhouses located in Illinois and northwest Indiana casinos, and find quality that ranges from opulent (melt-in-mouth wagyu and riotous ribeyes) to the Tom Waits-ian (scruffy-voiced waitresses and the smell of despair). Two in a row have “signature” dishes of Filet Oscar — steak topped with crab and hollandaise — which we had never heard of before right now and which we don’t ever have any desire to try.

• Bonnie Miller Rubin (we used to babysit for her!) is thrilled about Bergstein’s NY Deli in Chicago Heights (we went to high school with managers Mike Mesirow and Bill Davis!). The daughter of a deli-owner, Rubin’s excited that Bergstein’s gives the South Suburbs the classic Jewish deli goods that previously necessitated a drive to the North Side.

• Rubin’s valuation of Bergstein’s is corroborated by Chris Borrelli, who gives out two forks in his Cheap Eats review of the joint. Due largely to the limtations of its suppliers, the deli is currently better in theory than it is in practice — rye bread isn’t sturdy enough to stand up to the pastrami, the chicken broth doesn’t live up to its matzoh balls. But its heart is in the right place, and its kitchen is on the right path.

(Borrelli spills much of his ink comparing Bergstein’s to its New York prototype, and here we have to raise a questioning eyebrow: Believe us when we tell you that we’ve spent plenty of time in New York-style delis that are actually in New York, and they’re pale imitations of the ideal as well. The truest approximation is a pick-and-choose from all the famous places — soup from the 2nd Avenue Deli, sandwich from Katz’s, sides from Russ & Daughters, and absolutely nothing whatsoever from Carnegie — that place is a waste of time.)

• For those who aren’t interested in trekking down to the south ‘burbs for pastrami (though we suppose you could make it more time-effective by swinging by Flossmoor Station and picking up a growler or three), Monica Eng has the master list of NY-style delis elsewhere in the city.

[Photo of Katz’s in New York via dpstyles’s Flickr]


Tribune Dining: Seedy Steakhouses & Bergstein’s NY Deli