Will Pilsen get a Polish Sausage (stand) lodged in its heart?

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For the record, East Pilsen isn't technically a recognized neighborhood. East Pilsen refers to the east side of Pilsen.

When people refer to East Pilsen, they're talking about the gentrifying part of Pilsen where you'll find a lot of white people. Not all white people, mind you. East Pilsen is a diverse neighborhood. But you don't have to worry about asking donde es banjo at the coffeehouse?

Regardless, many neighbors are fighting to keep Express Grill, a Maxwell Street Polish sausage stand, from moving to 18th and Halsted, the heart of what we're calling East Pilsen. Here's the story.

Neighbors believe the sausage stand will be the neighborhood's downfall. What do you think?

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15 Comments

I tend to agree with the East Pilsen residents. Although I love a great Polish, that stand doesn't seem like it would fit in with its surroundings. I know business and business and somehow Express Grill got the permits to build at 18th & Halsted, but in reality that business will hurt the neighborhood for all the reasons mentioned in Konkol's story. I tend to believe that the Alderman's office had a hand in approving the business and building permits for that location, so I think Solis is merely paying lip-service to the community by saying his office is looking at ways to stop Express Grill from building on that site. To me, it looks like Express Grill's owner may have (sausage) greased Solis' pocket already and it's a foregone conclusion.

Wow, there's enough hostility in the blog comments to cook a polish sausage. Sounds to me like the owners have been busy blogging. I really wish the Maxwell St. Grill would open more stands, especially next to all of you that love them so so much. You are exactly the kind of person I don't want in my neighborhood. Angry and uninformed.

Hispanic social justice icon, Cesar Chavez, would never eat polish sausage. He would eat soy polish suasage. He was vegetarian ! He also merits a National Holiday for his nonviolent civil rights legacy.

I have had a piece of pork chop lodged under my heart, and it ain't funny. Da Bearssss.

Seriously, who wants a 24-hour ANYTHING opened up in their neighborhood? What type of element is it going to attract? City, suburbs, anywhere. If you want saaas-eech bad enough (your joke goes here) you can get one just about anywhere. It's Chi-caago.

yup's crack me up ! Those ugly condo's on halsted removed 100 plus years of Chicago history and now you all have the gaul to fight a polish stand from coming in your neighborhood. This country is in sad shape and our enemies know it. woo to all those yup's!

I live in 1 of the ugly Condo's on Halsted and don't want the Hotdog stand there too. I hope Maxwell street venor's son shows up tonight to share his thoughts about the neighborhood and explain the 100 plus years of Chicago history we removed.

I know the building I lived in used to be a vacant lot with old run down cars. I will be the first to apologize for our ugly building replacing the beautiful vacant lot with the run down cars.

It is nice to walk around Pilsen and University Village now, compared to 10 years ago. Looks like the neighborhood has come some ways in 10 years while destorying the past.

Maxwell vendors son had it right. You had no problem with all the history of the old maxwell st area and pilsen being torn down to build condo for you iowa yuppies but then you want to complain about a polish stand. Give me a break! You are so naive its ridiculous. Meanwhile Pilsen is FAR from a safe neighborhood yet but you keep walkin your little dog down the block and brag to your friends about how you are "so chicago" now and i will just sit back and laugh when one of the REAL LOCALS robs you or kicks your a@s. Then see what kind of problems you should be addressing in your neighborhood. Do you have a problem with the 24 hour taco stands that are all over 18th? You think you know what your talkin about and you havent lived here long enough to count is what us REAL CHICAGOANS say.

A few things happened that made this possible. The city first changed zoning laws to allow buildings to be built on any "lot of record" no matter size. Before that legislation a few years back no such building could have met the zoning code. The city also never delineated within the building code the difference between a restaurant which served outside and one which served customers on the sidewalk 24 Hours a Day. We have a lot a great joints that do this, think Italian Ice, and they should be grandfathered but going forward the City needs legislation that delineates walk up windows and makes all of them, no matter size, locate in areas where street parking or walking traffic is sufficient to support them. Traffic studies are essential to such high impact business establishments no matter their size. Halsted and 18th simply will not support this restaurant with walk by traffic so you have what the owner calls, "stop and go", on a corner with narrow sidewalks and two bus stops.

We all remember the final days of Maxwell Street when all was a shambles and yet still these Sausage grills produced adequate turnover to support themselves. In the end they moved them over there on Union, a good site for such places, where they had a full block of low traffic to support "stop and go". This site isn't it and the owner is being fooolhardy to go thru with this location. Simply put, he got a site on the cheap, and never considered anything else as his block construction shows. This is pure crass capitalism, neighbors be damned. This is no aesthetic addition to the entry point of that Old Sausage Avenue of glory, 18th Street, and if he wanted to win over me he atleast should have shown care as to what this stand would look like.

