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