UKRAINIAN VILLAGE — Jewish deli and restaurant Jeff & Judes is closing its doors this weekend.
The deli, 1024 N. Western Ave., sells Jewish staples like pastrami sandwiches and matzo ball soup, as well as baked goods like babka and rugelach. Its last dine-in service will be Sunday.
After about two years in business, owner Ursula Siker said ultimately, the decision came down to basic economics.
“It’s just a tale as old as time. We were just spending too much money on the food itself as well as the hands it took to make it and couldn’t justify the kind of prices we’d have to charge to keep that sustainable,” Siker said.
Siker opened Jeff & Judes in 2020 early in the COVID-19 pandemic. A professional baker for more than a decade, she started by selling just baked goods to-go out of the deli’s Western Avenue storefront.
Jeff & Judes expanded to its full menu later that year, and opened for patio service, and then eventually indoor dining, in 2021.
Throughout the restaurant’s tenure, Siker emphasized using high-quality ingredients and meat in her dishes, with almost everything made in-house. She was also vocal about the challenges of paying her employees a living wage while balancing customer expectations.
“From the get go it was always really important that it’s like, you’re putting out a good product and the people that are making it are in a good environment, and that in itself makes the food taste better. A lot of mistakes were made along the way but that was always what we were aiming for,” she said.
Siker said some of her fondest memories at the deli range from baking alone early in the pandemic to finally building out the restaurant for indoor dining last fall. The restaurant also co-hosted the Empty Bottle’s Thee Best Western Block Party last October.
But Siker said her favorite part was the people she got to work with, and the moments that aren’t always visible to customers.
“All the playlists that we’re sick of hearing all the time and all the like, random Celine Dion you hear in the kitchen, just the stuff that guests maybe don’t get to see, that was really important to us. That’s something that I think you can’t replace and you can’t replicate so that will definitely be missed a ton.”
A new restaurant will open in the Jeff & Judes space later this summer, Siker said. While she’s staying on as an owner and consultant, she won’t be involved in the day-to-day operations.
Instead, current Jeff & Judes deli and bakery manager Hanna Coleman will take over as executive chef, with Sam Yar running front of house operations and developing a bar program. Further details will be announced shortly.
In the meantime, Siker and her staff are gearing up for a busy last few days.
“We intend to be pretty busy and we just hope people are patient and we might be out of some stuff, so we’re sorry in advance, but we’re going to do the best that we can. And then yeah, that’ll be it. After Sunday, we’ll just launch into getting ready to prepare for the next thing,” she said.
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