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Max and Benny’s Deli-Bakery-Restaurant Review – Celebrating Thirty Successful Years

By Barbara Keer

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During the years that my husband and I have lived in the Chicago area we have seen many delicatessens come and go.  As we sat at Max and Benny’s enjoying a lovely dinner with our friends, Kay and Bart, we recounted some that have come and gone.  Kay and Bart have been frequenting Max and Benny’s Deli-Bakery-Restaurant for more than ten years, and believe this deli is just the best in Chicagoland.  It boggled our minds to realize that the this restaurant has sustained wonderful food of high quality, lots of variety, great wait-service and many more events for thirty years.  Happy Birthday!


Max and Benny's, Restaurant, Deli, Bakery


Founders, Lester Schlan and his wife Rhea, are proud to be celebrating 30 successful years. When they opened this restaurant in 1985, they named it for their two sons.  Kay, Bart, Leon and I had the delightful opportunity of talking with Lester about how this restaurant came to be.  Lester is a wonderful storyteller.  He shared with us a slice of his personal history, which also reflected the history of the Chicago area following the end of WWII.


All about family - Lester's uncle is in the picture

Lester came to the point where he could fulfill his dream-to open a restaurant after experience in many different businesses.   He and his family, uncles cousins shared business opportunities and always got along well.  There was the restaurant supply business near the Steel Mills on the South side of Chicago.  Soon this morphed into a pizza supply business.  Then, when Lester went off to the University of Illinois he recognized the need for a place to get coffee, which he supplied along with muffins.  Visiting Harvard University one year he was impressed with the variety of muffins being sold there, and adopted this idea, and sold them in his coffee shop.  He made them each morning and they were a great success.  This was called, “The Coffee House”, which was inside a restaurant called, “Baubie’s and Zaydee’s” He was also part of a record store that became the largest record store in Illinois, called, “The Record Service”.


Carry out

As his life moved along, he found himself married with two children and a house in Northbrook and realized that the community was lacking a good delicatessen. The restaurant began as a 4000 square foot restaurant in Glenview’s Plaza Del Prado has evolved into a 12,000 square foot restaurant in Northbrook’s Brookside Plaza (461 Waukegan Road), when they moved in 1994.


Entry, ready for Passover

Max and Benny were part of the family business from the time they were toddlers, running around the restaurant and making friends with the customers. Max, the oldest of the two, worked at the restaurant full time from 2003-2006 until he moved to New York, married, became an attorney and has two children. Benny (who goes by Ben), began full time in 2008 and has been part of the restaurant ever since taking on more and more of the responsibilities from his parents.  Ben is also married and has a little girl. In a few short months, Ben will be taking over completely as his parents turn the restaurant over to the next generation.   Ben’s artistic skills are reflected in the very catchy Max and Benny's website.



Happy customers


Some factors that support Max and Benny’s sustainability are the high quality ingredients Lester insists on and a great relationship with the people who work there, all 90, with some of them dating back to day one.  The fact that Lester put in many 16 hour days 24/7 must also contribute to the quality control and efficiency at the restaurant. Jackie Mason and Mickey Rooney are among other celebrities who have visited this restaurant.  And when Lester travels, he is often spotted as a celebrity.  Many special events take place at Max and Benny’s including a monthly book reading organized by Lester’s cousin, Richard Reeder.  There is also an annual gathering for alums of South Shore High School and other South Side and West Side schools.


Dawn- a charming and efficient server

Now, let me tell you about the food.  It was great.  I was so pleased to learn that they offer a vegetarian soup option each day.   Each of us enjoyed our meals very much and the desserts were excellent.  Lester told us that all of the baking is done on site and that he personally did more baking before he owned the restaurant.  A visit to Max and Benny’s for any meal is a treat.  Check them out! If it is Saturday morning, you will find Kay and Bart enjoying and server extraordinaire, Dawn, ready to take your order. As Ben takes over from Lester bringing his technological and artistic skills in addition to years of deli experience, customers can look forward to celebrating future birthdays.


The omlet was delicious, Photo:Leon Keer


Rueben panini, Photo: Leon Keer


Yummy meatballs, Photo: Leon Keer


Rice Pudding - delicious


Photos: B. Keer unless otherwise noted.


Published on Apr 09, 2016

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