We love sandwiches, and we’ve eaten many, from great deli sandwiches (Chicago, like Manny’s, Bari, and Riviera) to Philly cheesesteaks, Pittsburgh hoagies, southern barbecue, New Orleans muffulettas & po boys, New England lobster rolls & fried clam rolls, just about anything from Zingerman’s, French baguette bar sandwiches, Israeli shawarmas, al pastor tacos, and weird, weird restaurant concoctions. Long ago, with dead space at the front of a catering kitchen, we thought we’d try a twist on a traditional sandwich shop. And, figuring that it would be a deli (a thought that didn’t survive the first week), we choose the solid deli name of “Jerry’s”, really just an homage to our pal Jerry Garcia.
Jerry’s offers a Bumsteadian lineup of well over 100 sandwiches, including named creations, warm sandwiches, burgers, hickory-smoked stuff, and rotating collection of specials. In addition, we allow customers “in the know” to create their own sandwiches by mixing and matching. And we’re a big bar, featuring many American craft beers, thoughtful “value” wines, interesting cocktails, and collections of American whiskeys, craft liquors, and mezcal. Also, pay attention, we play music from a massive, digital, house collection of mostly roots music (but that covers a lot of ground).
The original Jerry’s, long gone, was opened on Madison Street in 2002 at the front of a catering kitchen. With the rent paid and the former West Loop skid row neighborhood gentrifying, a whimsical idea was formed to open an edgy sandwich shop serving ersatz restaurant entrees, obscure regional stuff, and basically anything else on bread, and calling it a sandwich. In a nutshell, the idea was that if you’ve got pot roast, bread, and some Louisiana hot sauce, you’ve got yourself a heck of a sandwich.
That original incarnation of Jerry’s had only 5 stools at the front window, but by the end of the first day the office table and chairs had been commandeered and in short order storage space was demolished to make room for more seating. Present day Jerry’s seats 100-200 indoors and outdoors, and what was once a much more limited menu has evolved into the beast that it is today, confounding poor suckers who just wander in for a ham and cheese but delighting the Jerry fans who make some of the most interesting and abhorrent combinations known to man. Factor in the genius to add American craft beer, thereby possibly inventing the combination of a sandwich and a beer.
There are two Jerry’s, one in Andersonville and one in nearby Lincoln Square. Are they the same? Are we McDonald’s? The people here are a might peculiar, so expect the unexpected. And we’ve still got things up our sleeve. It’s a work in progress.
MARK BIRES, Founder Beloved, inspirational leader, original chef and god of fire, tech guru, master of finance, and all around pain in the ass. Long time food guy and graduate of the U. of Chicago. Pennsylvanian. NBA most valuable player 1978. Reformed Deadhead. Available for weddings and bar mitzvahs. (email@example.com)
NICK BONDI, Bar Manager & Beer Programmer, Carpenter Senior bar manager, beer buyer, and Certified Cicerone. When Iowa spit out Nick they lost a man of many interests – racing crapcan cars, singing in church choir, skiing, and building things out of wood with his bare hands and teeth. He built both Jerry’s bars so had somewhere to rest his elbows. (Surprisingly interesting for a guy from Iowa.) If Butler Bulldog basketball is on TV, service will suffer. Deal with it.
TREY ELDER, Andersonville GM, Whiskey Executor Enthusiastic (aka annoying) customer in the early days, brought on board for his impressive knowledge and creativity, and keep him from hassling customers in front of the store. Stints in the music biz and specialty coffee (Intelligentsia, Stumptown, Metropolis). American whiskey enthusiast, borderline expert, and inductee in the Honorable Order of Kentucky Colonels. Frequently utters “I do declare”. Has inspired many of staff, male and female, to grow beards. Is a joy to be around, on good days.
MINDY FRIEDLER, Founder Jerry’s kindly mother, but might she be the one who gives you the stink eye when trying to be seated without a full party? That’s her. Former lawyer, forsaken for the easy hours and big money of the restaurant business. Chicago born and raised, U. of Michigan alum. Cook and superb baker. House Un American Activities Committee has file on her. Proudest achievement – owning 5% of a Bulls season ticket. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
JAMIE GRENON, Lincoln Square GM A real practical joker, this guy. Takes his bowling game seriously. Wants to be like Trey when he grows up.