[Photographs: Mike Gebert]

I don't like imitation things. Whether it's turkey hot dogs and turkey reubens at the low end, or a deconstructed lobster Philly steak sandwich bánh mì at the high end, all you usually do is wreck the balance of something classic and perfect. In fact, "a take on" is almost always a sign of a dish that isn't going to work. If it works, nobody calls it "a take on," which is an upfront excuse, like calling something "interesting." If it works, it isn't a take, it just is.


So allow me to recommend the take on classic BBQ hot links at Big Guys Sausage Shop. Heck, let me recommend Big Guys Sausage Shop in Berwyn, period, since it has not yet appeared at this site. Brendan O'Connor, the main guy, is a lifelong Berwynite who decided to take over a hot dog stand location that had once been a Parky's (a big name in old school hotdoggery in that area). But, as he told me for this Reader piece, he didn't want to just reheat Vienna products like a million other hot dog joints.


In particular, he didn't like any of the chicken sausages he could find on the market, so he started making his own of those, and soon progressed to almost everything but the hot dogs themselves (which are Vienna). What's nice about O'Connor's sausages is that nothing is too out there; he calls his food "blue collar gourmet food," which pretty much sums up an approach of quality with lack of pretension. The sausages don't have wacky names and weird toppings: most are just what they are (Italian Chicken Sausage, Cheddar Brat), and even a Greek-themed sausage will be lamb louganika with pretty classically Greek toppings (onions and an orange-fennel-tinged yogurt sauce).


And my favorite, the Hot Link, is an excellent rendition of a fat, spicy smoked Chicago hot link, topped with barbecue sauce with some kick and soothing pineapple cole slaw. Simple and to the point; it isn't served from behind bulletproof glass, but other than that it has all the other satisfactions of a trip to a South side barbecue joint on a bun.


Add in fresh-cut fries (which come in a few variations, like garlic fries) and you have plenty of reason for a journey to the near west suburbs. But if you need one more, O'Connor's more creative side comes out on one special sausage each month. You just missed November's Turducken, but you're just in time for the reindeer sausage with red wine, blueberries and garlic: the Rudolph.


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