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Restaurants & Bars 7

Wurst Wars: Jim’s Original and the Place Next Door

David Hammond | Jan 11, 200406:44 PM

Today, driving back from the Maxwell Street Market, we dropped by neighboring polish sausage parlors on Union: Jim’s Original (southernmost on Union) and the place next door(northernmost on Union).

It’s always amazed me that Jim’s routinely has just a few customers, but the place next door always seems to have at least twice as many. I’m amazed because Jim’s has been recognized as the “inventor of the Maxwell Street Polish” (, so you might figure they know what they’re doing. Also, I’ve had their sausages, and they’re good. Nevertheless, I started thinking that the other, more popular place might be at least as good if not better.

I was way wrong.

The Wife, two daughters, and I did a side-by-side comparison: two polishes, with everything, from Jim’s Original and the place next door.

The difference was clear and remarkable.

My first bite was of the one from the place next door. It was like chomping into a thicker version of Oscar Mayer bologna. It had no snap, no kick, no bite. It was not even warm. The grilled onions were mushy. It was not that it had a bad flavor. It just had very little flavor of any kind, and the mosaic of fat globules suggested that it may have been insufficiently cooked.

The Jim’s was superior in just about every way. Not only a larger sausage, but it had delicious smoky tang, full of juice and a pleasing reddish color. Some good garlic and other spice in there (marjoram?), fine snap, crispy on the outside and warm through and through (that simple consideration matters much on a freezing morning in January). Also, the onions were cooked, but they still had body; toothsome, sugary brown, and slightly acidic.

However, my youngest -- a girl who prefers French fries to any other food -- judged the fries from the place next door to be better. I defer to her judgment.

Eating in our car, though, we all agreed on the sausage: the decision in favor of Jim’s was unanimous. We couldn’t even finish the one from the place next door. I went back to the window of Jim’s and asked a counterman: “How come you serve a clearly superior sausage and the other guys next door get most of the business.” The man, who looked like he could have been a scion of the Jim Stefanovic family, said, “They come here a month earlier than us. But we’re the ORIGINAL, and I’ve got the pictures to prove it.” A statement which proved nothing, but when I went to throw out the remainder of inedible sammie from the place next door, the same counterman at Jim’s signaled me over and asked to see the competitive product. The rest of the staff huddled around as he opened the paper in a way that reminded me of a mother opening a used diaper: gingerly, with a hint of suppressed revulsion. He showed his staff, announcing triumphantly, “Look. No spice or nothing.” I don't know how he could determine there was no spice just by looking at the sad wiener, but he was right.

So why is it that Jim’s Original has a demonstrably better product and gets fewer customers? The prices are the same: $2.20 for polish and fries. It hardly seems that a one-month lead could have resulted in market dominion. Could it simply be that the place next door is just closer to Roosevelt and so more visible to passing motorists? Do they maybe serve other items, besides polish, that are better than Jim’s? It remains a Maxwell Street mystery.

Fun Maxwell Fact: The owners of Jim’s Original (Stefanovic family) and the owners of the place next door (Lazerevski) are actually related to one another! Maybe kind of like the Penzy’s/Spice House family feud. (

Yet another Fun Maxwell Fact: Ron Popeil, the legendary father of the Veg-O-Matic, Pocket Fisherman, and Showtime Rotisserie had his first Eureka moment on Maxwell Street in the 1950’s. See link, below.

Jim’s Original
700 West O’Brien
Chicago, IL


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