Jumpballs, sneakers, stepmothers and Maxwell Street Polish: four classic Chicago sandwiches that stick to the ribs


Chicago is a city with big shoulders and big appetites, so even its beloved sandwiches reflect the city’s initial status as the “pig butcher of the world” and “wheat stacker.” Chunks of meat turn into sublime sandwiches while reflecting the city’s immigrant history through its favorite toppings. The sandwiches that fueled the “working city” are often hearty, portable, inexpensive, and warming enough to sustain us through those cold winter days.

It’s no surprise, then, that Chicago invented four twists on the classic gut-busting, rib-sticking sandwiches: stepmom, jumpball, jim shoe, and Maxwell Street polish. Overloaded and inventive, these mouth-watering sandwiches glorify the culinary freshness that makes Chicago a place to fill your stomach and lift your spirits.

1. The mother-in-law

The Mother-in-Law sandwich features a hot tamale, topped with chili and other condiments, served on a hot dog bun.

Although its exact origins are unclear, Fat Johnnie’s Famous Red Hots, a beloved Chicago hot dog institution located at 7242 South Western Avenue, claims to have invented the mother-in-law, a supercharged sandwich that can eliminate the hangover. of wood and encourage people to get started. either a long afternoon at work or a long afternoon nap.

The hot dog stand’s vintage sign attracts diners from across town with the claim that its food items are “Fit for a King.” During an oral interview in 2008 with the Southern Foodways Alliance, Johnnie’s owner, John Pawlikowski, recalled buying a stuffed tamale in a hot dog bun for a penny when he was a little boy, from a Lithuanian-American cart vendor named Pete. The seller called the appetizing sandwich a mother-in-law. The savory sandwich made such an impression on Pawlikowski that he added it to Fat Johnnie’s menu when he opened it in 1972.

Indeed, Fat Johnnie’s mother-in-law’s sandwich is undoubtedly the stuff of royalty: a Hot Chicago Tamale topped with chili rests comfortably in a steamed hot dog bun. While most places leave the mother-in-law alone, Fat Johnnie’s loads it up with the usual Chicago hot dog condiments. Some say she was inspired by tamal piea bolilloMexico’s signature baguette, filled with a Mexican-style tamale.

2. Jumpball

At 16 South West Avenue, Moon Sandwich is the home of another chic Chicago sandwich: the Jumpball. Step onto the old-fashioned restaurant counter and watch three scrambled eggs on the grill with onions, potatoes and savory Italian sausage. American cheese is added to fuse the ingredients together before they are cradled between two slices of toast. It is the quintessential breakfast sandwich, although it can be eaten at any time of the day. Moon’s has been serving its jumpball since it opened in 1933. Rumor has it that the restaurant too served a side of moonshine during prohibitionhence the name Moon’s.

3. The Jim shoe (or sports shoe)

The Jim Shoe Sandwich (also called Gym Shoe) is a mega hoagie roll filled with three types of meat – Greek-American style shaved gyros, roast beef and corned beef – plus lettuce, tomato, tzatziki, mayonnaise, mustard and cheese. , onions, peppers and Chicago-style giardiniera. Wrapped in foil, it is as big as a basketball sports shoe, although no one knows where it got its name or its exact origin. It was probably born somewhere on the South Side: you’ll find the jim shoe in most South Side sandwich shops, including Petey’s (250 West 47th Street) and Southtown Submarine (112 East 71st Street).

4. Polish Maxwell Street

A Polish Maxwell Street Sandwich The Maxwell Street polishes are topped with grilled onions and mustard, though the photo also sports bell peppers. Image: mswine/Flickr

This sandwich calls for a Polish sausage — a variety of Kielbasa made in Chicago that combines pork and beef — nestled in a bun and topped with grilled onions and a strip of yellow mustard. Although you can find Maxwell Street Polish all over town, Jim’s Original (1250 South Union Ave), claims to have invented the Chicago delight. The hot dog stand opened in 1939 when Jimmy Stefanovic, an immigrant from Macedonia, took over his aunt and uncle’s hot dog stand and named it after none other than himself. . Although Jim’s Original claims to be the origin of the classic Chicago sandwich, it was more likely the first brick-and-mortar stand to sell the sandwich, which was likely peddled years before on the streets of Maxwell Street Market. from Chicago. .

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