(reprinted from the Restaurateur of Arizona, March 1993)
By Shannon Morrison
Voted “Best in Phoenix” in 1991 by The New Times and The Phoenix Gazette, the Chicago Hamburger Company is the “Home of the Windy City Slider.” Located at 3749 East Indian School Road, hours are from 10:30 a.m. to 8 p.m., seven days a week. (Webmaster’s note: not any more!) The phone number is 955-4137 and calling ahead for carry out orders is recommended.
Bob Pappanduros, owner and operator, has been in the restaurant industry since the age of 14. His father owned and operated a similar type restaurant on the south side of Chicago.
“In Chicago,” Pappanduros explains, “people live on sliders and hotdogs as a staple. They have to have their daily dose, like vitamins. I helped my father from the time I was old enough. Back then, sliders sold for around 17 cents apiece.”
Pappanduros gained knowledge in the industry here in the Valley as a kitchen manager for the Big Four Restaurant Corporation. Later, working as a food and director for a privately owned Scottsdale firm, he decided to make a career move after two and a half years. He sold meat for one year. When the Chicago Hamburger Company became available, Pappanduros decided to remain in the restaurant industry and purchased the business.
The Chicago Hamburger Company originated 10 years ago. Operating under the same name for the last 8 years, Pappanduros will be proprietor for four years in April.
The Windy City Slider is a nickname derived from Chicago and White Castle. The Chicago Hamburger Company has based its reputation on the “slider” and its famous Vienna Beef hotdogs. The slider is a very small hamburger cooked on a bed of onions and served on a square bun.
According to Pappanduros, “I was going to discontinue the slider. I thought a 69-cent item couldn’t possibly be profitable. Within three days I realized that enough sliders ordered daily would add up. At this point, we sell 400 a day. The average customer eats 2 to 4. This means about 60 percent of the business is from the sale of sliders.”
The Chicago Hamburger Company also has a couple of local bar accounts that purchase sliders in quantity. Occasionally large quantities are requested by Valley hotels.
“I have learned that a business here in the Valley will only do as well as the quality of products purchased,” Pappanduros says. “Quality is a priority and an imperative ingredient to success. When I took over, the restaurant needed attention. Quality had slipped.”
Pappanduros purchases all ground chuck from Sterling Fresh. All hotdogs are straight from Vienna Beef in Chicago. They have been in the business for 56 years and offer only the best. They also feature a great steam table bun that holds up. Top grade ice cream with a high butterfat content is used in the signature item milkshakes at the Chicago Hamburger Company.
The menu at The Chicago Hamburger Company has expanded to include some more varied menu. Some non-meat items are featured as well.
Pappanduros explains, “Many of the patrons here come in two to five days a week. They needed a few more options. I want non-meat eaters to feel that they can dine here too.”
The Chicago Hot Dogs, Etc. are imported and are the best Chicago has to offer. All dogs come with mustard, relish, onion, pickle, tomato, sauerkraut french fries or cole slaw. There are several new sandwiches available. One might want to try the Philly cheesesteak sandwich, the chicken Parmesan, the teriyaki chicken sandwich, or a choice of submarine, the Chicago Hamburger Company also offers a cool refreshing broiled chicken salad and garden salad.
Besides the Windy City Slider starting at 69 cents, a more standard 1/3 to 2/3 pound hamburger can be ordered off the charbroiler. Buffalo wings can be purchased but it is important to specify temperature.
Bottled beer is available as are soft drinks. Pappanduros has expressed absolutely no desire to operate a bar. However he feels that bottled beer compliments the menu.
The Chicago Hamburger Company offers pinball games as a means of entertainment for customers waiting for orders. A big plus for patrons, the primary pinball players are adults. Pappanduros has installed cable as well as a satellite dish in order to offer Chicago sporting events highlighting the Chicago Bears, Bulls, Blackhawks, Sox, and Cubs.
Pappanduros describes Chicago fans this way: “You don’t have to have a winning team to be a fan, especially when you’re a Chicago sports fan. It is more like a religion.”
Chicago sports history is emphasized in a nostalgic display of paraphernalia. Decorating the interior of The Chicago Hamburger Company are many special items to stimulate fans’ memories. Pappanduros is constantly searching for Chicago sports items to add to the decor.
At this time Pappanduros has cut back on hours to enjoy spending more time with his family. As proprietor, he feels that there is no point in making the dollar if you don’t take the time to enjoy your life and family.
Pappanduros feels that the Valley is healthier these days. “People are spending more money and business is good. At this time I am actively looking to expand. I would like to open a second location in a successful business community.”
Pappanduros has succeeded in establishing a business atmosphere during the lunch hours and a family atmosphere in the evenings. In the short time Pappanduros has owned the Chicago Hamburger Company, business has doubled. That business has been built on quality.
Restaurateur of Arizona is looking forward to the second location. We’re wishing continued success to The Chicago Hamburger Company, “Home of the Windy City Slider.”