Cheap Eats – Chicago Hamburger Co.

(reprinted from the Rep, November 20, 2003)

By Randy Cordova
The Arizona Republic

Pile of Sliders

Tim Koors / The Arizona Republic

Don’t look for the menu at the Chicago Hamburger Co. to undergo any big changes.

“We got people that eat here three, four, five times a week,” says Bob Pappanduros, the friendly owner of the Phoenix restaurant. “They’ve got their favorites. They don’t want this place to change.”

Besides that, the menu at the Phoenix neighborhood eatery is surprisingly deep, with more than 30 items offered.

“I can’t add any more to it,” Pappanduros explains. “If we got really busy, we’d get our asses kicked.”

And crowds are not out of the ordinary here, thanks to food that is affordable and tasty.

The big ticket at Chicago Hamburger Co. is a little one. Windy City Sliders, tiny hamburgers made famous in Illinois, are Pappanduros’ No. 1 item, sometimes selling at a rate of up to 400 a day. Despite their size – 3 inches across – they’re pretty filling and quite tasty.

They range from a plain burger (79 cents) with mustard, ketchup, pickles and onions to a double cheese version ($1.29).

Fans of more meat shouldn’t worry. You can’t go wrong with the two-thirds-pound Cheddar Burger ($5.25) or the sinfully good Philly Cheese Steak ($5.29).

Side items include such goodies as onion rings ($2.09), zucchini ($2.09) and cheese fries ($2.19), all served in portions designed to fill big appetites.

As in any good Chicago-style joint, the hot dogs are worth checking out. Favorites include the Vienna Hot Dog ($3.25), the Polish ($3.55) and the Bagel ($3.85). The dogs include fries or cole slaw in the price, a real bargain.

Pappanduros knows a thing or two about closers, as well. The Root Beer Float ($2.25) and the Large Milkshake ($3.50) are as good as homemade.

Pappanduros has run the place since 1989. He keeps it looking very Chicago, with political posters and sports memorabilia filling the walls. It’s a comfortable environment that makes transplanted Chicagoans feel at home and Valley residents feel they’re in Chicago.

“For a lot of people this is an old-blanket type of place,” he says. “An old blanket that fits well and is comfortable.”