Thursday, August 23, 2007

Jaenicke's Drive In

When I was in high-school, I went over to my friend Lori's house. Her older sister was settling in to some take-out food. "Watcha eatin'?" I asked. "Sauce buns" she said. "What's a sauce bun?" I asked. She looked at me mid-bite like I was a frigging lunatic. "You've never had a sauce bun??" to which I replied, "No. Never heard of them." She wolfed down her dinner and hauled me out the door, straight back to Jaenicke's Drive In, where I had my first taste of heaven, sans hot dog.

Jaenicke's Drive In

Jaenicke's (pronounced yah-nick-eez) is right down the road from where I grew up, so I dunno why I'd never tried their food before. But I've had it a lot since. The owner of the place used to come into the animal hospital where I worked, and I first heard about "the feud" from her. There is a Jaenicke's Drive In in Kankakee, and the one near me in Bourbonnais. The Jaenickes, sadly, have apparently split into two warring factions that do not speak to one another. Consequently, everyone in the area swears that either the Bourbonnais branch, or the Kankakee one is far superior. A cross-town rivalry, if you will. Personally, I went to the Kankakee one (also called Jaenicke's on Wall) once or twice (with my friend Carrie, who swore it was the better of the two), and I found the food to be served a bit more sloppily, and I just felt it wasn't as good. I just found out that there is a Jaenicke's in Momence, too, but I don't know anything about that one... Maybe you just like the one closer to where you live, I dunno. The truth of the matter is, all the Jaenicke's joints are pretty awesome -- but I'm loyal to my Bourbonnais peeps. I just love what comes out of that joint. It is always consistent, perfect, and delicious.

We went to Jaenicke's on a pretty gray, unusually cold summer day. But you know what? Sauce buns on sale? That brings a summer day right into my mouf.

Jaenicke's Drive In

So what is a sauce bun, you might ask? It is a soft white hot dog bun, filled with Jaenicke's amazing hot dog chili. Of course they have hot dogs available if you like, but I like the warm, uninterrupted softness of the sauce bun. The chili at Jaenicke's is very sweet and mild -- more like barbecue sauce than chili. Cheese is optional, but trust me, you want that option. It's just plain old nacho sauce right out the jar, like Cheez Whiz. To me, the cheese and chopped onions are a necessity, as is a good old Green River to go along with it (to this day, Jaenicke's is the only place I've ever had Green River soda. It is available in other places, but it just doesn't seem right for me to drink it anywhere else).

Jaenicke's Bourbonnais Menu

Chris got a chili dog, and some corn dog nuggets. Hot and dee-licious.

Corn Dog Nuggets

I got my beloved sauce buns, tucked into the box with stapled wax paper, as usual. Which is great, because it facilitates me licking the cheese sauce off the top.

Sauce Buns

Jaenicke's is closed in the winter months, starting in October I believe, and re-opening in spring. I usually only get back to eat there once a year, but nothing says springtime quite like opening day baseball, and that first bite of Jaenicke's.

17 comments:

  1. Ooh whee, baby! You know I loves me some Jaenicke's! I still make the occasional run there while I'm home to get a cheesy hot dog or two. (And in those brief high school years where I played vegetarian, I used to just go with the bun and the nacho cheese sauce. Ugh!) Anyway, the only thing that bugs me about the Jaenicke's experience is how they force you to use their lingo. Like when I say, "I'd like a cheese hot dog," they go, "Ok, so you want a cheese hot?" As if it doesn't compute when I stick the word "dog" on the end there. But I'm just not cool enough to go around ordering "cheese hots" and "chili hots", so I know these people will be correcting my Jaenicke's vernacular until the end of time. Or until I have a heart attack from years of cheesy residue building up in my arteries.

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  2. Ha. ha. - I get to go there any time I want. Only live bout 3 blocks - you sure did a gorgeous writeup on them. They should give you a free sauce bun. Maybe I should run a copy of your article and get one for you. (but I probably won't). thanks again, Gr. shirley

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  3. Reminds me of when I was 12 and the girlfriends went every day on lunch hour to the corner soda shop. The owner mixed the soda drinks at the fountain from scratch, the old-fashioned way, with a shot of seltzer water and a shot of lime syrup to make a green river. I never liked them; I always preferred a cherry phosphate. We'd ogle the cute high school boys, with their ducktail haircuts or crewcuts and their cuffed jeans, white socks, and loafers. Of course, they always had their girlfriends with them! We were so jealous! This was in 1959 or 1960. Such memories! Elvis and Connie Francis playing on the jukebox--"He's My Dreamboat!" Yummee!!

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  4. We went to the one on the other side of the tracks. Nothing like it (well, except across town). I took the kids last year for their first "hots" and root beer floats and felt very nostalgic. And, damn, you've made me hungry for a sauce bun!

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  5. While fooling around in San Antonio Texas yesterday I saw a sign on the front of a building that said "RED HOTS/ROOT BEER". So I says "Red hots and root beer, I like a place that presents themselves that way." My buddy asks "What's a red hot?" I proceeded to give him the obvious explanation about the red hot and the restaurant from which made me familiar with the term (Jaenicke’s), from my hometown (Bourbonnais). Curious about the use of the words "RED HOTS" I went to inspect the establishment. And what was their name? Jaenicke’s. It was Sunday and they were closed. So I was unable to grill the owners, but I'm going back to get the complete story today. I'll keep you posted but it looks like I have a little piece of home right here deep in the heart of Texas.

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  6. I used to live in Kankakee and we ate at the hot dog stand on Wall, before they opened one in Bourbonnais, way back in the 70's. I live 2 hours away now but I never fail to visit one of these places every time I get back to K3. In fact, we've made special trips just for the red hots. I love that place and it reminds me of my misspent youth.

