Mark Bires and Mindy Friedler, owners of Jerry’s Sandwiches and Cafe in the West Loop, have more degrees than a thermometer. Â She’s a former lawyer, and he’s a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Chicago School of Business and, “almost,” the University of Chicago Law School.
That’s probably why Jerry’s is such a smart take on the common sandwich. Â They derisively refer to Jerry’s as a “Super Subway,” but their attention to detail — using a blend of iceberg and arugula lettuce for crunch and flavor, smoking meats and fish in a log-burning smoker and whipping up homemade condiments like chipotle chutney — make Jerry’s a palace of sandwich craft.
A new Jerry’s has a more sophisticated design, with chandeliers handcrafted from serving spoons, a flagstone-style fireplace, a community gathering space and a few anticipated additions to the menu: plated desserts and American craft beers.
Q. What do you wish you could pickle and preserve about the Chicago restaurant/food scene?
Mindy: I think there’s a real lack of pretension from both Chicago diners and restaurateurs. Â They don’t take themselves as seriously as other places. Even at the fine dining restaurants in Chicago, they understand that if you’re spending $200 a person for dinner, perhaps they should be nice to you.
Q. What would your last sandwich be?
Mindy: Â Maybe a shrimp po’ boy of some sort.
Mark: Â That’s what I was going to say.
Q. Where do you eat before or after a shift?
Mindy: Â West Town Tavern. Â [Susan Goss is] a wonderful cook after our own heart.
Mark: Â In terms of culinary fireworks, a little off the beaten track, I think the chef at Scylla [Stephanie Izard] is terrific. Â If I ever become a great chef, I’d like to cook like her.
Q. What’s the can’t-miss meal at Jerry’s?
Mark: Â I would say the beers. Â Come for the beers, stay for the sandwich. Â We’re gonna shoot for 100 American craft beers, most … you’ve never heard of.
Mindy: Â When people can’t decide what to get, I steer them to blackened chicken. Â It’s flavorful and you can do great sauces with it.
Q. What should we know about Jerry’s that we probably don’t?
Mark: Â We wanted a good deli name. Â We said let’s call it Mindy’s; you know, that sounds Jewish. Mindy is Jewish, in fact, but she wouldn’t let us. Â Then we decided let’s just call it Jerry’s, both to name it after Jerry Garcia and because it sounds like a Jewish deli.
Jerry’s Sandwiches; 1938 W. Division, Chicago (773) 235-1006