Thanks to those of you who let me in on the secret about the best polish in Chicago! I visit ofter (every 2-3 weeks) from my home in Kalamazoo, Michigan. I always am driving, and I have been on Roosevelt by the Ryan many times, but never would I have found, let alone stopped, at this place without your recommendations.
I hope all of you recognize how lucky you are! This little side street with a beautiful view of Ryan xway is such a slice of big city life!! I don't think NYC has something like this to offer.
I found the place at about 11:45 am, and The Place Next Door was more crowded as all of you have observed. Perhaps it has to do with the old adage about not stopping at a truck stop that does not have many cars/trucks in the parking lot. More people go there because there are more people waiting in line there?? But that begs the question of why are people in line to begin with.
Anyway, I parked on the side of the street with many others, some rather comically with the hazard lights blinking. I walked toward Jim's, nobody was at either window, and two guys with the cool Vienna hats on started talking to me before I got close. Reminds me of the guys at Lafayette Coney Island and American Coney Island, right next door to each other in downtown Detroit. In fact, this whole scene was only duplicated by those two places, and you Chowhounds would do well to enjoy Detroit coneys at Lafayette! Come to think of it, Lafayette coneys may be the best competition for this polish, but that is another story. I have never been in American, all these years.
Anyway, I ordered a polish, with mustard and onions and hot peppers. Before I was done speaking, the bag full of polish and fries was in front of me and my money had already exchanged hands. I went back to my car with my bag, and sat eating as I listened to the calming flow of traffic (or lack of flow as there was a traffic jam). Obviously, when they forced these businesses to move from Maxwell Street, they did not relocate to prime real estate. But the scenery was certainly appropriate for the fare. The polish was as you all say, smoky, almost like a kielbasa. The bun was chewy and a bit soggy as time went by, and the fries were OK but nothing special. But for $2.40, I am not complaining at all!
BUT, DO NOT EAT THE HOT PEPPERS!!!!! You all should have a responsibility to protect us against such dangerous instrumentalities!! I love hot food, and devour the little sport peppers with a hot dog in Chicago, but these things are dangerous!! After my first bite, I thought they were pretty good, but with my second bite I started coughing and hacking and tears came to my eyes and I thought I was going to lose it. My mouth was so numbed and my sinuses so assaulted that I could hardly taste and enjoy the rest of my polish.
Having said that, thanks again for the reco. It was a wonderful joint, and an absolutely beautiful big city experience. I will go back again - but not for those damned peppers!! BTW, in celebration of Black History Month, both place are offering all sandwiches for $1, from 2 pm to 5 pm daily. I don't know what Black History Month has to do with it, but that is a heck of a deal.