Maxwell Street's last legitimate Polish sausage vendors vie for my stomach's affections
Having been relocated twice in the mid-1990s for the expansion of the University of Illinois-Chicago, the stands are today housed in nearly identical cinderblock structures one block to the east of their original locations. The main difference is the flashy signage on Jim's that proclaims its superiority over its competitor next door, and a vintage sign on Express from its original location. In addition to sausages, their griddles are piled high with hot dogs, burgers and pork chops, inches away from piles of carmelized onions. The stacks of meat soak up the onion juice before being served through open windows directly onto the sidewalk. Time to eat.
Jim's Original, 1250 S. Union Ave.
Jim's Original sausage greeted my gums with a crusty snap, followed by a deliciously sinful medley of onions and processed beef. The onions were gloriouslyly caramelized and sweet. I wisely avoided the sport peppers. The side of fries worked wonderfully as a palate-cleanser between bites.
Express Grill, 1260 S. Union Ave.
Express Grill's sausage was tastey but lacked texture between the casing and the filling. The onions were enticingly browned but the initial mouthfuls went down with a sport pepper that caused my gullet to spasm uncontrollably. The fries were disturbingly generic and did nothing to help my hiccups.