It is about immigrants looking to realize their American Dream and the mixture of cultures to create new forms of food, art, and music. Known as the Ellis Island of the Midwest, it is the story of Jewish merchants supporting the black community selling Polish sausages (!). Jazz and blues musicians came up from the post WWI South, traveling to Chicago to play for the crowds. The need to be heard over the noise of the crowd resulted in amplification and electrification of their instruments. It is where the greats plugged in and created a new sound called the electrified Chicago Blues with legends like Muddy Waters, Little Walter, Bo Diddley, and Howling Wolf; later evolving again into America’s invention of Rock n Roll.
People came for a better life and worked hard together to achieve it while sharing the best of their individual cultures.
Among the many tales of Maxwell Street, one dish stands out: The Maxwell Street Polish. And in the late 1960s and early 1970s, Frank Bobak was there to supply the delicious treat along with others. A Maxwell Street Polish is smoked Polish sausage using both pork and beef cooked on a grill and then kept warm under a pile of grilled onions until the customer orders. The sausage is then put in a bun with a healthy helping of grilled onions and topped with a squirt of yellow mustard. Simple, unique, delicious.
And while the blues music played and the crowds searched for deals in the open market, they enjoyed the famous Maxwell Street Polish. While that era is over and the market is no longer there, you can still enjoy a Bobak’s Maxwell Polish and reflect on the heritage of this great city and all the diversity of culture that makes it truly great.
(For fun you can check out an over-the-top look back at the Maxwell Street scene from the Blues Brothers movie - John Lee Hooker solo scene. But get your Bobak’s Maxwell Polish loaded up first for the full effect!).