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  7. Hugh "Beaumont" JandaSeptember 5, 2008 at 3:05 AM

    Okay, okay, Let's call it what it really is....Jaenicke's is a religious Experience! I grew up in K3 along with B.J. and the rest of the Boyz during the late 60's and 70's . The root Beer stand was a staple in our life's and still is today. Most of us live out of state if not across the country, but we all still make the annual pilgrimage to Jaenicke's at least once a year. Yes, from CA, IN, NC, PA, FL and IL; they all come by plane, train or automobile just to pound red hots and visit for a few hours. My personal record? 10. They do have a vast menu, but to be perfectly honest, I have only had Red Hots, italian Beef, Sauce buns, fries, home-made Root Beer and Green River. Let's be frank, to order anything else, would be a sin. Red Hots can only be ordered one way: With Sauce, Cheese & Onions.....period. Drinks are always ordered Large. Saucebuns must have Cheese (and it's not Chesse Whiz).
    We have researched the sauce for years...still a mystery. Back in the 70's, Johnny was dating a Jaenicke. We tried to go ROGUE to get the receipe but we were discovered. Years later, we would order Red Hots with Sauce only, so that we could scrape the sauce off and we sent it to the Biology Department of the University of ND for anaylsis. The result? a laundry list of ingredients but without the correct measurements; it was useless. Today, they sell sauce by the cup (God does answer prayers). We are close to the receipe, but have all agreeded, that it would wreak the magic if we knew. So, we leave it alone. One of the boys actually got the receipe years ago, but can't seem to remember everything as he misplaced the document. Yes, we have beaten him like a Red Headed Step child countless times! Tortured him like a POW in Hanoi, but to no avail...he simply can't remember. (Yes, yes, we have enertained shock therapy more than once)
    I have a collection of orange business cards. They are from the now disbanded "10 Galloon Rootbeer Club". I even have cards autographed by Al & Maria Jaenicke. Yes, it is part of the Holy Grail items from the infamous rootbeer stand of my child hood. I have the cards, a Swaetshirt (still in the wrapper), a Softball Jersey, T-Shirt, a cup and photos....lots of photos. It's funny, through the years, the rootbeer stand has played such an important role in major life events; weddings, funerals, reunions, etc. Why just 2 weeks ago, I was able to enter after hours for a personal tour and they actually allowed me to order after hours. I had just arrived after a Wake. Dressed in a dark suit, driving an out of state plated car, I beat on the back door and pleaded with staff for mercy. When I pulled out the Orange cards, I was granted asylum. Yes, the inner sanctum was finally made present to me 40 years in the waiting. Fate DID move it's huge hand. I think Angels were singing in my head as I crossed the threshold (or was it the alcohol, hmm). There I was with my old friend Jamie Africano as witness. Within minutes, camera phone photos were being sent to the Boyz all over the nation as this moment needed to be documented. We even saw the South Bend brand stove that the world famous sauce is made on. As I drove away, I couldn't erase the grin grom my face. Who would have thought, a 48 year old VP of a National recognized bank just got his Yah-Yah's off by something as simple as visiting a childhood hangout from long ago. You know, they have been making homemade Root Beer and those incredible Red Hots with THAT sauce for 68 years..I have a feeling that they will be around for decades to come. Long Live the Rootbeer Stand !!
    P.S.
    Only 5 days till Weiner Wednesday..Stein, J-ray, Ciac, Afro, FB, D, Frankie, Fu, Billy, Ligg, Snake, Dave, Rand, Nick, Fidel and Big Head......meet you at the stand at Noon, save me a parking spot upfront! Cobrastones Rock.

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  8. Hey when does this hot dog heaven open up?

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  9. In 2008, it opened on about the last weekend of February or the first week of March (I actually put it in my calendar)... Comin' right up!!

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  10. I just looked it up to see when they open this year - keep me posted. We live a little over an hour away and can't wait to make the trip !!

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  11. Ha! I can't believe how much traffic this post has gotten, since ol' Jaenicke's doesn't really have their own website... They should pay me. In sauce buns. :)

    We live over an hour away, too, so I won't know the moment it opens... But maybe someone else will be kind enough to let us know! I'll bet it is this coming weekend or the next.

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  12. I noticed a year or two ago the Bourbonnais location got rid of the split-top buns in favor of the standards side-sliced bun. I've been eating at a Jaenicke's ever since I was a kid in the '50s and the Kankakee location was an A&W root beer stand, and they were always split-tops.

    I haven't been to the Kankakee for 20 years, but the Bourbonnais location is on the way to or from my mom's house in Bradley (I live in Joliet now). I try to get there at least a half-dozen times during the months they're open. Great dogs.

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  13. Too bad I couldn't find a phone number for you! I ordered 3 of your yummy deluxe hots for lunch, anticipating a meal beyond excellent! What I got was an extreme disappointment - cold, dry buns - minimal sauce - certainly not up to your usual standard! I don't know if your steamer isn't working, if you have someone new filling the buns or what happened, but I wanted to let you know about my experience. If your food wasn't always so good and Sooo consistant in quality, I wouldn't have had such a let-down! Hope you can get it fixed before my next visit!!!

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  14. Didn't my e-mail go through?

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  15. thanks for much for this delightful story. I look forward to eating there when I visit. I was looking online for a 'green river soda' distributor in san antonio, texas and so far, no luck. BUT your hyperlink in the post allowed me to find someone to help me in the meantime. Thanks again. :)

    miss petra

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  16. Just took my son and daughter there for the first time - and I hadn't been there in 13 years - Just as good today as when I was growing up!!!

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