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In this town, there’s no shortage of excellent handmade smoked meats and sausages. Here, ten superior examples of the local art

(1) Knackwurst, $3.99 a pound (at Schmeisser’s)

(2) Hard salami, $5.89 a pound (at Romanian Kosher)

(3) Bacon, $2.39 a pound (at Andy’s Deli, 1721 W. Division St.; 773-394-3376)

(4) Big City Reds all-beef hot dogs, $7.75 for four (at Trotter’s To Go, 1337 W. Fullerton Ave.; 773-868-6510)

(5) Garlic Italian, $2.49 a pound (at The Original
Nottoli & Son)

(6) Stick sausage, $3.59 a pound (at Andy’s Deli)

(7) Sliced bacon, $5.99 a pound (at Schmeisser’s)

(8) Bratwurst, $2.49 a pound (at C. P. Meat Market)

(9) Breakfast pork links, $3.29 a pound (at C. P. Meat Market)

(10) Pork kielbasa, $1.99 a pound (at Andy’s Deli)

* * *

It was a tough call whether to list C. P. Meat Market as a top-grade butcher or a sausage specialist. Owned by Ken Vicich and Bill Przybylski, the full-service meat market located in sleepy New Lenox, near Joliet, has been doling out cuts of prime beef, pork, veal, and chicken since 1976 at its neat and tidy retail store, situated next to a beauty salon in a low-key strip mall. And while C. P. Market’s grilling staples are way above average—notably, the gorgeously thick prime porterhouse steaks and boneless marinated chicken breasts that will turn your head—the house-made sausages are a special treat. Start with the fresh pork breakfast links, not too salty and juicy as all get-out. And the brats—perfectly seasoned and extralong, to boot—are to die for. You’ll say goodbye to Johnsonville forever. 1312 N. Cedar Rd., New Lenox; 815-485-3629

Heaven is a ripe heirloom tomato, crisp lettuce, and Dreymiller & Kray bacon on toasted sourdough. Nestled in the northwest corner of Kane County, this old-fashioned butcher shop dates from 1929. The remote location probably explains why word about owner Ed Reiser’s cured and smoked meats has only lately begun to get around. Cut thick, and smoked for at least 15 hours over either hickory or applewood, his bacon marries deep smoke flavor with a subtle sweetness. Some folks know him simply as the Bacon Man, but Reiser is no one-trick pony: he also turns out a fine smoked pheasant, pork chops, ribs, and hams cured with honey from a nearby producer, plus corned beef and an array of fresh, smoked, and dried sausages. In Chicago, Fox & Obel and Treasure Island carry Dreymiller & Kray products including the bacon (the business also takes orders over the phone and through its Web site). But if ever there was a reason to drive miles past corn and soybean fields, this is it. 140 S. State St., Hampshire; 847-683-2271

You’ll know you’ve reached Gene’s when you spot the life-size sculpture of a cow that presides benevolently over this robust Polish deli and sausage shop in Belmont Craigin. Nearly 50 kinds of Polish sausages are smoked in-house and made fresh by the owners every couple of days, including the familiar wiejska variety, swojska (a rustic sausage), and krakowska (typically served as a cold cut). The handmade sausages hang seductively along the wall behind the store’s seemingly endless refrigerated deli case and have a deep, rich flavor, owing to the fact that they require few preservatives given their short journey from the butcher’s block to the plate. 5330 W. Belmont Ave.; 773-777-6322

From the gruff service to its bare-bones décor, an Old World aura permeates this spare temple of meat, where everything is kosher from the sausage casings to the turkeys in the open freezers. The house-made salamis come in three sizes—small, medium, and large—and the flavor of the aged, hard variety is concentrated, zingy, and lightly garlicky. Rumor has it that meat-loving pilgrims come from as far away as Israel to sample Romanian’s fare, and the owners claim that hard-salami zealots have on occasion bought out the store’s entire stock. We think the pastrami, which is lean yet rich and peppery, may be the best in the city. 7200 N. Clark St.; 773-761-4141

Owner George Nottoli’s grandfather started out in 1947 selling sausages from a truck on Chicago’s West Side, and the small Italian store that bears his name has been a neighborhood institution since 1971. The customers, who are on a first-name basis with Nottoli the Younger and with one another, depend on the deli counter’s fantastic sandwiches and homey pasta sauces. But the shop’s claim to fame is its small selection of exceptional Italian sausages in six varieties—four kinds of mild, hot, and extra hot—which Nottoli still makes the way his grandfather did, though today in huge volume, up to 3,000 pounds a day during the busy summer season. The northern Italian–style mild garlic sausage—delicious and beautifully fresh—is itself worth the trip. “We’re picky about the quality of our meat and we take the time to trim it well,” says Nottoli. The store also carries hard-to-find prosciutto ends for flavoring sauces and soups. 7652 W. Belmont Ave.; 773-589-1010, www.nottoli.com

According to owner Kurt Schmeisser, “guys who grill” are the main clientele at this venerable meatatorium in Niles. Schmeisser’s is old-school to its core: it makes its own sausages—frankfurters, beef sticks, smoked Thuringers, knackwurst—from the trimmings of the prime beef and top-quality pork and veal that are all butchered on premises from hanging sides. Schmeisser, the business’s principal Wurstmacher, learned the trade at the knee of his grandfather, a butcher from Germany who worked in Chicago’s fabled stockyards and opened the store in 1951. In addition to having a gourmet meat counter, Schmeisser’s is also one of the very few places that will still sell you a “half cattle” (i.e., an entire side of beef), butcher it into custom cuts, and package it for freezing. That’s 200 pounds of USDA prime, folks, and it’ll set you back $1,200. During the holidays, the shop brings in succulent organic Hoka turkeys from Waterman, Illinois. 7649 N. Milwaukee Ave., Niles; 847-967-8995



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