A couple Chicago institutions have merged into one, with Gene's Sausage Shop
taking over the Lincoln Square
space Delicatessen Meyer vacated when it closed in 2007. The result combines the Old World foodstuffs that made both places famous with a New World sheen.
The two-story market has a brand-new feel. Bright lighting, exposed brick and a waxed wood staircase make it feel positively Whole Foods-esque. But Gene's isn't all hat and no cattle. Quite to both the metaphorical and literal contrary, this place is chock full of goodies, the jewel in the crown being the swath of the first floor that's devoted to all kinds and cuts of meat, from chicken, pork, veal and beef to encased and smoked options you've never heard of to standard deli fare.
The remainder of the first floor is comprised of a bevy of items with a heavy central European bias: prepared food, like wiener schnitzel, golabki, pierogies, blintzes and a number of potato salads, as well as cheese, produce, baked desserts, bread and frozen items. Taking up most of the middle is a giant candy and cookie section.
A walk up the stairs (and under the old Delicatessen Meyer sign) brings you to more groceries (dried goods and condiments, mostly) and, most enticingly, an expansive alcohol section. The wine offerings are good but fairly standard. More interesting are the beer options - largely shrink-wrapped tall boys from former Eastern Bloc states - and, best of all, the wide liquor selection, which includes at least one aromatic 85-proofer that boasts of "finally" being approved for sale in the U.S.
For the time being you'll have to take your food to go, but come springtime, Gene's will open its roof so you can eat small plates and drink a beer while overlooking the Square.
Average cost: <$10
Centerstage Reviewer: Alexander Hough