Sweet and Sour Meatballs

Sweet and Sour Meatballs

Many years ago, when we first moved to the city, young and naive and dare I say pretty silly, Apple Crisp and I would pick a day each month to have “suburb day.” If that sounds like the epitome of city snobbery…well, I won’t even pretend that it’s not. For suburb day, we’d go to the mall or some other large shopping arena and eat at a chain restaurant because no matter what they say, no city dweller will deny the excitement of an occasional trip to The Olive Garden (or, in our case, Sweet Tomatoes).  Anyway, it was always good times but now that Apple Crisp actually lives in the ‘burbs herself, it’s not as exciting a venture and rarely happens.  Evidenced by the fact that my car battery died recently from lack of activity.  True Story.

However, a few weeks ago Kettle Corn and I resurrected suburb day by taking a trip to Northbrook to try Max and Benny’s.  Now, if there’s a Jewish deli version of Cheers, this is it. While no one knew our names, it was obvious from the vibe of the place that it had regulars and as we made our way to the table that Saturday morning,  we no doubt passed quite a few.

Max and Benny’s is both a restaurant and take-away deli, and has been owned and operated by the Schlan family for over thirty years, and it’s attention to solid, home cooked traditional food is evident.  The menu is chock full of goodies that you’d expect to find upon walking into any New York deli- bagels, bialys, loaves of rye, corned beef, ruggelah, pie…is your mouth watering yet?

It will be soon.

Here’s the rundown of what we got.  



Matzo ball soup was a must. While I’ve yet to venture making them at home, I’m honestly not sure if mine would ever be as wonderful as these.  They were like pillows from heaven.  I don’t even know how, floating in a steamy broth that rivaled my grandma’s.  High praise indeed.

Sweet and sour meatballs (more on those later) and bagel chips (sweet and savory, thanks) kept us noshing until the main plates came out.  Noshers.  What are they?  Amazingness.  More specifically, one corned beef and one pastrami sandwich, but instead of bread- potato pancakes! I speak the truth.  Anyway, delicious.

Because sharing is caring, and food envy can ruin many a friendship, Kettle Corn and I opted to split and share everything.  Including our carrot cake dessert.  #Friends4Ever.

Now, back to those meatballs. The folks at Max and Benny’s were generous enough to share their recipe.  I know! So nice. Anyway, this family recipe comes straight from Bubbie Gussie’s kitchen, no doubt handed down through the generations.  And now, from my plate to yours, for those of you unable to make the trek to Northbrook, a little taste of Max and Benny’s, all to yourself.

This recipe is easy and straightforward, tweak-able to your tastes, whether you want it spicier or milder.

Sweet and Sour MeatballsSweet and Sour Meatballs

Recipe notes:

The chili sauce I used came from a local source, but use any one you can find. I think the ubiquitous green lid one is just fine, but use any that looks like the one pictured. You may think that it seems like a lot, but trust the grape jelly to temper the heat.


Sweet and Sour Meatballs
Yields 18
Sweet and sour cocktail meatballs
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Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
30 min
Total Time
40 min
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
30 min
Total Time
40 min
  1. 1 pound ground sirloin (you can use ground turkey as well)
  2. 1/2 small Spanish onion, finely chopped (-1/4 cup)
  3. 2 cloves garlic, minced
  4. 1 tsp grill seasoning (I used McCormick steak)
  5. 1 large egg
  6. 1 TB olive oil
  7. 1/2 cup chili sauce
  8. 3/4 cup grape jelly (or more, to taste)
  9. 1/2 cup water
  1. Combine all ingredients, except the chili sauce, water and grape jelly. Mix them all together in a large bowl and form into 1 inch balls. Brown meatballs in a large nonstick skillet, with a the oil, or put them on a cookie sheet under the broiler for a few minutes (you have to watch them and turn them when you see they are getting brown). Place on a paper towel to drain.
  2. In saucepan, pour in the chili sauce, water and jelly. Add as much jelly as you like to taste to temper the heat. Simmer about 10-15 minutes, add meatballs and cook another 30-40 minutes until cooked through.
The Hungary Buddha Eats the World http://thehungarybuddha.com/
Sweet and Sour Meatballs

Max and Benny’s is located at 461 Waukegan Rd, Northbrook, IL 60062.

Thanks to Marcy for setting up such a delicious meal and to Max & Benny’s for divulging your famous recipe!

Written after recovery from the 24-hour worst flu ever.

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  1. Potato pancake “buns”? That’s genius! And while I hate meatballs I adore chili/grape jelly sauce and will easily choke down at least 3 meatballs swimming in this sauce when we make them every year around the holidays. But the bagel chips and carrot cake? YUUUM!

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