One of a handful of Jewish delis in the area, Schmaltz knows its stuff. Look no further than the quality pastrami for proof. That said, there's rarely a miss on the menu, from the housemade fresh and frozen soups to the sides and baked goods. Look, too, to the refrigerator and freezer cases for finds, like pickles and rendered chicken fat.
Whether you opt for its monstrous overstuffed or more modest half-stuffed sandwiches, make yours the Reuben-esque, Russian dressing-slathered Sloppy Paul ($10.39 or $8.79). It lives up to the moniker as a several-napkins affair.
Try, too, the disastrously messy Maccabeast ($6.99), a snappy house-brand hot dog that's nestled in a Jewish rye hero roll and topped with a pile of warm pastrami, sauerkraut and neigh-inducing spicy mustard. (Half of it is pictured below the Sloppy Paul in the image above.) Excellent, salty bagel chips come with.
I'd suggest ordering potato pancakes ($1.99), with applesauce and sour cream as an accompaniment. Or, if you order your sandwich in combo form, get one—and a drink—for $2.99 more.
Personally, I prefer the potato pancakes over the cloying, cinnamon-scented noodle kugel ($1.99). I suspect it's an acquired taste.
Schmaltz's homemade soups change depending on the day, but in my experience they're incredibly comforting all around, be it the chicken matzo ball, brat-cheddar or rich, burnished brisket chili (starting at $2.99 for a cup or $3.69 for a bowl).
It's hard to deny the bakery treats, whether it's by-the-pound cookies ($10.49), displayed front and center in a case; Junior's Cheesecake slices ($4.89); or crowd-pleasing jumbo M&M cookies ($2.29).
About the author: Jennifer Olvera is a veteran food and travel writer and author of "Food Lovers' Guide to Chicago." Follow her on Twitter @olverajennifer.