In Solon for 41 years and home to “Cleveland’s best corned beef in town,” Chicago Deli & Grill is weathering the coronavirus pandemic with a continued focus on the community.
“If you are not concerned about your community, your community is not going to support you,” owner George Hamway, of Solon, said. “We are here to take care of them.
“We consider this community our family.”
Since reopening the restaurant, located in the Solon Village Shopping Center on Aurora Road, Mr. Hamway, 71, walks table to table, greeting customers and asking how they are doing.
Chicago Deli & Grill opened to in-person dining last May, after closing for six weeks in early 2020 due to a statewide order linked to the coronavirus pandemic.
“We are doing OK, but we are struggling like everyone else,” Mr. Hamway said. “Thank God we are holding our own.”
The restaurant closed only one other time in its history, and that was for nine months due to a fire in its former location, where a Giant Eagle Market District now sits.
“It really did shock me,” Mr. Hamway said of the pandemic. “It was a shock to the whole country.”
Since the pandemic, he has lost some employees, and has a staff now of about 35.
“Trying to get staffing when we need them – it’s not easy,” Mr. Hamway said. “We are short waitresses and cooks, and everyone is overworked, including ourselves.”
Diners flocked to the restaurant last week for the famous corned beef in honor of St. Patrick’s Day. In reaction to the long line from the restaurant door well down the shopping center sidewalk on March 17, Mr. Hamway said providing good food and service is the deli’s mission.
“We are open, and we are here,” he said. “We are part of this community. We are concerned about their [customers’] lives and their kids’ lives.
“We are continuing to be nice and kind to people and give them the right kind of food,” he said. “Everything here is homemade.”
Mr. Hamway said customers like to be talked to and he always wishes them well and hopes they are healthy. Sometimes talk turns to the COVID-19 vaccine now being rolled out and different updates on the coronavirus, he said.
Besides its corned beef, which is cooked in a kettle for three hours to achieve its tenderness, Chicago Deli & Restaurant is home to a number of Mediterranean options, which speak to Mr. Hamway’s Lebanese roots. Those menu items include hummus made from scratch as well as Baba Ganoush with roasted eggplant.
The menu also offers hamburgers, salads, wraps, soups and more.
“We have a big variety of food and plenty of different sandwiches and wraps,” Mr. Hamway said. “They are created here by our chefs.”
He noted that dividers in the dining room and a clean atmosphere help amidst the pandemic.
They are only doing limited catering to businesses in the city, he said.
A sign in the restaurant reads “Friends and Family Gather Here.”
“My goal is one day I have to retire,” Mr. Hamway said of the family business where his two children work part-time. “I am 71 years old, but I am here for the duration.”