At this point in my trip, I started to 1) forget to take pictures and 2) get really sick of lugging around the camera. So I’m afraid there are no more pictures, except for those linked to external sites. Sorry.
Like Julius Meinl, Gene’s Sausage Shop and Delicatessen is located in Lincoln Square. They only recently moved to that location, but I’m so glad they did. When I lived in Lincoln Square, they weren’t there at all. The next year, there was a building with permit notices of exciting things to come. Hide and I would walk by when we were in the neigbourhood, peering into their windows, trying in vain to see what goodies they would stock in such a great-looking store. Finally, they opened and it was everything we hoped and dreamed it would be. Now, another year later, they’ve even opened a rooftop beer garden which just looks so fun.
I think of Gene’s as a a fantastic butcher shop and a grocery store specializing in European gourmet foods. While I like poking around in the rest of the store, my focus is first and foremost on the extensive meat counter. It runs along the entire wall of the store, with gorgeous cuts and sausages inside, hunks of prosciutto and other meats sitting on top, and racks of ribs, sides and sausages hanging in the back.
Usually, I get fresh sausages like veal brats and weisswurst. But this time, I had to consider the logistics of air travel back to Blacksburg. So when the butcher asked me what I wanted, I pointed to the dry sausages in the back and said, ‘One of each?’ When I explained my predicament, he even offered to vacuum-pack the sausages. I was impressed, and then even more so as I saw how jolly he was while dealing with my time-consuming order. My only regret is not getting more. ‘Two of each?’
My favourite product from Gene’s is, surprisingly, not a meat but a sausage: Gene’s potato sausage. It’s mostly mashed potatoes with bacon bits and other seasoning. Unfortunately, I didn’t take any home because I forgot to get something extra for a friend I was meeting the next day. I had to sacrifice the potato sausage, which left me heartbroken. But you gotta do what you gotta do.
Another butcher I really like, but didn’t have time to visit this time, is the Paulina Meat Market. It’s significantly pricier than Gene’s, but I think sausage for sausage, Paulina’s are tastier (which just means that Paulina’s are really tasty; since Gene’s are pretty tasty already). The service is also very friendly and patient, even though it gets very busy because it’s a neighbourhood favourite.
You may wonder why there’s such a plethora of excellent butchers in Chicago. I think it may have something to do with Chicago’s ethnic history: the area where Gene’s and Paulina are located is heavily Germanic and has a lot of old Europe influences. Ethnic neigbourhoods in Chicago are so persistent that when the CTA conducts market research surveys, it will offer them in multiple languages, such as Hungarian and Polish.
I can’t wait to get back to Gene’s. Next time I visit Chicago, I’m going to make sure I have plenty of room for lots of meat, and I’m going with Hide to that rooftop beer garden.