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A Maxwell Street Polish consists of a grilled or fried sausage topped with grilled onions and yellow mustard and optional sport peppers, on a bun. The sausage, a cross between Polish kielbasa and a natural-casing hot dog, is typically spicier than either and usually made from beef and pork.[

The sandwich was first created by Jimmy Stefanovic, a Macedonian immigrant,[2] who took over his aunt and uncle's hot dog stand (now Jim's Original) in Chicago's Maxwell Street marketplace in 1939.[3] The Maxwell Street Polish soon grew to be one of Chicago's most popular local sandwiches, along with the Chicago hot-dog and Italian beef.

It is served by restaurants around the city, and is common at sporting events. Many small vendors specialize in the Maxwell Street Polish along with the pork-chop sandwich.

Due to the University of Illinois Chicago's South Campus development, the two most famous Maxwell Street Polish stands, Jim's Original and Maxwell St. Express Grill, both of which coexisted side by side for decades at Halsted and Maxwell streets, have now relocated a half block east to Union Avenue, adjacent to the Dan Ryan Expressway on-ramp at Roosevelt Road.

A Chicago-style hot dog is a steamed or boiled all-beef hot dog on a poppy seed bun, which originated in the U.S. city of Chicago, Illinois. The hot dog is topped with mustard, onion, sweet pickle relish (usually a dyed neon green variety called "Nuclear Relish"), a dill pickle spear, tomato slices or wedges, sport peppers, and a dash of celery salt; sometimes, but not always, cucumber slices; but never ketchup.[1][2][3][4]

The complete assembly is sometimes called "dragged through the garden" because of the unique combination of condiments. It is taboo to put ketchup on a Chicago hot dog; some hot dog stands don't even stock the condiment.[

Many sources attribute the distinctive collection of toppings on a Chicago-style dog to the "Depression Sandwich" originated by Fluky's on historic Maxwell Street in 1929.[5] Vienna Beef frankfurters, the most common brand served today, were first sold at the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago.[6]

Chicago-style hot dogs are boiled or steamed before adding the toppings.[3] Less commonly, they're grilled and referred to as "chardogs." The typical dog weighs 1/8 pound and the most traditional type features a natural casing, providing a distinctive "snap" when bitten.[2]

The Chicago metropolitan area boasts more hot dog restaurants than McDonald's, Wendy's, and Burger Kings combined.[6] A "hot dog stand" in Chicago may serve many other items, including the Maxwell Street Polish, gyros, Italian beef and pork chop sandwiches. The restaurants often have unique names, such as Mustard's Last Stand, or architectural features, like Superdawg's two giant rooftop hot dogs (Maurie and Flaurie, named for the husband-and-wife team that owns the drive-in).


An Italian beef is a sandwich of thin slices of seasoned roast beef, dripping with meat juices, on a dense, long Italian-style roll, believed to have originated in Chicago, where its history dates back at least to the 1930s.[1] The bread itself is often dipped into the gravy, and the sandwich is typically topped off with Chicago-style giardiniera (called "hot") or sauteed, green Italian sweet peppers (called "sweet").

Italian beef sandwiches can be found at most hot dog stands and small Italian-American restaurants throughout the city of Chicago and its suburbs. They are difficult to find outside the Chicago metropolitan area. In some cities outside of Illinois, however, Chicago expatriates have opened restaurants serving Italian beef, Chicago-style hot dogs, and other foods unique to the area. Such cities include Denver, Colorado, Minneapolis, Minnesota, Tucson, Arizona and Fargo, North Dakota.

Origins of the sandwich are disputed, but one early vendor, Al's No. 1 Italian Beef, opened its first stand in 1938.[1]

One of stories about the origins of Italian Beef sandwiches is that it was started by Italian immigrants who worked for the old Union Stock Yards. They often would bring home some of the toughest, most unwanted cuts of beef sold by the company. In order to make the meat a little more palatable, it was slow-roasted to make it more tender, then slow-simmered in a spicy broth to add flavor. Both the roasting and the broth used Italian-style spices and herbs. The meat was then thinly sliced across the grain and stuffed into fresh Italian bread.

Italian beef became popular at Italian weddings, where it was an inexpensive meal for the guests. The women would make large quantities, and then make individual sandwiches which they wrapped in paper and served.

Typical beef orders are:

  • Hot dipped: Italian beef on gravy-wetted bread and giardiniera.
  • Hot dipped combo: Italian beef and sausage on gravy-wetted bread with giardiniera.
  • Sweet dry: Italian beef placed on dry bread, topped with sweet peppers.
  • Gravy bread: meatless Italian bread soaked in the juice of Italian beef, often served with peppers or giardiniera.
  • Cheesy beef or cheef: Italian beef with cheese (Provolone, Mozzarella or, rarely, cheddar); not all stands offer this.
In the United States, Italian sausage is a style of pork sausage which is noted for its seasoning of fennel and/or anise, containing at least 85% meat. It is made in sweet and hot styles. It is generally not cured, and is normally grilled and eaten with giardiniera or other vegetables. A less widely available variety of kielbasa, the White Fresh (biała), which is sold uncooked and unsmoked, then usually boiled or cooked is said to taste similar to Italian sausage.

More generally, Italian cuisine has produced a variety of styles of sausage, many of which are quite distinct from the product generally known as Italian sausage. See the Italian Sausages category for more information.

The Italian Combo sandwich. A delicious combination of Italian beef and Italian sausage.
The Italian Breaded Steak sandwich. Breaded rib eye steak covered in our home made red sauce.

The breaded steak sandwich is a specialty of South-Side Chicago that is little known beyond the Bridgeport neighborhood. Although similar in girth to the city’s widely-beloved Italian beef sandwich, the Italian steak sandwich is a whole other animal. It is a steak that is pounded to the thinness of a potato chip, then lightly breaded and fried, and rolled inside a length of Italian bread. Topped with sweet peppers, hot peppers, or the spicy vegetable-pickle mélange known as giardiniera, this is one hefty sandwich!

* Sandwich Photographs by Mike Collin.



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