Schmaltz Deli looks to relocate Naperville flagship to Lisle
Schmaltz Deli is like one of its overstuffed pastrami sandwiches: It keeps getting bigger.
The Jewish deli opened its first outpost in downtown Wheaton last year. And now, Schmaltz is looking to relocate its flagship from a Naperville strip mall to a vacant, stand-alone Lisle restaurant that would give the deli even more visibility and room to grow.
Lisle trustees on Monday will review the deli's request for grant funding to renovate and move into to the former Chinn's 34th Street Fishery after 16 years in Naperville.
Just down the street from the original Schmaltz, the Chinn's building along Ogden Avenue would allow the deli to add a potential drive-through -- potato latkes on the go! -- and expand the menu to offer sit-down dinners and breakfasts with wait staff.
The bigger footprint also would enable Schmaltz to separate a retail store, bakery and the quick-service side of the deli from the dining area. In the current location, customers who want a pound of corned beef or just one bagel wait in the same line.
"One of the exciting things about the building if we can make it work is that we'll be able to expand the kitchen in back specifically for baking," CEO Mark Goodman said. "Since we've taken the baking in-house, we've had a tremendous increase in the volume of those products. And by having a retail bakery on what would be the left side of the restaurant, we would be able to focus and sell a larger variety of products."
Still, Goodman said there are some hurdles to work through in order to move the deli, and the business remains in "the due diligence period."
"If everything works out well, that's our intention," he said. "But we still are talking to our current landlord as a contingency, but we'd very much like to see this happen."
The already lengthy menu is the real deal. Schmaltz serves a selection of Jewish delicatessen staples: hearty pastrami and corned beef sandwiches with complimentary bagel chips, half-sour pickles, chicken matzo ball soup, breakfast sandwiches, black-and-white cookies and rugelach.
Ordering what to eat is as much about the food as the behind-the-counter spectacle, starting with the loud "Welcome to Schmaltz" greeting heard from across the restaurant from servers who clip and throw ticket orders down a kind of zip line.
"We want to retain that," Goodman said. "We think that is essential to the type of restaurant and experience that we have."
Howard Bender opened the deli in Naperville in 2004. He's also the inventor of Schmacon, a pork alternative made of uncured beef sliced thin, marinated and smoked with spices.
In 2019, the Goodman family became majority owners and now holds a 68% stake in the Schmaltz Restaurant Group. The family has moved to refresh the concept by embracing lighter fare. The Lisle menu also would serve salads, homemade soups, vegetarian and vegan sandwiches.
"While Jewish deli products will always be our core offerings, we wish to appeal to a broader market and innovate what Jewish deli means today and modernize it a bit," a Schmaltz presentation to the village board states.
The deli is requesting $70,000 from Lisle's restaurant grant program and a $15,000 grant from the village's retail business build-out program. Lisle trustees will discuss the grant application Monday night at a committee of the whole meeting.
Chinn's 34th Street Fishery closed last March. Constructed more than 40 years ago, the building will require "significant upgrades" to meet health and Lisle building codes, according to village documents.
In September, the village conducted a building, electrical and plumbing pre-inspection of the site. The building needs a completely new roof and fire suppression system, among other required improvements.