Manny's Deli

A half-pastrami, half-corned beef sandwich at Manny's Deli. (Nick Kindelsperger / Chicago Tribune/TNS)

CHICAGO – You couldn’t keep your masks on, Chicago. But you’re getting your corned beef anyway.

Though customers failed spectacularly when Manny’s Cafeteria & Delicatessen offered free sandwiches for 30 days of flawless mask-wearing, a mysterious benefactor has stepped up to reward people who do wear masks with free sandwiches on a date yet to be announced as of Wednesday morning.

Dan Raskin, Manny’s fourth-generation owner, said it was quickly clear when launching the initiative last week that customers wouldn’t be able to go 30 days with wearing their masks properly.

They couldn’t even go one day.

“Most days we didn’t make it two hours,” Raskin said. “We quickly realized it wasn’t realistic.”

Monday, the deli announced that customers were unable or unwilling to do their part. But it still wanted to reward those who wore masks while also raising awareness about one of the most basic public health measures during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Within two hours, a regular customer who wants to remain anonymous contacted Manny’s to say he would underwrite the giveaway.

Raskin said he recognized the person as a regular, but didn’t know them well.

“It was a customer that really liked the challenge and what we were doing,” Raskin said.

Details are still being finalized and sandwiches will be limited to one per person, Raskin said. He’s expecting the top sellers to be most in demand, but any sandwich will be available for the giveaway.

“If someone wants a turkey, I’ll give them a turkey,” Raskin said. “But I’m guessing it’ll mostly be corned beef or pastrami.”

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