January 11, 2006 (Chicago) (WLS) -- Chicago is known for many culinary treats -- deep-dish pizza, Italian beef and the Maxwell Street Polish sausage. It's that Polish that garnered the attention of ABC7's Hungry Hound. As he continues his month-long look at sausages from around the globe, there's a marketing war going on near the UIC campus involving Polish sausage. It's no surprise, considering the Maxwell Street area was always ground zero for haggling and selling. Ron Popeil, after all, got his start there. But to fully understand the Polish, you have to head to the Northwest Side where old world techniques keep tradition alive.
If you didn't know any better, you'd think you were in Warsaw or Krakow, after watching how they produce and smoke the sausages behind Alex's Deli on West Diversey in the Cragin neighborhood. Pork is ground, seasoned and then stuffed into casings before it's twisted into links and sold fresh, or smoked over hardwood for several hours, creating a distinctive aroma.
The Polish sausages are then transported to shops like Endy's Deli in Logan Square, where Polish ex-pats can satisfy a craving for either the fresh - in the refrigerated case - or one of several kinds of smoked hanging behind the deli counter.
"The smoked one, got 11 different types of it. So every single one, it's more spicy or less spicy, so it's like 11 different kinds," said Irenuz Baran, Endy's Deli.
There's just one kind of Polish sausage served at Jim's Original, which opened for business on Maxwell Street in 1939, but moved to South Union Street, a few blocks away, once the market relocated. A Polish here will set you back a whopping $2.60.
"Yellow mustard, grilled onions, steamed buns and relish, somebody want it," said Andy Krupka, Jim's Original.
The recipe hasn't changed in over 60 years. Corn oil is drizzled over the plump, grilled sausages; they're nestled into steamed hot dog buns slathered with yellow mustard and buried beneath a mound of grilled onions. Best part of all: you can satisfy a craving 24 hours a day.
The same is true just a few yards away, at the Express Grill - another holdover from the Maxwell Street days. The price and the recipe are exactly the same - steamed bun, oil-laced sausage, yellow mustard and grilled onions. The only difference is the recipe - both joints offer their own, proprietary Polish, made by a local sausage factory.
"This is part of the tradition of Maxwell Street. We fight hard to keep tradition because not many places in Chicago area sell the food this way like we do here," said Jack Lazarevski, Express Grill.
And since there are no dining rooms on South Union Street, diners continue another longstanding tradition -- eating in their cars.
"Maxwell Street isn't the same since it moved, and it used to be a very wonderful, fabulous place with people who slept out there, and the musicians who were there," said Jane Wenger, Polish Sausage Aficionado.
You can sate a craving for a Maxwell Street-style Polish 24-hours a day at both storefronts and there is another competitor, the Maxwell Street Depot, over on 31st Street near U.S. Cellular Field.
1250 S. Union St.
1260 S. Union St.
3055 N. Milwaukee Ave.
4951 W. Diversey Ave.
Maxwell Street Depot
411 W. 31st St.
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