Chicago’s one of the best food cities in the US, but we’re not particularly known for an abundance of street food. There’s no thriving food truck or food cart scene in this city to speak of, aside from an occasional elotero or paletero. Some of our city’s favorite dishes, such as hot dogs and Italian beef, might seem like street food, and in spirit they are, but you really have to sit down to eat those things. But there’s one Chicago staple that I do classify as street food through and through: the pork chop sandwich.
People don’t really talk about the sandwich much, mostly because it’s so simple. It’s just a grilled pork chop on a bun with a bunch of grilled onions, yellow mustard, and sport peppers. The most popular pork chop sandwich is from the same place that made the Maxwell Street Polish a phenomenon, a stand called Jim’s Original. On paper, it sounds like a pretty straightforward combination, right? Not so fast—there’s something you ought to know before you order.
Jim’s Original leaves the bone in the pork chop. This probably seems like a potential hazard, but don’t question it. That’s just how it’s made, and if there’s no bone in it, then you’ve got a different sandwich altogether.
As it turns out, eating your way through a bone-in pork chop sandwich isn’t very difficult at all. Simply grasp the sandwich, gripping the bone side, and chomp your way through (carefully) until you get to the chop’s handle. After you’re done with the sandwich, you’ve got a little treat left to gnaw on.
I predict snarky potshots from commenters about this bone-in situation, but just calm down and bask in the joy of a pork sandwich that has a prize at the end. Using a boneless pork chop doesn’t make you a superior human being. Everyone should enjoy a pork sandwich as they like, but we enjoy Jim’s, and we’ll eat them however Jim chooses to sell them.
The pork chop sandwich is Chicago street food almost by default, because there’s nowhere to sit at Jim’s Original. There is, however, a counter that runs alongside the exterior of the building for people to stand, scarf, and scram—this is as no-frills as it gets.
Chicago’s not a frilly place anyway. We like our food with a side of no-nonsense, and our pork chop sandwiches with a big ol’ bone in them. And that’s that.