WHAT DOES IT TAKE TO BECOME
A CHICAGO INSTITUTION?
A link to the past, present & future of Bobak's Sausage Company
Frank Bobak migrates from a small village in the highlands of Poland to Chicago. Where he finds work as a butcher in the city’s famous meatpacking district, The Stockyards. His American Dream begins.
Feeling that the sausage he was finding in Chicago was overly processed and “not the same as the sausage from home,” Frank begins making authentic Polish sausage in the basement of his southside home for family and friends. He uses tried & true family recipes, the finest grade of fresh pork and beef, and Old-World spices that he mixes in a plastic baby pool (hey. you work with what you have, right?). Angeline Bobak, Frank’s wife, slowly smokes the sausage with select hardwoods in the home’s detached garage. The tempting smells attract relatives, friends, and neighbors, who gladly share in the Bobak bounty.
The smoke from the Bobak garage also attracts the attention of the Chicago Fire Department. In the summer of ‘65, they hastily arrive at the Bobak residence ready to douse a blazing fire only to find the delicious smelling smoke from the Bobak’s sausages.
After a few bites of Frank and Angeline’s homemade Polish sausage, the fire fighters ask for more “evidence” to take back to the firehouse. Frank begins his search for a storefront from which to make and sell his delicious sausages transitioning from a hobby to a vocation.
Frank opens the first Bobak’s Sausage Shop in a rented storefront on Diversey in north Chicago. The Bobaks are now making and smoking their popular sausage behind the deli in full view of customers. Polish customers line up daily for a “real taste of home.” Several firemen drop by for more samples of Bobak’s sausage. Word spreads and business expands!
Due to its growing demand from Chicago’s exploding Polish community, Frank & Angeline open three more delis around the city; all supplied by the original sausage making facility behind their first store.
Four busy shops require a lot more sausage and deli meats. Frank opens a dedicated production facility on west 47th Place to supply the demand. Bobak’s begins supplying authentic Polish sausage and Old-World deli meats to limited grocery stores, distributors, and restaurants.
John Paul II is elected the first Polish Pope. The pope grew up a few miles away from Frank’s home in Zakopane which leads to a private audience with the pontiff in the Vatican City. Pope John Paul II visits Chicago and the nuns serving him meals use Bobak’s quality sausage and other Polish delicacies. One morning, the Pope commented on, “…how wonderful the Polish products are, especially the sausages.” His server told him they were from a deli called Bobak’s. John Paul recognized the name and said, “Frank Bobak, I remember Frank!” After that, the Bobak family had several opportunities to meet the Polish Pope. And John Paul remained a fan of the delicious sausage. Call it “divine intervention” or just really good food, it’s nice to have friends in high places.
The Bobak sons, Stan, John and Joe, graduate from college and join the family business. Their energy, enthusiasm and fresh ideas bring even more growth to the Bobak’s brand. A new more modern manufacturing facility is opened and Bobak’s creates their first retail package to be sold in their own stores as well as retail grocery stores.
Bobak’s goes through a series of retail expansions as their restaurant/deli/retail concept gains traction and massive success. The result is popular destination delis and stores.
James Ward, the acclaimed food critic of Chicago’s ABC affiliate features Bobak’s as one of the top 10 “Family Oriented” restaurants in the Chicagoland area. The Food Network announces Bobak’s as one of “America’s Top Deli’s,” the only operation to be chosen from the Midwest.
Stan Bobak focuses efforts on producing his sausage brand for retail grocery expansion while his brothers fully own and operate the Bobak retail stores and delis. Stan’s brothers move on to new ventures and close the stores while Stan Bobak continues with the Bobak’s brand focusing on wholesale opportunities.
Stan invests in a state-of-the-art USDA inspected facility in West Garfield Park where he produces his own brand as well as other well-known brands in the sausage category. Bobak’s brand concept is further strengthened and refined to emphasize the rich heritage and superior quality of this Chicago Institution thus firmly establishing Bobak’s brand of sausages as Chicago’s own.
It takes Chicago roots. It takes being a part of the rich history of one of the world’s greatest cities. It takes years of dedication and an identification of midwestern roots tied to a positive attitude and work ethic. In sports, it is the ’85 Bears, the Jordan Bull’s dynasty, the Hawks Stanley Cup domination, the White Sox and Cubs World Series championship teams. In art it is the Daley plaza Picasso, the Art Institute of Chicago and Millennium Park. It is the Hancock Center, Water Tower plaza, “The Bean,” and the greatest collection of awesome architectural design along a gorgeous lakefront with a lovely river flowing through the heart of the city. In food it is the Chicago hotdog, deep dish pizza, and yes, sausage. Bobak’s in particular because we have been there to witness all of this greatness about the city we love to call our home while perfecting our craft brought from the Old World to this new one of the greatest promise. Sweet home Chicago.