In a country where hot dogs are the most famous (and most consumed) form of sausage, and in a city that's especially known for them, the Vienna Beef factory makes around seven hundred thousand hot dogs a day.
When you walk into Beograd Meat Market, you might expect, as I did, to easily track down the fresh sausage that people talk about in online forums. It's there, but it's kind of hard to find. Just look below the bottles of Orangina.
Thanks to some exceptional fries and a genuinely delicious, if gargantuan, hot dog, Chubby Wieners deserves to be known as more than just a stand with a funny name.
Telegraph in Logan Square successfully defies all the issues I normally have about wine bars (pricey mediocre wine and pricey unambitious food made acceptable because they're served in a "wine bar), also has a fine charcuterie plate that changes regularly.
When it comes to great barbecue, Chicago does things a little differently. Perhaps nobody in the city does it better than Uncle John's, where the links are flecked with red pepper flakes and taste deeply of sage and pork fat.
As much as Chicago is a great sausage city, it's still a rare occurrence to see it house-made on menus in restaurants. But there is one regular exception to this rule, and that's breakfast sausage.
Chicago has plenty of gyros, and Greek restaurants to serve them, many clustered on a strip of Halstead west of the Loop. But it's much harder to find good Loukaniko, a lamb and pork sausage.
You could drive by Romanian Kosher Sausage Company for years and never feel the need to stop by. It looks more like an abandoned building that what it truly is: one of the best and most beloved butcher shops in Chicago.
Of course, what everyone talks about at Al's is the Italian beef, and rightly so: it's a spectacular sandwich that deserves accolades (and has received them on Serious Eats already). But the result of all that praise is often that their excellent Italian sausage sandwich—served, just like the beef, with sweet or hot peppers on a chewy roll seemingly designed to soak up juices without losing its structural integrity—can be overlooked.
At Spencer's Jolly Posh Foods on Irving Park Rd., you can find their bangers and bacon full time. But they've also expanded and now carry some of the best black and white pudding I've tasted, including in the U.K.
At Mirabell, an old school German spot in Irving Park, they serve classics like the bratwurst—but they're doing things their own way. Case in point: when you order their bratwurst, it comes not just boiled or grilled, but soaked in milk, dipped in egg, and fried in butter. And it's quietly the best traditional bratwurst I've ever eaten
It's as if the folks at Gepperth's Meat Market have mellowed out over the years and realized that being a butcher and being gruff are not necessarily required. They have a sense of humor, a confidence around who they are, and with that comes that elusive and magical combination of competence and customer service.
As drinking halls go, Acre in Andersonville is the kind of place you might picture in your dreams: dark, lacquered woods, a hefty bar, and an excellent craft beer list. So it's with pleasure that I report their plate of house-made wood-grilled sausages is fine indeed.
I've already written about Gene's Sausage Shop in Lincoln Square, a beautiful, pristine place that almost glistens, with modern refrigerators, fresh produce, a wine selection, and a beer garden on top. But many of the sausages you see there originate at a more unassuming shop on Belmont Avenue much further west: the original Gene's Sausage Shop. It's a little rougher around the edges, a little more faded, and a lot more charming.
Nottoli & Son has the feel of a place that's been around for some time, a place that's gotten its selection of products down pat and the regulars that come in often to buy them. It's charming and relatively unassuming.
Besides getting its name from the beloved, if fictional, "Sausage King of Chicago," The Froman from Gilbert's Craft Sausages lands somewhere between skinless and natural, using a beef collagen casing instead.
I keep going back to Big Star. Maybe I'm drawn by pitchers of margaritas or cheap shots of whiskey. (It could also be the cheap, almost universally good food). But I do know that I crave one thing more than any other, which they've wisely never taken off the menu: the salty bubbling queso fundido.
Chef Paul Virant has always been known for his gifted preparations of vegetables, not only in cooking but in sourcing locally from farmers. But based on my visit I would venture to say that he has a keen sense for charcuterie, too.
Jake's Country Meats is a local (Michigan-based) farmer that's been around for six generations, and across Chicagoland, they offer a selection of meat and charcuterie, including a plentiful selection of sausage.
Writing about the vast selection at Paulina's sausages is overwhelming for a single column. In fact, I had no idea what I'd do until I got there and noticed a chance to write about one thing they do a lot of, and do well. That thing is bratwurst. Paulina has probably the biggest selection I've ever seen (curry bratwurst, anyone?), both traditional varieties and inventive variations.