By OnMilwaukee Staff Writers   Published Apr 02, 2011 at 10:49 AM

Bear with me while I explain the concept for this ongoing series of articles: we take two seemingly unrelated Milwaukee icons, then pit them against each other in 10 categories. In each category, we'll assign them points, one through 10, then add them up and name the winner.

No, it's not scientific, but yes, it's fun. How does Jake's Delicatessen, a north side institution famous for its corned beef, stack up against the historic east side movie house Oriental Theatre? Let's find out.


Jake's Delicatessen: 8

Sure at $7.29, Jake's signature corned beef sandwich is going to cost you a couple bucks more than a flavorless blob at Subway, but c'mon! Jake's has been using the same kind of delicious hand-carved meats since it opened at 1634 W. North Ave. in 1955. And with options like matzo ball soup for $3.50 and Kosher hot dogs served up on pretzel rolls for $3.49, you'll never sing the $5 foot-long jingle again.

Oriental Theatre: 6

A $9.50 general admission ticket seems pretty standard for a night at the movies these days. And with discounts for seniors, students and children, and a $7.50 ticket for movies starting before 6 p.m. There are ways to save.

Value to city:

Jake's Delicatessen: 7

Sure there are other delis in town, but none come close to matching the legacy and tenure of Jake's. The neighborhood around the deli has changed significantly, but the look of the deli and taste of the food has changed very little. While a lot of businesses fled as neighborhood demographics changed, Jake's stayed put. Sure we'd lose one of the country's best corned beef sandwiches if Jake's closed, but we'd also be losing out on a piece of local history and a great community hub.

Oriental Theatre: 9

The Oriental was almost 30-years-old by the time Jake's opened. It's ornate East-Indian inspired artwork makes it a one of a kind movie going experience. As an anchor of the North Ave. business corridor, it's loss would be disastrous to the area. Movie fans and architecture buffs from from around the world make the Oriental a must see Milwaukee attraction, and it's appearance in national publications like Entertainment Weekly and various high profile travel publications have been a huge tourist draw over the years.


Jake's Delicatessen: 6

While Jake's is still a popular destination for those in the know, it sits as a bit of an island with no real commercial draws surrounding it. With it's simple unassuming storefront you might never notice it if you weren't looking for it. And, sadly many Milwaukeean's rarely venture into the central city not realizing how much they are missing out on.

Oriental Theatre: 9

With no downtown movie theater to speak of, the Oriental is the place to catch a movie for residents of most of the lakeside neighborhoods. It's unique ambiance and proximity to dozens of bars and restaurants makes it a can't miss date spot.

In terms of national popularity, Entertainment Weekly named it one of "Ten Theaters Doing It Right." Rarely does a travel story on Milwaukee overlook the Oriental. The theatre draws a wide audience mixing in the occasional blockbuster with art house and indie films.

Name recognition:

Jake's Delicatessen: 5

Foodies and people of a certain age are certain to have at least heard of Jake's. But again, if you hadn't heard of it's historic reputation and don't happen to live nearby, chances are you probably don't know it's there or may just figure Benji's Deli in Shorewood is the spot.

Oriental Theatre: 8

In a city filled with beautiful theaters the Oriental stands alone. If you've been here more than a few months chances are you've been there or at least heard of it.


Jake's Delicatessen: 8

Jake's interior remains unchanged since it opened in the mid '50s. Stepping inside is like taking a trip back in time, and it's classic booths and fixtures are as fun to look at as its sandwiches are to eat.

Oriental Theatre: 10

Simply put, the Oriental Theatre is a one of a kind piece of art and architecture. With its minaret towers, stained glass chandeliers, hand drawn murals, Buddhas with glowing eyes, porcelain lions, elephants and ornate tile work, the Oriental is an unforgettable landmark and a show in itself.


Jake's Delicatessen: 6

Jake's classic look and menu make it a one-of-a-kind Milwaukee eatery, but as previously stated it has competition on a food-only basis with the likes of Benji's and others. Nationally, there are dozens of more famous classic Jewish delis that are bigger local and national landmarks.

Oriental Theatre: 10

The Oriental Theatre's design was one-of-a-kind, and while many city's have started to refurbish their classic theatre's The Oriental is one of the longest running and most revered in the United States. The combination of it's classic look and focus on the best of contemporary film make it a truly unique place.

Economic value:

Jake's Delicatessen: 4

It's value lies less in the pocketbook and more in it's institutional history. While it still provides a few important jobs to the area, it's economic impact on the city is negligible. If it wasn't for its owners' commitment to the neighborhood chances are Jake's would have been one of the hundreds of area business to shutter its doors. Leaving it's building to be shuttered, sold for a modest sum, or demolished.

Oriental Theatre: 5

Again, the theatre itself is priceless and irreplaceable, but it's impact on city coffers and the rest of the local economy is modest.

Convenience factor:

Jake's Delicatessen: 4

Unless you live in the north side neighborhood its located in you are going to have to drive out of your way to get there and probably are only in the area because you are looking for Jake's.

Oriental Theatre: 7

The Oriental sits on a couple of major bus lines, is relatively close to most of the area's major universities, and is surrounded by some of the city's busiest commercial areas. However, if you live on the city's outlying areas you may be closer to a cineplex located in the burbs, and finding parking can be a drag especially on the weekends.


Jake's Delicatessen: 8

Again, Jake's has operated almost unchanged since 1955 making it one of Milwaukee's most storied eateries.

Oriental Theatre: 9

The Oriental was already nearly three decades old when Jake's was opening the doors to it's first customers.

Quality of product:

Jake's Delicatessen: 9

If there is a better corned beef sandwich out there, I haven't had it. Their quality and flavor of its deli meats are unparalleled and you are truly depriving yourself if you haven't visited yet.

Oriental Theatre: 10

There may be theaters with more and bigger screens and more state of the art sound systems, but I dare you to find a more magical place to watch a movie, not just in Milwaukee but anywhere in the world.


Jake's Delicatessen: 65

Oriental Theatre: 83

Winner: Oriental Theatre