Chicago is a world class eating town. No doubt about it. But there are some things where the math just doesn't add up right. Take corned beef for example. I'm just not understanding of why we don't have more excellent options. I like Manny's and really love the overall experience and product to go with it at Moon's, but there should be more than just those options in the most vibrant city in the Midwest. A region where corned beef is abundant.
Everyone always thinks about New York City and its wonderful East Coast delis when it comes to cured beef, but places like Milwaukee, Detroit, and Cleveland are rich with it. But for whatever reason that doesn't wear off much on us. On top of all this we have a vibrant Irish population with the largest St. Patrick's Day parade in the United States. We should at least have a good sandwich shop/deli serving up some classic corned beef amongst other Irish favorites, and it turns out we do. I just didn't know about until now. Enter Harrington's Deli & Catering.
Located on Milwaukee Avenue in Jefferson Park in a small strip mall, this Irish deli does it all. Before entering you're immediately greeted with big displays of each day's specials. Stuff like Irish-style bangers and mash, corned beef and cabbage, and a regular Friday fish fry are just a few of the ever rotating weekly home cooked specials on the board. Then you go inside and are greeted with some friendly Irish folk music and are given a very warm welcoming by the people behind the counter. The walls are decked out in memorabilia of the old country, which is both on display and for sale. Need to know how many more days until St. Patrick's Day? They have a calendar.
They sell quite a few of their products made in house as well as favorites to go with it. Stuff like HP steak sauce, Irish bacon, bangers, sliced roasted pork, and roast beef by the pound. Homemade soups and reheat-able dinners are in the fridge. Cream of Reuben anyone? If you want to eat right there, right now, the deli counter sells classic sandwiches like an Irish boiling bacon made with their homemade recipe served with Dubliner cheese on grilled rye bread. They have a charred Irish-style curry burger and offer sides of curry sauce with their beer battered fries. Ever had an Irish burrito? "Harrington's Banger's, Rashers, Black and White Puddings, Fried Potatoes and Sour Cream" sounds like it will put you to sleep before you finish eating.
But the star of the show here is the corned beef.
Ken Harrington is a legend in these parts. If you plan on using him for St. Patrick's Day you best have your order in by the end of January. He learned the craft from his father who learned it from his grandpa after he moved to the city from Michigan in 1922. Grandpa Ray was a cook at an Athletic Club where his corned beef was so popular with prominent people in the city they would have him cooking it at their own private events. In 1952 he started a business which is Harrington's Deli today. They cook hundreds of pounds of their corned beef each week and serve it both catered whole and hand sliced in sandwiches at the deli.
A whole sandwich is what many would consider two. It is technically two sandwiches, so ordering a half one for just under $6 including a side is a bargain in my book. A classic corned beef can come on pumpernickel or sourdough, and the Reuben comes with house Thousand Island on beautiful marbled rye. These sandwiches aren't stacked sky high like some other delis do it, but the meat to bread ratio is where it needs to be, especially considering the amount of food you're getting for under $9. The corned beef is near perfect. You can taste the tradition in it. This isn't some stuff from the grocery store made with the spice packet included with it. It's a longtime family recipe that we're all lucky enough to indulge in.
I really took joy in the simplicity of the classic with a slice of Swiss. The hand cut corned beef had just a tad bit of fat on it, the amount you want when it comes to a good one. Extra points for the side of horseradish to go along with the standard mustard and pickle. There's just something beautiful about barely cooked corned beef, it's prettier than most meats. Very much the type to make you drool. The potato salad was just right in my book, which means not too much mayo and items other than just spuds. I liked the green onion addition. You're offered a wide range of sides with each sandwich; from the soup of the day to french fries, there's at least eight ones to choose from.
With Harrington's I've also found my favorite Reuben in Chicagoland. I love a good one. I also like to eat corned beef more than just once each March, but sometimes don't have the time to make my own along with whipping up some Thousand Island dressing and going to the baker to get some top notch bread, only to then construct the perfect one. Now I don't have to do that. I can just get in my car and drive west on Milwaukee to get one made with love. Everything about it from the succulent corned beef to the perfectly toasted bread is top notch. Don't wait until March to try one.
This post may contain links to Amazon or other partners; your purchases via these links can benefit Serious Eats. Read more about our affiliate linking policy.