[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he afternoon lunch rush on June 25 barely began when the narrow entry way of Jimmy’s Red Hots, located at 4000 W. Grand Ave., quickly filled up. Filing one behind the other, customers stood, heads gazing up to read the menu, a counter dividing them from the cooks.
While customers shouted orders and the cooks responded with questions in an equal fervor, laughter soon overwhelmed the tiny dining area. The early afternoon lunch rush was in full swing, and everyone from decades-long regulars and first-time newbies smiled as they received their Polish sausages and hot dogs, Chicago-style of course.
From the looks of the lines and groups of people talking and eating their meals, Jimmy’s Red Hots was hot. Today was a bit of a different day, as a camera crew from The Travel Channel’s “Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern” filmed for the channel. Though some customers proudly displayed their allegiance to Jimmy’s in white T-shirts boldly stating “Nobody puts ketchup on hot dogs,” attributed to Dirty Harry, others were just there for the famous hot dogs.
Michael Amato, 63, has been going to Jimmy’s since he was 6 years old. Unaware that a film crew was shooting in the restaurant, he said he was a fan of Jimmy’s and going there was a treat for him when he was growing up.
“I just came here for a hot dog this morning,” Amato said. “And here everything was! I’m going to stay until they’re done now.”
Amato was among a long list of regulars who made coming to Jimmy’s a weekly and sometimes daily tradition. Established in 1954, Jimmy’s Red Hots is a beloved staple to residents in the West Side neighborhood and across Chicago. Celebrated for their “Depression-style” hot dogs and Polish sausages, Jimmy’s has made their mark on the Chicago delicatessens through a mix of time-honored recipes and time-tested loyalty.
For Rose Faruggia, 29, a third generation family member, Jimmy’s Red Hots has remained strong because of the community.
“Families’ businesses are what built the families that continue to come here with their kids and their kids’ kids. That’s what keeps us standing and that’s what keeps us running,” Faruggia said.
Faruggia credits staying true to Jimmy’s uniqueness as a way that has created lasting bonds with customers. She described how an out-of-state customer came to Jimmy’s for the event and remarked how it felt like nothing changed, a positive for them.
“When you remember something from your childhood, the smell, the taste, everything should be the way it was,” Faruggia said. “And that’s what we do; we never change.”