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Standing Room Only: Even the Gyro Burger Can't Save Ody's Drive Inn
Drive west on Grand Ave. far enough and eventually you'll find Ody's Drive Inn. Doesn't matter if you're looking for it. Painted bright red and yellow, it calls out, beckoning hungry travelers to pull in. Perhaps that's just me. Regardless, Ody's certainly looks like a place I would love, coming across like a mix of a bare-bones depression dog stand like Jim's Original and a garishly designed one like Susie's Drive Thru. The counter butts right up to the sidewalk, and there is no indoor seating (though a heated patio is stuck on the side).
Of course, looks aren't everything, and sometimes the humblest places surprise with truly excellent food. But if the owners show a little care with the design, that potentially indicates that they also are looking out for the food, too.
Ready for another Chicago original? Feast your eyes on a Gyro Burger ($3.95, pictured up top). Like the Gym Shoe, this is a popular dish on Chicago's West Side that you don't often see elsewhere in the city. Unlike that bizarre creation, this one is exactly what it sounds like. A char-broiled burger arrives topped with thin slices of gyros meat. That's it. Though less gloriously insane than the Gym Shoe, the gyros meat does pack an extra salty punch. I imagine extra crispy slices would also add crunch, but these were on the gray and limp side. If anyone knows a dependable place to score a gyros burger, let me know.
Sadly, those gray slices foreshadow what comes next. At first glance, all looks right with the Italian beef ($4.50), but note the thickness of the bread. For some reason Ody's is proud that it serves its beef on French bread, not a regular Turano roll. This is a mistake. When dipped—my standard beef order—the thicker French bread becomes waterlogged and its innards turn to mush. I'm cool with a mess, but when picked up, the French bread falls to pieces, failing to do the one job it was meant to do. But even the right roll couldn't complete save the tough meat.
The minimalist-style hot dog ($1.49) manages to avoid the same pitfalls as the beef, but the skinless dog keeps it from truly working.
Though it's the flashiest stand on Grand, Ody's is definitely not the best. Head east on Grand Ave. and you'll run into Jimmy's Red Hots, which serves one my favorite hot dogs in Chicago. Head west on Grand (with a final turn right on River Road) and you'll eventually end up at Gene & Jude's, which is somehow even better than Jimmy's. With these options within striking distance, it's hard to see myself ever stopping again, no matter how alluring the facade looks.
Ody's Drive Inn