I have heard much commentary about crime, "those people", and such and don't buy any of it but as a pure business decision he'd be wise to cut and run. This site will never work. I sat on the fence but overall I have to agree with everyone who has adequately pointed out this site is just not the place for a 24 Hour Walkup.


I live 3 blocks away from here and although I really love Maxwell St. polish, I'm not entirely sure that it is going to fit into a street largely dominated by art galleries. One could argue that a Chicago style hot dog is a respected art form, but a Maxwell St. is just onions and mustard. I think the present stands are fine where they are. The increase in traffic to that already congested street (Thanks UV rich kids) is going to be a nightmare.

Sad. A Polish sausage stand can create this kind of controversy? I'll take the Polish, leave the Starbucks.

The truth is that while there may have been a time when Maxwell street was a good area, I shure don't remember it. In the early 80's I remember it as the place to go on Sunday morning to buy back hubcaps stolen the previous week. In later days, while I occasionally went to get a late night Polish sausage, I didn't shop there much. I really never found myself needing basketball shoes, a FILA jumpsuit, a purple zoot-suit, nor a bottle of hooch. From then 'til it was torn down, that's all I remember being sold there. ( except the fake gold chains, bootleg porno movies, and all-these-socks-fie-dollas sold on the street) The panhandlers used to ask everyone on the street for change and they got it. They saved some facades which as near as I can tell was the only good part left. The crime rate in Pilsen dropped dramatically when that neighborhood changed for the better. It's a shame that while there are many walk-up-service-window businesses in Chicago, his seems to attract more than its fair share of customers that seem to think that it's a good idea to double park,(I'll just be a minute) wander around in traffic,(pedestrians have the right-of-way) and throw their litter out the window.(I don' want it smelling up my car) I really don't want that across the street from me.

As a 35 year resident of Pilsen, I was pleased and thankful to see such a great turnout at the meeting to discuss the proposed Maxwell Express Polish stand at the corner of 18th and Halsted. I was surprised at the scope of the meeting to discuss the issues with the owner, Alex Lazarevski, alderman Daniel Solis, representatives from 9 city departments and several hundred residents.
I live very close to the proposed site and was dismayed at the thought of all night activity in the streets around my house.
I have to admit to being a little discouraged before walking into last night's meeting. But the Community stood up and spoke for itself. There was not a single comment by anyone to support this business at this location. Even the owner had "No comment at this time."
Many points were covered, too numerous to state here. The person from the department of business and licensing said at the end of the meeting that she had been to many such meeting but had never before seen so many people come together and speak with such a unified voice.
I left the meeting more enthusiastic about the democratic process and more encouraged than I have felt in a long time.
By the way, I just read a bunch of the negative blogs in this column. I didn’t hear any of these voices at the meeting last night. If you have something to say, why not stand up and say it?

I think that a 24 hour Polish stand is exactly what this neighborhood needs. There's nothing like the sweet sweet smell of polish sausage and onions wofting through the neighboorhood. Chicago is known for their sausage and the more sausage stands that we can fit in our neighborhood the better. To the angry girl who doesn't want the stand in her neighboorhood I suggest that you look for a new place to live. It's people like you who are making it difficult for people like me to get a sausage anytime I want one. It's time for change in this neighboorhood and I will be at any meeting that takes place giving this venture my full support. Once again, if you don't like it then I suggest you find a new place to live. We don't need anti-sausage freaks like you walking our streets. You probably put ketchup on your hotdog too!

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Dumb Dumb Dumb. Keep going North on Halsted, just passed 18th, and under the Via-duct. Do you not smell all the freaking onions! There are already stands by UIC a few blocks away! It would be foolish to open a 24hr stand on 18th and Halsted...the boarder of rival gangs! Invite large crowds to stand on the corners at all hours of the night...drunken fools on weekends...go ahead...and don't forget to tell people to duck when the idiot gang members are shooting in the area. I grew up in Pilsen...the west side and what we call the new "Pilse Heights". Bring all the change to the surface you want...the area is still infested with gangs and crime!

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Mark Konkol

Mark Konkol covers city neighborhoods for the Chicago Sun-Times. You can e-mail him or call (312) 321-2146.

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This page contains a single entry by Mark Konkol published on August 14, 2008 8:38 PM.

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