I was talking to someone about Chicago the other day and they mentioned a place called JK's in the Renaissance Towne Center....which kind of rang a bell. It really should have as this used to be Chicago on a Bun.
It wasn't the Chicago Dog's that drew me here. As much as I love a good Chicago Dog, heck a bunch of years back I even did a comparison post, I'm sort of an under-dog (no pun intended) kind of guy.. While I love a good Philly Cheesesteak as you can tell by the three part posts I did a while back, with subsequent follow-up posts, it was the Roast Pork Sandwiches that I remember from Philly. The same with Chicago, I really enjoy a good Chicago Dog, but absolutely love a good Italian Beef, with my favorite being Johnnie's Beef with Mr Beef running second. Yep, I was here for an Italian Beef....though I won't be ordering it "beef...juicy...hot" here. That might get me arrested.
I like what they've done with the decor. A nice fast casual look. Service on this first visit was interesting....the young man handing out, "bro'....dude" like Santa passing out candy at a Xmas parade. He was quite nice, if a bit too friendly and rather efficient though.
This was pretty much what I expected. In spite of the rhapsodic praises from my colleague, this was pretty much a glorified roast beef dip. The jus was lacking in beef flavor, the giardiniera seemed mass produced tasting like it had a base of Italian Dressing. The roll was much too hard....I like a little crusty, I appreciate the effort to stand up to wet beef, but this was much too hard. Speaking of hard, those tater tots were really fried "hard"....though it's hard to not enjoy tater tots, right? The onions were weird, heated but not soft....I say either saute them or serve them raw. I did enjoy the roasted jalapeno....not a classic addition to the Italian Beef; it's usually pickled hot peppers, but this did a some interest to the sandwich. I'd say Lefty's makes a better version of the "glorified roast beef dip in processed jus." To me, this really isn't a Chicago style Italian Beef, which I don't think exists in San Diego.
I did decide to return to try the Chicago Dog, I wanted to see how it compared to Chicago on a Bun. There was a bit of sticker shock with this one. The last time I had a Chicago Dog, it came with fries and a drink for $4.75. This dog was $5.24!
This was actually not bad....I thought it needed more celery salt, but I almost always think that. It was "dragged through the garden" and everything looked in order. The bun was fluffy, nice sport peppers, and of course the neon green relish. Mustard, of course. The dog itself seemed not quite up to snuff. The signs say Vienna Beef, but this was strangely gummy, and lacking in the "snap" I enjoy.
Not sure what to make of that. Overall, a decent Chicago Dog, not the best, not the worst, maybe the most expensive. Still, I think it was a vast improvement over the Italian Beef. I am wondering about the burgers....but I'll wait and see if anyone out there has tried them.
JK Burgers & Hot Dogs
8935 Towne Center Drive
San Diego, CA 92122
Open Daily 11am - 9pm