CW: We’re in Chicago and when in Chicago, you must pay homage to an institution, a temple of kosher foodery. It is also, officially, the only kosher diner in the country.
CW: Everybody knows who we’re talking about. We’re talking about Ken’s Diner.
CW: We discuss in a lot of the places, you’re always going to find some sort of hot, spicy dipity chicken, right? Side bonus, we got blue cheese dressing. But, um, I’m going to use a fork on this one. Going to take our spicy – is this the blue cheese?
Judd: No, that’s the blue cheese.
CW: This the blue cheese. Blue cheese!
CW: It’s good.
CW: Blue cheese dressing is a great like blue cheesy funky, like amonia-ey, fake cheese. It’s delicious. Chicago has a very specific sandwich. It’s an Italian Beef Sub. It’s like roast beef cooked in Au Jus.
CW: Yes, some green peppers, onions. What they do is take the whole sandwich and dip into the thing. We opted for the dip on the side. Dip.
CW: Do you want to give it a shot and we’ll do it together? What did you say? Should we touch dips?
Judd: That was good. Classic. Good work. Did you do your dip?
CW: I didn’t dip yet. I’m going to dip right now. When you dip, I dip, we dip, I put my sandwich in… So it’s called… It’s a delicious sandwich. We love French dips. Who doesn’t like a saucy sandwich? I love a wet sandwich. You know, listen… all real men do, k?
Judd: This is not just a regular sub. The meat is tender and juicy. It’s probably because it’s sitting in the Jus. But it’s more than that. The bread is great. Every aspect of it is warm and inviting and it’s different.
CW: You’re you’re warm and inviting. Judd, what can you tell me about this iconic burger?
Ken: It’s a half pound. It’s… yeah, it’s a big burger. It’s got bacon on it. The beef fry, actually. It’s actually beef fry, which is what pastrami is made out of but we smoke it.
CW: Navel! Do you smoke it in house? You make your beef fry here?
Ken: No, we get it from Romanian Kosher.
CW: Ok good. Well, we’re okay with that.
Ken: We use the term bacon, because – and it’s B-A-Y / K-E-N.
Ken: Because we kept the word Ken in it. Everything is – if you’re Ameri-Ken. If you’re Mexi- Ken. Whatever, if you have Ken in your name then you’re part of the family. If you’re Ve-ken.
CW: There you go – that’s why you have the Ve-Ken menu! Let me tell you a story. I grew up in kosher Minneapolis and we didn’t have kosher restaurants. So we used to go to Detroit twice a year to visit the grandparents and we would stop in Chicago. And whenever we stopped in Chicago, we would eat out like five times in like 12 hours. I grew up eating at this place.
Ken: The best part of the 42 years I’m here is that I’ve watched these little kids in 1976 come in and now they’re bringing their grandchildren. You know that’s that is an amazing thing to be a part of that for so many years.
CW: Anybody ever dip their fries in the milk shake? I’m going to take a bite. I think I’m going to start to get emotional on this Chicago trip because everything I’m eating is just reminding me of all the other times I ate it. This tastes the same. This a stalmark. This is my food memory of a burger at a restaurant begins with Ken’s Diner. So right now, I’m eating the first – in my mind – the first kosher hamburger I ever ate as a kid. I’m delighted. I’m very happy to be here Ken.
Judd and I would like to thank Ken. Do you have anything else you want to say?
Judd: This is awesome. Coming from Memphis, Tennessee, where I grew up, this is a Midwest staple and I appreciate it.
CW: This is a trip through nostalgia but it’s also excellent. So I get to have that trip through all that past time and now I’m here relishing it in the present. Thank you, Ken.