The message was short and clear, and the response was swift and impressive after an iconic South Loop eatery put out a call for help on social media Tuesday.
"Certainly a mainstay in Chicago, and it’s great food. Got to take care of these people," said longtime customer Ed Dwier. "Here today because I’ve been coming here for a long, long time. Grew up here."
Manny's Deli put out a call on social media asking for help Tuesday, writing, "We are struggling. This isn’t a joke. Support your fav [sic] deli for dinner tonight."
The tweet received thousands of responses. On Facebook, a similar sentiment was shared, liked and commented on hundreds of times.
"We’ve been really hurting for business, obviously, just like everybody else. We’ve had so many customers who are fourth generation just like I am. So, we were hoping if we put a plea out they would come, and so far it’s been working," said owner, Dan Raskin.
Raskin was overwhelmed by the support Wednesday. Staff was working quickly to keep up with orders during the lunch rush as a line stretched down the block.
"[We] hope people are patient," said Raskin. "We really appreciate the customers coming out."
Manny's first opened its doors in 1942. The restaurant, known for its corned beef and pastrami, has served celebrities and politicians over the years, including former Presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton, former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, the Daley brothers, current Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, and Gov. JB Pritzker, among many others. It's longstanding history has kept customers coming back for decades.
"We’re the real people who are here. I’m here, my dad’s here, my mom’s here," said Raskin. "We have a lot of the same staff who’ve been here for a long time too. People can relate to us and remember the good times."
Longtime customers agree and were happy to answer the call.
"It’s an institution within the community. It’s been here forever. But honestly, I think it’s the best food in the United States," said customer Mike Miller, who made the drive from Lakeview to support his favorite restaurant.
"[We've} given parties here, come here for a long time. It’s a great meeting place," said Evelyn Kramer, another customer.
Mark Bookman has been visiting Manny's for the last 30 years.
"It's traditional. It’s a great deli. They have great corned beef," he said. "Heard they needed some help, came out to support them, and give them some business."
"I heard they were in trouble. They’ve been a 30 year institution for me, living in the South Loop for 30 years," said Karen Neiner. "They’re neighbors. It’s a neighborhood location, and we want to support them."
Small restaurants across the country are struggling because of the coronavirus pandemic. New federal legislation aims to help. Congressman Earl Blumenauer introduced the Restaurant Act of 2020. The legislation would create a new $120 billion grant program to provide structured relief to restaurants through 2020.
The grant can be used to cover payroll, benefits, mortgage, rent, utilities, maintenance, protective equipment, and food.
Raskin says a grant would help, and he's encouraged by the outpouring of support at his restaurant, but his success will be dependent on customers.
"It’s just really important to support people. Whether it’s us or anybody. Local restaurants, don’t forget about them. If you want these businesses to be here, you need to support them," he said.