Spartan Brothers Greek Grocery Review, Chicago, IL

Spartan Brothers Greek Grocery ReviewOne of the joys (for me) of living in Chicago (or any big city and I’ve lived in a raft of them!) is having access to a preponderance of ethnic supermarkets. Within 20 minutes of me, I can partake of markets dedicated to Italian food, Indian, Asian, Polish, Ukrainian, Spanish, Middle Eastern, and Greek.

It’s that last one that I visited most recently, Spartan Brothers Grocery, in the outer reaches of Chicago, but prior to the burbs.

They’ve been around for fifty years, and have a wide variety of Greek staples, canned and boxed good, as well as frozen entrees from large manufacturers and made in-house.

Through a back window in the shop, you can see hanging carcasses of goat and lambs, so they get busy here, making entrees and sausages, It’s sausages that I have come for.

I first ran into Loukaniko (there are apparently different spellings) sausage at a Greek fest in the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles maybe thirty years ago.

It’s a lamb sausage that is mildly spiced, but an unusual feature is that it commonly has citrus zest as an ingredient, which makes it have a taste that I can only describe as “bright.” If you order it in a Greek restaurant (and Chicago has dozens and dozens), it’ll come on a platter with lemon slices usually, which further amplifies the citrus flavoring.

I like it a lot. Spartan Brothers sell theirs at around $4 a pound, the ones I bought were out of the freezer in a two-pound pack. They make them in-house.

A refrigerated deli counter has imported cheese, olives and other goodies.

Location, hours.

Spartan Brothers Greek Grocery Review


Spartan Brothers Greek Grocery Review





Spartan Brothers Greek Grocery Review
Spartan Brothers Greek Grocery Review

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Schmeissers Sausage Review, Niles, IL

Schmeissers Sausage ReviewOne of the thing that delights me about living in a larger city is having a wide variety of ethnic grocers, and Chicago has some great ones. We have Asian grocers, Indian, Eastern European, Greek, Polish, Italian, and I love them all.

Chicago is big on Polish restaurants and markets as the population of Poles here is nearly 200,000, and Polish is the 3rd most spoken language in the city.

There’s a particular stretch of one road, both in and out of the city, that has attracted a proliferation of Polish-centric businesses, and that’s Milwaukee Avenue.  Chicago often claims to be the largest Polish city outside of Poland, with the number of persons of Polish descent topping a million.

Along the ‘suburban’ stretch, mostly in Niles, IL, there are a multitude of markets and restaurants;  one restaurant I have enjoyed in the past up that way is the White Eagle. You can order meals family style, copious quantities, inexpensive and fun.

But this day, I was in search of sausage, and my first of several stops was at Schmeissers Sausage at 7649 N. Milwaukee Ave.  They take great pride in the number of products they make in house, and the quality and care with which they are made is readily apparent. There is also a small selection of grocery items, including other products made on site, like noodles and spaetzel.

Schmeissers Sausage Review

Packaged Meal

Schmeissers Sausage has a freezer full of heat and eat meals made on site, and they average about $5 a pound, which is very fair, in my opinion. I’m impressed they’d go to the effort for a seemingly small scale.

I picked up the sauerbraten (“sour roast”) along with a package of dried spaetzle (egg noodles).  Sauerbraten is really a national dish of Germany (which abuts Poland, or course), and is beef that is marinaded in a mixture of vinegar or wine, water, herbs, spices, and seasonings for a number of days prior to roasting. The recipes for the marinade and even the type of meat used can vary by region.

The roast is usually served with boiled potatoes, cabbage, or noodles.  The package is hard frozen and calls for 9 minutes or so in the microwave, but I generally pop these kind of things in the oven and do them low and slow.  Which is what I did here.  Noodles are boiled in salted water for about 20 minutes, depending on your preference of ‘doneness.’

The result of the marinade is a very flavorful and juicy roast, the process might have originally been developed to use less expensive (tougher) pieces of meat. Many cultures have similar preparations, albeit with different flavors.

End result. This was great. As good as I have had in any local German restaurant. I’d buy it again and try some of their other heat and eats. Later in the week I’ll write about some of the other stops this trip.

Schmeissers Sausage Review

Sauerbraten with spatzle









Schmeissers Sausage Review

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Meeskes / Haybeck’s, Chicago Butchers

Sometimes I wish there was an illustrated dictionary of food.  There would be a photo, a list of ingredients, and a description of how the product is supposed to taste and what the texture should be.  If there was, beside the entry for “Italian Sausage” would be the hand-stuffed sausages at Meeske’s and Haybeck’s butcher shops in the Northwest suburbs of Chicago.

Just compare this list of ingredients to any other sausage on the market.   Ready?

  • pork
  • water
  • salt
  • paprika
  • garlic
  • fennel

What?  No nitrates?  Celery juice?  BHT?  Corn syrup?  Artificial flavors?  “Natural” smoke flavor?  Vegetable protein?


What does it taste like?  Pork.  Seasoned pork.  Period.  A hint of the paprika, garlic and fennel comes through, as it should, giving this sausage a little kick; it’s a perfect grind, not too coarse, not so fine that it resembles an emulsified product.

The shops have every type of meat/protein product you can imagine, in any quantity you desire.   Whether you want a single weenie , a whole roast pig, or a holiday meal to take home and heat up,  these are they guys in the NW burbs.  I’m unclear how the two shops are affiliated, and wasn’t able to find out online.  Doesn’t really matter tho, does it?

Meeske's Haybeck's

Fresh Sausage in Pack


Meeske's, Haybeck's

Fresh Italian Sausage


Meeske's  Haybeck's











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Home Cookin’ – Greenridge Farm’s Black Jack Sausage (New Product)

I spotted these a couple weeks ago, but didn’t pick any up until yesterday. They are a premium sausage, clocking in at about a buck each, and their dark color and a natural casing were the draw for me.  These are apparently so new that they aren’t described on the manufacturer’s website, a suburban Chicago meat processor.

The ingredients listed on the label are very straight-forward, pork, beef, Monterey Jack cheese, and less than 2% of the usual spices, flavoring and salt; all in a pork casing.

Now if I would have read the label prior to purchasing, I would have passed, as I am not a fan of sausages with embedded cheese.

I simmered them in water on the stove top for awhile, and dropped them in a traditional hot dog bun with a squirt of plain yellow mustard.  The result?

20130802_123325It’s a nice product.  Very smokey, old-world flavor, similar to Polish sausage, and the cheese, I think, contributes to the juiciness factor, the flavor of the cheese is not overwhelming at all.  My previous objection to cheese in sausage is hereby negated. It’s a slightly coarse grind, which I prefer, and it’s a great casing with good snap.

Good job, guys.  I’ll buy them again.



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