Chicken Sandwich ($4.55)
Jim's Original: Ignore the burnt looking onions, the chicken itself is tender, evenly cooked, and sports a satisfying grilled flavor. I'm not sure how I feel about the standard mustard and onion toppings, but overall it's a fine option.
Express Grill: Dry, tough, and stringy. There's not much to recommend here.
Doubt I'll ever order a chicken sandwich here again, but Jim's certainly has the better option.
Hot Dog ($2.60)
Jim's Original: The natural casing Vienna Beef dog has a tremendous snap and a big beefy profile. Like on the Polish, the caramelized onions lend a slight sweetness, which is undercut nicely by the mustard. Once again, the steamed bun is warm and fluffy.
Express Grill: Talk about confusing. Though Express also uses a natural casing Vienna Beef hot dog, something tasted off. Not bad, just tired, like the dog had been sitting around for too long.
I've never even considered getting a hot dog at Jim's Original before, but I will now. Perhaps I ordered this one after it had steamed for the absolute perfect amount of time, but it was a truly excellent hot dog. This is a nice alternative if you don't quite feel hungry enough to tackle the Polish.
Fish Sandwich ($2.90)
Jim's Original: Featuring a crispy crust, plus some creamy tartar sauce to go along with the mustard and onions, this is a surprisingly tasty option. Obviously, the fish isn't breaded in-house, but if you're on a strict Lenten diet, this is your best bet. Who would have thought?
Express Grill: Featuring an even crisper crust (good), along with a slightly thicker base (meh), this one also works better than it should.
Winner: Express Grill.
Tough call, because both far exceeded expectations. Express Grill's had a crisper crust, but I liked Jim's more compact size. To be nice, I'll give this one to Express.
Fries ($1.30, and free with every purchase)
Jim's Original: There are good things and bad things. The good: the fries are exceptionally crispy. The bad: they are crispy because they are coated with a starch, probably potato starch, making them taste like they came from Burger King. I wish these were hand cut, but they aren't terrible.
Express Grill: Bland, soggy, and a huge disappointment.
Neither serves exceptional fries, but Jim's are at least edible.
Overall Winner: Jim's
No big surprise here. Jim's comes off looking surprisingly solid, with no outright disasters on the menu. Plus the Polish sausage, pork chop sandwich, and hot dog are truly top notch. A few items at Express Grill came close, but nothing is as good. It's hard to think of a reason why anyone would pass by Jim's.
Jim's Original vs. Express Grill
Both stands serve the same kind of food, but which one is best?
Polish Sausage ($3.50)
Jim's Original: The crisp and caramelized casing gives way to a juicy and very smoky interior. Really flavorful. The thinly sliced onions are well caramelized, but only slightly sweet. That's balanced by a healthy smear of extra sharp mustard, especially compared to the kind served at Express Grill. The warm steamed bun does an admirable job of holding up to the massive sausage.
Express Grill: Almost the opposite. The somewhat limp casing gives way to a dry and mealy interior, which has almost no smoke presence. The thickly cut onions do have more of a bite to them, but the mustard gets lost in the mix. The bun also collapsed after a few bites.
Except for maybe the onions, every element of Jim's Polish is better, including the more aggressive mustard.
Beef Polish Sausage ($3.80)
Jim's Original: Before this tasting, I never even knew that this was an option, but the worker at Jim's assured me that it's just a Polish sausage made with beef instead of pork. Though it looks black and burnt, it didn't taste that way. Like the regular Polish, this one has a good smoky backbone. The regular Polish still has the upper hand, but this isn't a bad choice.
Express Grill: Unlike the regular Polish, this one is actually nice and smoky. The casing could be crispier, but I'd honestly recommend the beef Polish over the pork Polish at Express Grill.
Both taste remarkably the same.
Pork Chop Sandwich ($3.95)
Jim's Original: If there is any stand around town know for pork chop sandwiches, Jim's is the place, and it's easy to see why. The thin chop comes out nicely browned, but still juicy. The onions have less of a presence here, but the mustard, once again, works wonders. As the sign points out, the bone is still attached, making eating a delicate process. But the risk of dental work is totally worth it.
Express Grill: It's huge! The small bun can barely contain the chop, which sticks out on every side. It's also more caramelized, sporting some nice looking patches of browned pork. Sadly, the pork is dry, with the thicker parts particularly difficult to bit through.
This one wasn't even close.
Jim's Original: Thanks to the skinny patty and the gloriously steamed bun, the hamburger kind of reminds me of McDonald's, or at least the McDonald's I remember fondly as a kid (as opposed to the gray pucks of meat I encountered on my last visit to the Golden Arches).
Express Grill: After I placed the order, I watched in horror as a weathered burger was pulled out of a steam tray, and loaded right onto a bun. If that wasn't disconcerting enough, it looked almost like the kind of breakfast sausage you'd find at a cheap hotel buffet. An absolute disgrace, and easily the worst item on either menu.
Absolutely no contest here.