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Jimmy’s Red Hots
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Jimmy’s Red Hots

This was by far the dirtiest place I went to on my Chicago tour. I think I might say some form of the word “gritty” twelve times in this post, it’s basically the only word I can think of when I’m writing this.

The South Side of Chicago is the working class, White Sox loving side and the North side is the Yuppy, Cubs fan side. From what I can gather, the North Siders don’t much go to the South Side and the South Siders don’t much go to the North Side. I guess this might be similar to people from NW DC and people from … nope, that doesn’t work. People from Manhattan and people from … hmmm … People from South Korea and people from … that might be too extreme. Any Chicagoans want to chime in on this and let me know how wrong I am on this one?

I thought the no ketchup rule was funny. I just imagine an irritated sushi chef watching some stupid American over-wasabi/over-soy his expertly seasoned chu toro, blowing a gasket and making this sign. As I tried to get a good shot of the sign, the guys behind the counter pointed out a significantly less gritty sign and indicated the back of their shirts were emblazoned with a much nicer, newer version of the same credo. They were so proud of the rule, it was as if the mustard lobby ran this town.

No Ketchup. Never. You want ketchup on your fries? Fuck you, you little maggot – I know you’re just saying that, and then you’re gonna turn around and slather that shit all over my beautiful hot dog. No ketchup, you prick. Ohhh, you gonna cry about it? Get the hell out of my shop and take your Heinz-lovin ass back to Pittsburgh where it belongs.

I want to bring a bottle in and film myself putting ketchup all over the hot dog with the guys in the shop looking on in the background of the shot. This would be a great video if you could get the guys behind the counter in on it … have them jump over the counter, one of them starts beating up on the guy with the ketchup and the other takes out the cameraman … fun times.

We had two things here, the Red Hot and the Sausage. These are nothing like Maine Red Hots, which I would believe are the original Red Hots.

Apparently, after looking at that link, the Maine ones are called “Red Hot Dogs?” I’ve always called them red hots, and I’m from Maine. Has this name changed in the last ten years? They were always Red Dogs or Red Hots when I lived there. I guess you can never truly go home.

At this point in the trip, this was the best dog I’d eaten. It was to be eclipsed by Gene and Jude’s (review coming next week) but it was right there along side it.

Thinking back to why I liked this hot dog but didn’t like it quite as much as the hot dog at Gene and Judes, I’m not going to lie to you – I can’t put it into words. I am just going on memory, here. To try and tell you what was good about this one and not as good about the one I had 24 hours after I had this one – I can’t do it. I didn’t take notes, I didn’t record myself talking about it … we spent ten minutes in this place and didn’t really talk about the food all that much. Hey, look at the sport pepper on that sausage with the mustard. Pretty colors!

The atmosphere was more the topic of conversation. Concrete floor that needs a serious refinishing, signs made in the 70s (although not quite as many as Big Nick’s), a rough crew of people coming in and out … this epitomized the South Side Chicago experience for me.

My favorite part of Jimmy’s wasn’t even distantly related to the place. We’d past a Korean/Latino place on the way in that offered a special: Bi Bim Bob. It was certainly more humorous because of the typographical layout:

Bi Bim

He might have had a sister; Bi Bim Barb? I was talking about Alinea with someone recently, and they commented on how nice of a name that would be for a kid. Actually, I kinda like Bi Bim Bob. Or how about El Bulli? Naaah – he’d be in the principal’s office way too often. Nobu? Might have a tough time getting girls. (I could keep going). I think this debate is settled, though; I don’t think I’ll name my kid after a restaurant (Why do you ask, two dogs fucking?)

Of course, the other thing I liked about this place was the grit (obv). There’s no way this picture picks up the level of grit in this parking lot – it’s hella gritty.

Maybe I should have used a tilt shift lens? Macro? Panorama? I don’t know what I could have done to pick up the grittiness, but I certainly didn’t capture it here. I don’t know … maybe you can tell with all the slab buildings and awkwardly tilting telephone poles that this area isn’t kept up the way a lot of places in Chicago are? It takes a bit of imagination, but I think you’ll get it.

This was the place locals go. The people who live for Bears tailgates and break windows when the Sox win the championship. The garbage collectors, the construction workers, the mechanics; guys with a bit of dirt under their fingernails. Don’t be afraid of places that are frequented by these individuals. You will find that some of them are quite culinarily literate. There may not be any BMWs in that parking lot, but they’re proud of what they have, and they’ve got a gem in Jimmy’s.

Jimmy’s Red Hots
4000 West Grand Avenue
Chicago, IL 60651-1918
(773) 384-9513

{ 2 comments… add one }
  • Bruno Christi August 3, 2011, 6:08 pm

    This place is about 30 blocks into North Side territory so, not the “epitome of a South Side experience.” Not all stereotypes are true.

    • Hagan September 11, 2011, 11:30 pm

      This was on our “South Side Tour.”

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