Mystery Diner in Crystal Lake: Nana’s Deli a perfect local spot for New York flavor

If you plan on visiting Nana’s New York Deli anytime soon, be prepared to unhinge your jaw and take out your stretchy pants.

The gigantic sandwiches – boasting a half pound to a whole pound of meat each – are filling, of course, but also very tasty and satisfying.

As reported earlier by the Northwest Herald, the owners, Dan Bailenson and Tammy Bailenson, previously owned Mardi Gras Sandwich Shop in Woodstock, with three locations: one on the historic downtown Square, one at the McHenry County Courthouse and one at the water park.

The Bailensons’ restaurant expertise can be seen in every aspect of Nana’s dining experience, from the fast and friendly service, to the clean restaurant and its warm atmosphere, to the fact that the food is spectacular.

While they provide a “Create Your Own Empire” option for those wanting to build their own sandwich for $10.95, they also offer specialty sandwiches for the same price, which is the route I chose to go.

I decided to pick the Reuben, which was filled to the brim with corned beef, cheese, dressing and sauerkraut.

The main attraction, of course, was the corned beef, which was delicious. Just salty and briny enough to satisfy, without being overpowering. It was tender, and, surprisingly, the sandwich was pretty easy to eat, given its size.

The creamy dressing lent the sandwich a nice tang, as well.

The other sandwich I selected was the Bronx, which features meatball, provolone and marinara sauce on an 8-inch roll.

The meatballs were probably the biggest I’d ever seen in a sandwich. Paired with a nice, soft, but sturdy bread that didn’t fall apart despite the sandwich’s girth and a rich marinara sauce, it was hard to eat the whole thing, but luckily my housemates didn’t mind me taking home leftovers.

Both sandwiches came with a crunchy pickle on the side, which complemented the main courses very well.

Although the sandwiches were impressive, a standout of the meal was the Matzo Ball Soup for $6.95. The matzo ball was, you guessed it, large, and there were nice chunks of chicken in there, too. Sometimes in soup, chicken tends to be stringy if shredded, or flavorless, chewy and rubbery in chunks. But that couldn’t be further from the case at Nana’s New York Deli. The chicken, which absorbed the broth nicely, tasted very fresh and tender.

With carrots, parsnip and celery in a warm broth, this soup definitely hit the spot, even on a slightly warmer day.

Next time I go, I might try the “GabaGool” (pronounced Ga-Ba-Goo according to Nana’s menu), which has salami, mortadella, hot capicola, ham, provolone, lettuce, tomato, onion, vinegar and oil on an 8-inch roll, or perhaps, the Dante’s Deluxe, named after the owners’ son, which has corned beef, lettuce, onion, mayo and mustard on rye. Both specialty sandwiches are $10.95.

According to their Facebook and a sign on the door, the owners are taking a well-deserved, week-long break continuing through July 25, and the restaurant will be closed. But once it reopens, I highly recommend checking out this little slice of New York in Illinois.

• The Mystery Diner is an employee at the Northwest Herald. The diner’s identity is not revealed to the restaurant staff before or during the meal. If the Mystery Diner cannot recommend the establishment, we will not publish a story.


WHAT: Nana’s New York Deli

WHERE: 6220 Northwest Highway, Crystal Lake

PHONE: 815-893-3354