There is a certain daringness to those bold eateries whose signature dishes are far beyond the normal eating portions of mere humans. Those who can pull it off while still delivering even the smallest bit of nuance and taste earn a special place in the hearts of those bold enough to take the challenge. The ones who truly nail it become legend.
That is the expectation I had when I got to Perry's Deli. Around for almost thirty years, raves from those who work in the Loop and frequent it, and enough layered meats and bread on one of their "signature triple decker sandwiches" to terrify even the most stalwart of stomachs.
Now, take a look at the picture of The Ormand Street Special ($10.50) up there—if that doesn't both terrify and strangely entice you, then you're not truly alive (or a vegetarian). I saw a couple of brave men actually pick up their own sandwich piles to consume them—a truly Herculean feat. The homemade Russian dressing leaned heavily on the side of sweetness rather than pungent, but was balanced tremendously well with the vinegar slaw that inhabits the upper tier of sandwich. The two played off each other, adding some zest and crunch to what could have been a great sandwich.
The corned beef only had a bit of that ultra-savory spicy flavor that makes the mouth water, but it still worked with the slaw/dressing combo (when I could scrape together all the different parts). But the roast beef was dry, turning to a gummy paste upon consumption. Dry meat is rarely acceptable, but at a deli it's a sin, and not one that the rest of the sandwich could save. Maybe one of their other sandwiches could back up the huge sandwich with huge flavor, but The Ormand Street Special doesn't exactly embody bigger as better.
About the author: Nathan Lurz is an intern at Serious Eats Chicago. When he's not reviewing the occasional sammich, he spends his time trying to convince people to pay him to be a journalist, working at the non-partisan political news site Reboot Illinois, and being amazed he is a professional sandwich reviewer. Follow his wittiness on Twitter at @LurzBlurbz