Anyone who lives in Chicago knows there are way too many (yes, too many) hot dog and burger spots. Yeah, most of them serve Vienna beef dogs which is fine and dandy, but that’s where they stop as far as quality product is concerned.
One of my BIGGEST pet peeves when it comes to these establishments is that they call their NACHO CHEESE fries CHEDDAR FRIES. NACHO CHEESE IS NOT CHEDDAR!!!!! Those who know me well have heard me say that Nacho cheese belongs on one thing only – nachos.
In fact, I seek out hot dog stands that feature REAL Merkt’s style cheddar cheese for their cheese fries. There should be a culinary law that forbids Nacho cheese on fries. Ok, I’m done.
I met my buddy at Phil’s Last Stand (2258 W. Chicago Ave.) for a quick bite on an absolutely gorgeous Chicago day. I got there early and ordered for both of us – something all my friends are confident in me doing. A little birdie advised me to order a Fatso burger and the fried shrimp Po’ Boy as well as cheddar fries of course.
I walked in and was greeted by a big fella behind the register who I immediately recognized from the signage on the walls as PHIL. He was great. Boisterous, funny and full of witty smart-ass things to say to his guests. There were at least three others in there who were regulars judging by the way they were speaking with Phil – a good sign.
“Whada ya want buddy?” Yes, Chicago hospitality at its best. I ordered the Fatso burger (no tomato) fries. As I was looking at the menu board above I noticed there was NO PO’ BOY!!! I asked Phil a little timidly, “Uh, do you guys serve a Po Boy?” He looked around, leaned into me and whispered, “Yeah, but it’s not on the menu…you want one?” I smiled and nodded with a wink. The food was of course made to order and came out piping hot. I took my tray outside to one of the nice and new picnic tables to wait for my buddy – but I couldn’t wait. I began to eat without him.
The Fatso burger was (probably) a 1/3 lb. griddled style patty that came with real cheddar cheese, lettuce, grilled onions and a mayo based Fatso Sauce – a zesty, dare I say thousand island-esque condiment. The burger was super flavorful and really juicy. The sandwich held its integrity throughout the meal and the bun was steamed and soft. You’d be surprised how often the bun of a burger is overlooked and comes out a touch stale, or neither toasted or steamed. Next trip I’d probably opt for the DOUBLE Fatso just because I wanted another patty to balance the ratio of toppings and such. Don’t get me wrong, though, it was a great griddled style burger.
The Po’ Boy was the star of the show. At first glance it looked like a solid sandwich but again, how good can a fish based item be at a hot dog joint? Well, Phil’s well fried, super plump jumbo sized shrimp were coated in a tempura style batter. Arriving tender and extremely fresh this was merely the base to a great Boy. French bread was layered with cheddar cheese slives, lettuce, tomato, pickles, (which I normally would detest on a sandwich) house made tangy cole slaw, crispy shoe string potatoes – a crunchy twist- and the scrimps. This was a perfect example where the whole sandy is equal to FAR GREATER than its individual parts. I mean, really. This was one of the better Po’ Boys I’ve ever tasted – it rivaled Big n Littles in fact. My buddy agreed that he would return for this sandwich alone and he too knows his food. Yet, it’s not even on the menu.
The french fries were hand cut, came out glistening with joy and were accompanied by a generous portion of Merkt’s on the side. I was a happy Scottie. Another specialty I didn’t get to sample was the grilled salami sandwich. Again, I may normally be skeptical of grilled salami being special…well, anywhere – but after trying the Po Boy I’m intrigued and ready for round 2.
The same guys who own Phil’s Last Stand are also the proprietors of Lockdown Bar and Grill just around the corner on Western just North of Augusta. In my book, these are two sure winners for burgers and dogs in a city that is littered with so-so versions of both. Bravo! Keep up the great cookin’ Phil! You’re truly one of a kind.