So there I was driving along South Wabash this morning, happily humming along to Timbuk3s Tarzan was a Bluesman, when, out of the corner of my eye, I spot AP Deli, which has been discussed at length on Chowhound. Incredibly enough, there was a parking space directly in front of AP, so, without any conscious decision making on my part, next thing I knew I was at the counter of AP ordering a corned beef sandwich.
AP, at least on Wabash, is take out only with a small ordering area, a serve yourself soda dispenser and a glass refrigerated case with industrial looking packaged desserts. The counter staff, which consisted of a very friendly young lady taking the orders, a sandwich prep guy and a managerial type, of the sandwich stand variety, were all clean, efficient and courteous. That, in conjunction with a spotless sandwich prep area is all one can expect from a take out place.
No wait, theres more than clean and friendly, theres the sandwich, in this case, corned beef. Sadly to say the corned beef was lacking, so lacking that I would say the taste compares more to Hormel Canned Corned Beef Product than the Jewish style corned beef it was trying to emulate.
The corned beef was sliced paper thin, you could read through the slices, and cut from the point (Deckle/fatty) end of the corned brisket. Now normally, as that Bam guy on Food TV says, fats where the flavors at, but in this case the flavor had been completely steamed out of the meat. I remembered of the Chowhound AP reviews one person said they found the corned beef salty, no salt flavor here, actually, there was no discernable flavor what so ever.
My joking comment about Hormel is not all that far from the truth, the corned beef was sliced so thin that compressing the sandwich to take a bite, it was quite large, turned the corned beef into paste, which is where I got the Hormel idea. The bread they served it on, Kaiser or onion was .66 extra and I thought my first AP deli sandwich should be OEM, was called rye, but was more like tan wonder bread than Rosens.
The best thing about the sandwich was the fact that there was an included pack of half sour pickle and sport peppers. I asked the manager what type of corned beef they used, though I remembered a Chowhound (Rene?) asking the same question with the answer of we make it ourselves, the answer I was given was Kelly & Eisenberg.
What made the Kelly & Eisenberg answer all the more surprising was that K & E makes pretty darn good corned beef, AP must have either simmered or steamed this for quite a while to leach out all the flavor.
After my first bite of the AP sandwich, I realized that I really did not want to eat 3/4ths of a LB of fatty, flavorless corned beef, but I was now in the mood for corned beef, then it hit me, I was scant blocks from Mannys.
Once again I found parking directly in front the restaurant, which at Mannys is extremely unusual, and with 3/4ths of my AP deli in the trash I headed into Mannys.
Folks, let me tell you there is no comparison, I mean absolutely no comparison, between Mannys and AP, none whatsoever. Mannys, while also machine sliced a bit on the thin side, has a flavor and texture that jumps right out at you. The sandwich, which was conservatively 1 whole pound of corned beer, it was pre-lunch, slow and I schmoozed with the sandwich maker a bit, was just this side of lean, with the proper amount of fat to lend extra flavor and juiciness.
I also ordered a cup of matzo ball and ended up wrapping up half the corned beef, no way Mannys leftovers were going into the trash bucket. I almost forgot to mention, Mannys serves its corned beef on fresh tasting Jewish style rye bread.
So the result is no contest, Mannys by a landslide. If you are in the 700 block of South Wabash and in the mood for corned beef, go the extra few blocks to Mannys. If you are in the 700 block of South Wabash and hungry, go to Harolds for Chicken in the 600 block of South Wabash. Actually, according to the AP menu, they also have turkey, roast beef and a few other sandwiches, which might be quite good, just dont order the corned beef.
By the way, Thursday is ox tail day at Mannys, which was hard to resist, but corned beef is king at Mannys
A P Deli
704 S Wabash
363 S Wabash
1141 S Jefferson
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