In the heart of a traditional German enclave with two smokers and a jam-packed deli case, I knew that for Jerry, it would be love at first sight.
Respect is a common theme at the enormous, new Gene's Sausage Shop in Lincoln Square. There is the original sign from Delicatessen Meyer, which stood on this site for nearly 60 years; there's Gene, still butchering beef and pork like they did in the Old World, and there are his two kids, Derek and Yolanda, keeping tradition alive by offering more than 50 kinds of sausage - from brats to smoked rib belly.
"I grew up on sausage, probably one of the first meats I had was sausage," said Derek Luszcz, co-owner of the new Gene's Sausage Shop.
So it was with great respect my cohort and I approached the meat counter.
"Temple of encased meats..."
Let the samples begin.
"People don't normally eat it right here, do they?" said Jerry Taft.
They don't. So we set up our own tasting table beginning with a double-smoked, double-garlic "Alpine" from Germany, versus a lighter "Village" sausage from Poland.
"Let's move right on to the garlic; this was rather bland compared to that one," said Jerry.
The Alpine is the way to go if you like garlic.
The Krakow sausage proved quite a bit different.
"...double-smoked, it's a coarser-ground sausage he said; obviously inspired by Krakow, Poland..mmm, much harder. Gonna be hard on your false teeth.
- It's more like salami almost," Jerry said.
The pork loin sausage, meanwhile, proved much leaner, with a smoother texture.
"It's almost like having a ham.."
"But with the ham taste, if you really like ham, this Gypsy ham, I mean this is ham to die for.
- This is really good stuff, yeah."
"By the way, I love how they put the green on the side, to sort of "green" it up, as if there's something good here. But look at this.. there's a little bacon in here.
- and is that all potato?" asked Jerry.
Mostly; there's also farmer's cheese, which makes it a filling breakfast item.
"..and you don't need much.
- But I keep going back to this
- You like that Alpine.
- I keep going back to this."
"I like the Cracowia, I like the Krakow. I like that coarse texture.
- But it's a workout.
- It's a workout, right, but see I don't have dentures, so it's not a problem for me.
- I don't have dentures..
- ha, ha, ha
"Gypsy ham is the best ham.
-That would make a heck of a sandwich. Do they make sandwiches here?
-We could make that happen.
-No, I think he said they do make sandwiches to go.
-Oh they make 'em to go.
-Time to go...
There is so much more than sausage at Gene's nearly 90 percent of the products are imported from Europe including mustards, jams, herring, chocolates and beer. Plus, they make their own pretzels on site.
Gene's Sausage Shop
4750 N. Lincoln Ave.