On a snappy autumn day, when color bursts out of Finch Arboretum and freight trains make cacophonous progress across the bridge above the interstate, it's tempting to sit at a picnic table in a church parking lot and stuff your mouth with sauerkraut and caramelized onions while cradling a warm bun.
On this particular day, the autumnal temptation for sausage and mustard smothered in sour cabbage and sweet onions would most likely not exist were it not for Big Red's Chicago Style Cuisine. The white (not red) food truck is parked at the bottom of Sunset Hill — amid the motels, nurseries, bridges, trailheads, and railroad tracks that all seem to converge at the intersection of Government Way — where its black letters proclaim the existence of Chicago cuisine: Polish dogs, Italian sausage, Italian beef (all $5-$6), pepper steak, cheese steak ($8), garlic fries and sweet potato fries ($4). This really is destination dining, and the food fits the scene — flavorful and substantive.
Even though this working-man's food is meant for big bites and hearty appetites, the cheese steak's beef is surprisingly tender. Chopped in small pieces, mixed with chunks of mushrooms and sitting in a bed of white American cheese, the steak steams inside its foot-long white bun. You can bring it straight up to your mouth, but in the end you'll most likely require a fork and possibly a wet nap. It's huge, tasty and doesn't have an ounce of phony flavor.
The Polish dog, nestled in a bun just as large as the cheese steak, fills it from end to end. Blackened to the right degree of crisp, the dog is buried in tart, fresh sauerkraut, caramelized onion and spicy mustard. Owner and cook Curtis Bytnar explains that the sauerkraut comes from a cold pack, meaning that it never touches heat until he allows it to. The all-beef Polish kielbasa arrive direct from Chicago and the buns are from Philadelphia. All of that goodness meets in your belly, and you can wash it down with a Big Red, that delightful sparkling beverage that tastes of bubble gum and Twizzlers. ♦
Big Red's Chicago Style Cuisine • southeast corner of Sunset Blvd. and Government Way • Open Mon, 11 am-3 pm; Tue-Sat, 11 am-5 pm • 991-2359