SCOTT SIMON, host:
The old rivals whom President-elect Obama has appointed to office might get suspicious if one day the president invites them for lunch at Manny's. Now, when Mr. Obama goes out with his family, it's often to one of Chicago's signature restaurants, like the Frontera Grill. But for lunch, he stops at Manny's Deli, which has been in Chicago's West Loop since 1942 and serves Jewish-American steam table cuisine - although, to call kishke, knishes and corned beef "cuisine" is a little like calling a sweatshirt "couture."
The president-elect orders corned beef and cherry pie to go. Now there's a stimulus package!
Manny's corned beef sandwiches are large enough to have their own electoral votes. I have been going to Manny's all of my life, and I only weigh 400 pounds. It's a favorite place for Chicago pols, cops and the reporters who love them. Somehow, at Manny's, the laws of nature and science are suspended. Corned beef, latkes and smoked whitefish lose all caloric content there. What you eat at Manny's stays between you and your Creator.
This time of year, my stepfather used to go there for lunch and hand out $20 bills to the people who worked the steam tables. That's the Chicago way of saying, hey, it's hot back there. Thanks! For the rest of the year, they'd pile the corned beef to his chin and give him the top latke - the crispest one - from the stack. He lived to the age of 86.
When President-elect Obama leaves Manny's, crowds in front shout, we love you. Mr. Obama is revered in his hometown, but are the people shouting at him or the corned beef he's carrying?
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.