For whatever reason, whether it’s a restaurant’s small size, out-of-the-way location, or just a lack of publicity, some places tend to fall under the radar with a larger audience. This Rock City Eats series takes a look at these Underrated Places.
The restaurant: There are any number of places in the Little Rock area that include hot sandwiches on the menu, but only a handful that specialize in them, and even fewer that do them well. Chicago’s Phillys & Gyros is one of those restaurants. Located across from UALR on University Ave., Chicago’s might not be the most easily accessible restaurant. But taking the time to seek this place out is well worth it.
The atmosphere: Simply put, there’s not much of one. Chicago’s has no indoor seating to speak of, boasting only a scant few outdoor tables with umbrellas for the hottest parts of the year. While that means “dining in” at Chicago’s is only really possible during milder weather, Chicago’s drive-thru hums along nicely, and wait times are rarely a problem.
The service: No matter if you stay in your car or walk up to the window, sandwiches come out hot and in a hurry. Chicago’s is a family operation, and I’ve never had or witnessed any service problems. The friendly people behind Chicago’s are one of the big reasons you should check this place out.
The food: Of course the biggest reason to visit Chicago’s is the excellent menu. Chicago’s puts out a lineup of roughly 20 sandwiches, and I haven’t had a bad one yet. What’s truly impressive is the way it nails regional favorites, like the Philly cheesesteak. In Philadelphia, there are two kinds of cheesesteak sandwiches; one with some combination of provolone and American cheese, and one with Cheese Whiz. Chicago’s does them both, and does them both well. And with “Chicago” in the name, you’d expect to see an Italian beef sandwich, and you’d be correct. Get this one “dipped,” or soaked in a beef broth, topped off with giardiniera, which is a spicy veggie relish.
There are plenty of other sandwiches, including a spicy Buffalo chicken, a Chicago cheesesteak and even a Philly burger. In all cases, the secret to the excellence at Chicago’s is in the seasoning of the meat. The cooks here take great pride in making sure the chicken and beef get just the right amount of salt and spices to bring out their flavor. I’ve had more than half a dozen sandwiches at Chicago’s so far, and the seasoning has been exact every time.
By the way, don’t skip out on the fries, which I put up there with some of the best in the city. Hand-cut and crispy, they are a perfect complement to your sandwich. Of course, if sandwiches aren’t your thing, check out Chicago’s gyro salad, fresh fruit smoothies or even its breakfast menu.
The price: It is almost criminal how inexpensive Chicago’s is. All sandwiches are just $6. That’s it. Want fries and a soda? That will cost you just two bucks more. That’s $8 for an outstanding sandwich, fresh-cut fries and a drink. Chicago’s will make you want to come back and will be easy on your wallet when you do.
The verdict: This is one of my favorite off-the-map restaurants in Little Rock. With sandwiches this good and prices this low, Chicago’s deserves to have a line into the parking lot each and every day. Get there and check it out for yourself.
Chicago’s Phillys & Gyros
3600 S. University Ave.
Hours: 8:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday, 8:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Sunday