When J and I started dating almost nine years ago, there were several places that she pointed out to me from her childhood as we drove around the south suburbs of Chicago. Like any new couples, we shared stories about times with grandparents at different restaurants, times with friends riding for ice cream, and those times our parents took us out of school to spend some one on one time over lunch.
One of the first places J told me about was a little hot dog stand on the corner of 99th and Pulaski in Evergreen Park. Her mom used to pick her up from a nearby school over the lunch hour and take her for a milkshake. Over the past nine years, J has said many times, we needed to go to this place for lunch, but we always forgot about it when it came time to find something to eat.
We were in Chicagoland last week for J’s birthday. On Thursday night, she and I went to Black Oak Tavern for dinner. On the way, we passed The Original Wojos (or Wojos Vienna..I’ve seen it both ways…either way, most people just call in Wojos) and again, the conversation came up about lunch with her mom and how the heck we’ve never eaten there.
The next day, I wanted a daddy-daughter day with L. She has been asking to ride a train, so my idea was to take her on the Orange Line from Midway Airport and just see where the afternoon took us. I wanted to grab lunch before we left though because I didn’t know how long we’d actually be on the train and I wanted to make sure L had a full belly.
When I got up in the morning, I checked Wojos website and noticed they opened at 10:30. I asked everyone else if they were hungry, took down the orders then made the short drive to Evergreen Park to pick it up.
Wojo’s is right on the corner of 99th and Pulaski just inside the village. It’s right across the street from Brother Rice High School which is in the City of Chicago. The parking lot is accessible only from 99th Street and it’s a little weird to get in to. There’s a one way alley right next to it going to wrong direction, but I found that as the best way to get where I needed to go.
The building has been around for quite some time. They call themselves a “Southside Tradition for Over 35 Years.” The restaurant has a pretty large, outdated dining area that is likely original to the space. The booths seemed pretty small to me, but I’m bigger than I really should be.
The ordering is done at a cash register next to the kitchen. The menu is huge and the man running the place asked if I needed time. Since I had done my homework, I was good to go.
I started with my in-laws order. They both wanted a hot dog, which is in Chicago, is not called a Chicago-Style hot dog. This one is simply called a Vienna Dog (Vienna being the brand of hot dog used). The all-beef hot dog is topped with mustard, relish, onions, cucumbers, tomatoes, pickles, and celery salt served on a poppy seed bun. There are other variations of the dog at Wojo’s adding adding things like chili or cheese, but one thing you’ll never find on the menu, ketchup. They added on an order of fries to split between them.
J ordered a chicken tenders which come as an appetizer in either 3, 5, or 9. She did the 3 and added on an order of fries. The tenders were surprisingly tasty. They may have been frozen, but they weren’t the typical frozen ones you find at most places. These were much longer and thinner which made them crispier and juicier than typical chicken tenders.
L’s lunch we tried to keep simple and ordered here a grilled cheese. Nothing fancy about this grilled cheese. Toasted white bread with cheddar cheese between the slices. It came out as a typical, yet delicious diner sandwich.
I was the one who really was anxious to eat at Wojo’s because they advertise all sorts of wild game burgers. Since I’m boring, I stuck to a regular beef burger, but the Elk, Ostrich, Bison, or Salmon burger always makes me stop and think.
I ordered a Double Jumbo Nacho Cheese & Bacon Burger. The “Double Jumbo” just refers to the size of the char-grilled beef patty. It’s a half pound and topped with liquid nacho cheese and crispy bacon. The options for all the usual toppings, ketchup, mustard, relish, onions, etc., is there, but I opted to leave them all off. The is served on a simple Sesame seed bun. The burger was a mess to handle due to the nacho cheese, but it was actually quite delicious. The char-grilled patty actually holds it’s own with the hot cheese. The sandwich has all the makings of a classic diner burger, but somehow, it tastes just a little better.
J and I both added fries to our meals and I had to get a milkshake from a place that boasts about it’s 100 milkshake flavors. The fries appeared to be the frozen, skin-on variety, but they were a good compliment to our meals. The milkshake I ordered was a Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough. There’s only one size, so my intention was to share with J and L. The smooth shake had little bits of chocolate chips and cookie dough in that were small enough to fit through the straw. When I got back to J’s parents, both J and L grabbed the cup from me. All three of us were able to enjoy that little treat to go along with our lunch.
The prices for five meals was just under $40. Everything was made fresh to order so it took 10 minutes or so for my order to come up which was fine. We could have called ahead, but sometimes it’s just easier to do it in person.
So. I finally ate at Wojos. It’s not hard to see why this place has been around forever. The food is all solid dinner fare and it’s priced pretty cheaply for the area. The school across the street I’m sure helps with business, but Wojos is one of those places that is special for not being anything special. They don’t try to be something they’re not instead owning what they are and doing it really well.