#1: My Five Favorite Sausages at Hot Doug's
"Sausage City and Hot Doug's. The two, at some point, would have to meet. But how to pay due respects? As one of Chicago's most famous places to eat sausages (it's a self-described "encased meats emporium"), a mere visit like a normal person would not suffice...I took the opportunity to devote myself to an insane cause, which was to taste a bite of every single one, and select my five favorites. It's unclear whether anyone has ever attempted such a feat."
#2: Kurowski's Sausage Shop in Avondale
"Walking into Kurowski's and ordering 'kielbasa' would probably get you laughed out of the store, because that's like walking into Baskin Robbins and ordering 'ice cream.' Kielbasa really just means sausage, so to navigate Kurowski's, you'd better come prepared with some more specific instructions. And you'd better do your research, including writing out exactly how to pronounce what you want phonetically. Because there's no guarantee you'll get any help from the counter, and you'll look foolish pointing and mumbling."
Kurowski's Sausage Shop, 2976 North Milwaukee Avenue, Chicago, IL 60618 (map); 773-645-1692
#3: First Look Inside Publican Quality Meats
"Maybe it goes without saying, but Publican Quality Meats is also making its own sausages—not just fresh varieties, but handcrafted charcuterie like aged salamis. This is a huge deal for Chicago, because the variety of house-cured meats is very slim."
#5: Au Cheval's Fried House Made Bologna Sandwich
"The Fried House Made Bologna Sandwich at Au Cheval is one of the messiest, most delicious sandwiches I've eaten in ages. It doesn't rely on a nostalgic food memory. It's good enough to create its own craving on the spot."
#6: Smoque's Barbecue Hot Links
"Smoque's hot links are a completely different affair than the traditional Chicago hot link. Despite sharing the name, Smoque's are closer in ancestry to the Texas hot link, which has more of an Eastern European profile, almost like a smoked kielbasa."
#7: The Butcher & the Burger
"My advice is to go for the burger, but if you see a few sausages in the case, bring a few home...I ordered a pound of the only sausage they had in their case, venison. It came pre-poached, probably because a fresh venison sausage probably wouldn't move from the case all that quickly. At about 40% fat back to 60% venison, it's a succulent sausage to say the least. Being pre-cooked, it's simple to grill or sear it up very quickly."
#9: Butcher & Larder's New Orleans Boudin Blanc
"To put it simply, this is not the kind of shop trying to hide the reality of being a carnivore. It reminds me of the cover of The River Cottage Meat Book by British writer Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, which has a giant slab of meat on the cover. At first it's off putting. But then you think if you're going to eat meat, you might as well confront it head on. And when that meat is humanely raised and of high quality, what is there to be ashamed of?"
#10: Podhalanka's Polish Sausage Sandwich
"Podhalanka's pierogi are probably its most talked-bout menu item, and they're delicious...But what sometimes flies under the radar, partly because it's not front-and-center on the menu, is their Polish sausage sandwich. If you've only ever had a Polish sausage on a bun, the most common way it's prepared, you owe yourself a taste of this sandwich preparation, split and stuffed between two slices of sturdy bread, which soften as they soak up the drippings from the sausage. To round it out, Podhalanka adds onions that are just barely beginning to caramelize, which somehow are wonderfully sweet while still maintaining an important crunch."
Podhalanka, 1549 West Division Street, Chicago, IL 60642 (map); 773-486-6655