THE LOOP — Jaffa Bagels in Illinois Center has reopened and downtown diners have their Thanksgiving-style sandwiches back — and more.
The Loop eatery, tucked away in the concourse between 233 and 225 N. Michigan Ave., had been closed since November. On Tuesday, it was open again with an expanded kitchen, a bigger menu and staff and a small pizzeria tacked on the back.
Owner Abdul Eweida said business has been slow in recent years so the upgrade was part of an effort to reinvigorate the restaurant.
"It's been here for 25 years at the same location, so I have to just refresh it," Eweida said of the flagship restaurant, one of six in the Loop. "The customers will appreciate it. And when the employees themselves see the store is nice, they will be excited to work, and they work better."
The restaurant is named after Jaffa, Israel, the hometown of Eweida's father — "the city that made the first bagel," he said.
But Jaffa's best-known menu item might be their roasted turkey sandwiches, carved daily from whole turkeys.
The Chicago Reader called them "delicious, the platonic ideal of the post-Thanksgiving leftover" in a 2010 review.
Renovations included new flooring and seating and more colorful menus.
All of the restaurant's baked goods are made fresh on-site, though Eweida said that might change in a few months when he opens a new primary location in a 6,000-square-foot bakery in Lincolnwood.
He hopes that streamlining operations will help him expand catering service in the Loop. But in the meantime, Eweida said he's focused on getting the Illinois Center location back up and running.
"We hope to see all our regulars for lunch today," he said.