The other day, a Los Angeles area newspaper had me write an article about the recent closing of an iconic traditional delicatessen. They do seem to be vanishing at a rapid rate, but I never gave much thought as to why, until the owner of this one that was giving it up set me straight. It’s kind of a result of several things happening at once in America’s dining habits – the infatuation with ‘fast casual’, the number of people following special diet regimens, like vegetarian and gluten free.
The traditional deli is mostly meat and baked goods. RIP. There are very few left; one of my all time favorites is still around, Cecil’s in St. Paul.
So as I was thinking about that, I was on my way out of Chicago for the winter, and had a deli craving. I was in Des Plaines, not far from Ray Kroc’s first McDonalds, and some locals suggested “Kuhn’s”, a German deli. So I rolled into the parking lot.
You walk into the door into the market portion of the deli, a counter ringing the interior room full of sausages, smoked meat specialties and salads; the outer walls are lined with shelves chock-a-block full of European groceries.
At the rear of the market, you can step through a door into the cafe section table seating for maybe 24 people. The menu offers a variety of German traditional dishes, including schnitzels, rouladen, sauerbraten, and of course, sausages. They also have a good selection of ‘traditional’ hot and cold sandwiches.
I went with the sausage assortment plate, which came with one each of knackwurst, thuringer, and veal bratwurst. A choice of sides had me opt for “German fries.” Now I have a question about that dish. They looked suspiciously like “American fries.” Now if they would have looked like “French fries,” I would have assumed the recipe was just one more thing the Germans pilfered from the French during WW2, but how the heck did they purloin our American fries? In any case, they were very tasty. As were the sausages, which were actually more than I could eat at a serving. (Yeah, I know, shut up). The plate was accompanied by three slices of fresh bread and a ramekin of coarse mustard.
Chicago’s ethnic pockets and restaurants, German, Czech, Polish have some real gems, unfortunately, most visitors to the city don’t realize instead of Chicago being one big city, its really a collection of very unique neighborhoods.
Being as I’m on the road, I couldn’t load up on sausages from the deli case. Damn.
Kuhns Delicatessen Review