When I'm in my vegetarian mode, there's nothing more appealing than the thought of a sandwich. But the heartache seeps in pretty quickly—it's next to impossible to find a good one made for a veggie.
When I hit the point where I just can't stomach one more caprese sandwich on foccacia bread or another roasted vegetable and portabella mushroom concoction, I'll admit it—I start to crave a meaty sandwich full of thinly-shaved ham, crisp lettuce, brilliant red tomatoes and slathers of mayo on soft white bread. It's just the simple, but I can't bring myself to order the meat-filled wonder these days.
But I can bring myself to order a badass little ditty called the Sheila G at the West Loop's Jerry's Sandwiches, 1045 W. Madison Ave. This perfect sandwich comes packed with a big hunk of roasted salmon, slivers of avocado, soft grilled onions, shredded lettuce, sliced tomato and oodles of southwestern mayonnaise.
It's made even better thanks to the assembly line Jerry's got going on. No matter how long the line of hungry folks snakes out the door and how intense the pressure gets to "gimme my sandwich, stat," the peppy team behind the counter is always on task and all about good times as they flip-flop your sandwich down the line.
The name of the game at Jerry's is sandwiches (with more than 100 delicious options available, or create your own from the plethora of ingredients), and quirky names like the Dieterich G (steak, blackened chicken, avocado, cheddar, mayo and cheddar), the Jorma K (prosciutto, fried eggplant, basil and lemon mayo) and the Sergio J (steak, roast chicken, grilled onions, portabellas, Swiss cheese, giardinera and chipolte chutney) fly around the room, rapid-fire.
A sandwich, homemade side (think potato salad with little chunks of celery, tart Asian slaw or seasonal fruit salad) and a crunchy pickle is a mere seven bones. Not too bad for such high-quality ingredients (Jerry's smokes its own meat in a log-burning smoker). The ultimate topper is the fact that you can grill up any one of the sandwiches panini-style. The very best bread for tossing on the panini grill is ciabatta, and I'm here to tell you when that roast salmon comes off the grill on those fat slices and is coupled with a forkful of tasty potato salad and a handful of potato chips, you'll be nothing but lip-smacking happy.
In keeping with its levels of perfection, Jerry's has set up a lovely outdoor patio with plenty of room for spreading out and befriending your sandwich. The loads of 9-to-5 folks that call this haven their lunchtime hideaway know that free wi-fi is an added bonus and most whip out their laptops to get a bit of business done (re: watch YouTube).
Jerry's makes it all the easier to waste an afternoon away, and if you'd like to the big flavor into the event, grab a hulking slab of plastic-wrapped (but homemade) mac-n-cheese or meaty lasagna from the cooler on your way out; it just keeps the good times a rollin' back at home.
The Final Rave: Next time, I'll try the Baba R., a funky little rip on the PB & J—except this one comes peppered with peanut butter, sliced apple, grilled onions, basil and chipotle chutney. Yum!
Keep It Going:
Do it: Sunflower Market
This new kid on the upscale organic block stocks all the best sandwich fixin's for way less than Whole Foods. Go organic and you'll never go back.
Eat it: Harmony Grill
This cute restaurant next to Schubas serves a great grilled veggie sandwich on ciabatta. Bonus: Eat your meal and mosey next door for some great tunes.
Read it: Nancy Silverton's Sandwich Book
They say this longtime chef creates the best sandwiches in the world, and her popular book makes it all the easier to try them at home.
Get crazy with it: Fontano's Subs
Many people claim that this 70-year-old sub shop has the best subs this side of Long Island. The names get a little more Chicago-style, though: Try the Bada Bing.