Few cities in America can boast as many widely recognized, indigenous foods as Chicago. Residents of The Windy City understandably maintain a great deal of pride in those particular items hailing from their homeland. But popularity demands that these Chicago-native foods extend across the nation, infiltrating any city housing residents anxious to recreate the flavors that have been giving Cubs fans something to actually be happy about for years. Lynn’s Chicago Foods
is an unassuming establishment in southwest Little Rock that is bringing many of Chicago’s honored products to Arkansas. Lynn’s restaurant may not be visually stunning, the simple interior is far from gorgeous, but what she lacks in looks she more than makes up for in her dining options.
I should first note, if you are hoping for a Chicago-style, deep-dish pizza, unfortunately, this is not the place to find it. I realize this an iconic Chicagoan dish, and would likely be the first item that comes to most diners’ minds when picturing a meal in this city. Yet Lynn’s has chosen to avoid the rather weighty task of recreating this much-loved pie. Instead you’ll find Italian beef and polish sausage sandwiches, the iconic hot dog, as well as a smattering of other items not particularly native to Chicago including gyros, cheesesteaks, burgers, fried fish, and hot wings. When I visited, I felt inclined to sample those items I most associated with Chicago, after all, they named the place “Chicago foods,” so it only seemed right.
I first sampled the Italian beef
sandwich. This consisted of a sizable portion of thinly sliced beef which had clearly beef wet-roasted for a considerable amount of time until the meat was tender and falling apart. The beef broth and its contents are heavily seasoned with garlic, oregano, and many other spices, giving the beef an herbaceous, aromatic flavor. A stack of beef, dripping in its own juices, gets wedged inside a chewy Italian-style roll. The entire sandwich is then dipped, oh-so-briefly, in the juices from which the meat cooked in. Not enough to completely saturate the bread or leave it a mushy, inedible mess, but just enough to slightly dampen the outer surface of the roll, imparting even more of the herbs and rendered fatty flavor to the entire sandwich. The sandwich is finally topped with a small helping of giardiniera, a spicy pickled blend of bell peppers, jalapeño, cauliflower, and celery. All the elements needed to recreate this beloved Chicago favorite were in place, but how did the flavors stack up? Honestly, I was in love after a single bite. The beef, so tender and juicy, was rich with flavor. The heavy-handed spices and vinegary touch of pickled vegetables create a mouth-watering flavor profile that makes this a sandwich difficult to put down once you begin to chow down. The added “dip” into the meat juices ensures you’ll never have to worry about being served a dry, flavorless sandwich. Instead it’s a creation that does justice to the city that claims the Italian beef as her own.
I felt obligated to test their attempt at the Chicago dog
. You probably know the breakdown: all-beef dog, poppy-seed bun, yellow mustard, white onion, neon green relish, sport peppers, sliced tomatoes, dill pickle spear, and celery salt. Rarely, if ever, do you come across a hot-dog purveyor claiming to provide an authentic dog who will vary too far from this time-tested formula. And no ketchup. People have been stabbed for less than that. Lynn’s does a respectable job with this one. The vegetables all tasted fresh, each of the toppings were placed in their proper proportions. I only would have preferred a slightly larger hot dog, as the one provided tended to get lost among many the toppings. But truthfully, this is only a minor qualm, as I thoroughly enjoyed the dog…and I stand by my belief that Chicago has got New York City beat in the clash of encased meats.
Lastly, I noticed an item I’d never seen before, and assuming this was another Chicago native I was simply not familiar with, I ordered up the “pizza puff
.” The item in question is akin to a Hot Pocket, taking a mixture of cheese, tomato sauce, and (what I assume was) diced pepperoni and sausage and stuffing this into a layer of puff pastry dough. After a quick dip in the fryer, the pocket puffs up to create a shell of multiple exterior layers of golden brown, crispy pastry. They are a step-up from their evil, microwavable cousin, the aforementioned Hot Pocket, mostly due to a heavy helping of tasty grease, but they’re not the kind of thing I’ll be dreaming about at night. Your kids will probably love them and I’m sure they’d be well received among the 2 a.m. Washington and Colorado residents aching to cure the munchies.
Lynn’s Chicago Foods is not fancy, it’s not headed by the latest hot shot chef making national headlines. Lynn’s may have never seen one headline in her (apparently) long lifetime. But this is a shame, folks, as this place has more character in its door knob than every Chili’s, Applebee’s, and Olive Garden in central Arkansas. It’s run by kind, welcoming folks who simply enjoy serving customers a small piece of the city they love. We should be grateful to have a place like Lynn’s in Little Rock.
Lynn's Chicago Foods
6501 Geyer Springs Road