Sliders Offer Taste of Chicago in Valley

(reprinted from the Arizona Republic, May 20, 2006)

By Angela Cara Pancrazio

Every day, though never on a Sunday, there’s a line going out the door at the Chicago Hamburger Co., home of the Windy City Slider.

Six hundred sliders a day, 180 pounds of fries, 2 gallons of onions.

By the way, a slider is a small, square burger, about the size of a large dinner roll, usually with a single pickle, onions and ketchup.

Sure, the restaurant on the corner of Indian School Road and 38th Street is plastered with everything about Chicago: the Cubs; the White Sox; Harry Carey; Mayor Richard Daley, senior and junior; Al Capone; hijacked street signs from the Windy City such as Cermak Road and North Clark Street.

And maybe customers come to the restaurant for a piece of Chicago, proprietor Bob Pappanduros says.

But what he has here is more than a place to cure your hometown blues.

It’s a joint. That is what it is.

He grew up in his father’s hot dog joint in Chicago.

“I’m just a real established neighborhood joint,” Pappanduros, 48, said.

“Yeah, I got Chicago people.

“I always describe myself as a joint, joint is a key word,” he said as he loaded fries into the fryer and chopped fresh tomatoes as he got ready to open his joint.

“We’re not a squeaky-clean franchise with rotating personnel. We’ve got heart.”

Just about everyone who works at the joint has been here from six to 17 years.

“Here, we know everybody.”

For years, Pappanduros had a sign that pledged “Free sliders when the Cubs or White Sox win the World Series.”

In October, when the White Sox won, the Windy City Slider proprietor kept his promise. He gave away 2,005 free sliders. He had to cap it somewhere, so he decided on the year. The line went around the building.

He’s plenty busy when he’s not giving away free sliders. He has plenty of regulars who come for lunch five times a week.

Other than his softball team, the joint is his social circle.

Although he broke his “cardinal rule” not to date customers, he found his wife here. They were married about a month ago.

Who came to the wedding?

All of his regulars.

Regulars who have been willing to wear the blue T-shirts with Chicago Hamburger Co. emblazoned across their chests all around the world and have their pictures taken as proof.

Their photos cover one of the restaurant’s walls. Those shirts have been to the Great Wall, the Taj Mahal and Bogota, Colombia. To Burma, Greece and New Zealand. And to Baghdad.

Bob Sunderman even jumped from a plane over Buckeye with one pinned and taped to his torso to keep the shirt from flapping so he could be snapped wearing it while skydiving.

Sure, these are good sliders. But it wouldn’t be a joint without those who can appreciate a joint.

“I’m a New Yorker,” said Dave Grossman, who came in to order 60 sliders for a luncheon. “These are the closest to White Castle. It took me a year to find it.”