Sunday, May 22, 2011

Chicago Louie's of Denver: A Sausage by Any Other Name Would Smell Much Sweeter

As my last post describes in detail, a few weeks back I found myself amidst the crowd and chaos of the First Friday Santa Fe Art Walk. And although there was surely plenty of art to be seen, my family and I were perfectly content to simply stroll and take in this rare and refreshing slice of true Denver urbanity. Oh, and we wanted to eat some tacos. But we didn't stop at tacos that night. No, we ventured on another half-block from what was a divine taco haven and came face to face with this:


Now as you may know if you have read this blog before, I hail from the city of Big Shoulders. Generally speaking things that have the word "Chicago" in them grab my attention immediately, although I realize by no means does using the name of my native city imply any sort of guarantee of quality. Take for example the band of the same name and a local chain of restaurants that are not really "old" and try way too hard to be "Chicago-y". 

Now that is what I call "Old Chicago"

Nevertheless I zeroed in on Chicago Louie's less for the name and more because I had heard good things about it and its sausages. Of course having a food truck with a Chicago theme that is then nick-named the "Paddy Wagon" and has a gangster-looking type as the logo is a lot like opening a Mexican restaurant and throwing up a sign with the image of a sombrero-and-serape-clad paisano with a mustache napping under a cactus. In fact this astute Westword reader reminds us that "Paddy Wagon" may have been coined because the vehicle was often used to round up drunks in the Irish part of town (by the stereotypical Irish cops). (Of course it could be a pun on sausage "patty", but that would be much, much worse.)


Once you get past the cheesy and borderline offensive logo and marketing pitch of Louie's there is the menu. It is possible that in order to revive the long-buried Italian and Irish-American stereotypes and tensions that Chicago has always been known for, the folks behind Chicago Louie's decided to balance the jabs at alcoholic Irishmen by naming their sandwiches after infamous Italian-American mobsters. And not only does it raise the level of cheesiness, it makes it freaking annoying to read the menu. Have you ever longed for a "Salvatore 'Lucky' Luciano"? Of course you haven't-- unless you wanted to get beat repeatedly over the head with a bat or wanted to be extorted in some way. The "Lucky" is actually a grilled bone-in pork chop with sweet onions, peppers and yellow mustard. Now that sounds rather appetizing. 

As is well established, I am not one for fancy naming. But while I cringed at the menu, I also became intrigued, as lost behind the horrible name choices is some great looking food that features several Denver-made Il Mondo Vecchio sausages. Yum.

In the end I settled for the Italian beef. Actually it wasn't a hard decision once I deciphered that ordering a sandwich named after the convicted murderer, Paul Ricca, actually referred to a Chicago-style Italian beef, one of my absolute favorite sandwiches.


The beef at Chicago Louie's was very good, and though few of you reading this likely care, you might now that I have been combing Denver for a good Italian beef off and on for the last year. This one came out a little dry but when I sent it back for more "beef juice" there was no hesitation as they happily poured on a generous ladle-full, properly sopping the bread to point of just-about-falling-apart. The beef was tender and the excellent giardiniera was spicy and tasted house-made. It was a beef worthy of the Chicago name on the side of the truck.

My wife, apparently full from the four tacos she ate just moments earlier ordered just one slider made from Chorizo sausage and topped with green chiles and refried beans. It was packed full of bold flavor and it was delicious. Too bad it was named after the Mexican drug lord Felix Gallardo. As I write this thousands of innocent people are being victimized by senseless drug violence across our southern borders and Chicago Louie's decides it's a good idea to honor the "Godfather" of Mexican drug lords with a sandwich? And where does that fit with the whole Chicago-stereotyping theme?


As far as I can tell from what I sampled Chicago Louie's seems to be making some great food. And just like the ridiculous naming doesn't add anything to the experience for me, it probably won't keep me away either, as good beef and sausage are things that transcend gimmicks and foolish marketing pitches. Somewhere on that truck are written the words: "Gourmet Sausage Truck". Now that is something all Chicagoans (and Denverites more importantly) can get behind, from the criminals purported on Louie's menu to the saps like me that just love good food. And good food is good food, so when the Gourmet Sausage Truck also known as Chicago Louie's is parked on a street near you, do yourself a favor and get over there. 

Chicago Louie's Paddy Wagon on Urbanspoon

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