This week, Joelle and Laura are joined by Mark Bires and Trey Elder of Jerry’s Sandwiches. Known for their extensive beer and whiskey selection, great music, beautiful outdoor patio space, and humor, Jerry’s has been serving curious, thoughtful sandwiches in Andersonville since 2012 at 5419 N Clark. Jerry’s is also a featured stop for this weekend’s Andersonville Viking Pub Crawl!
Listen to Episode 86 with Mark Bires and Trey Elder!
Here are some references from Episode 86 that you may want to check out:
- Mark Bires is Owner, Executive Chef, Bookkeeper and more at Jerry’s and has been in the food business his whole career, and with Jerry’s since 2002 when it opened as a small sandwich counter. Trey moved to Chicago originally in the music industry, then worked for Intelligentsia coffee, helped friends open their own food places, and after eating at Jerry’s consistently was asked by Mark and Mindy (owners) to come on board. Trey handles whiskey, music, cocktails, and filling the store.
- Jerry’s opened in 2002 on Madison Street, and Mark remembers that it was around the exact same time as the Democratic Convention. For the convention, Madison was redone, and the West Loop was starting to grow. So, they decided to open there. The concept for the name was that reflected their Jewish heritage, but didn’t want to use their actual name. So they landed on Jerry’s and joke that it’s really named for Jerry Garcia. It was originally “Jerry’s Sandwiches and Deli” but eventually they just used the name “Jerry’s.”
- Many of the sandwiches are named after customers and celebrities. Mindy (Mark’s wife), has the “Mindy F” – blackened chicken, avo, cheddar and chutney. Others are Annie O, (for Annie Oakley, but also their original staff housekeeper.) Customers still can make their own creations. There are about 60+ options on the current menu. At one point there were 100! It got a little out of hand. The Harlan is the most popular, a fried chicken sandwich. Half Acre Daisycutter and Krankshaft Metropolitan. Mark tends to like the specials, Trey likes The Rachel (for Rachel Carson), turkey, avo, pesto. You can view the full menu here.
- They chose Andersonville as a location because Mark and Mindy used to visit for dinner, and as they were viewing second spaces, they looked at (former) The Stargaze on Clark. They decided to go with the space, and fully renovated. They dug a basement, and updated the back patio. Originally they envisioned opening in 4 months, and it took a year. Then, they opened in Lincoln Square four years ago. They were the first tenant there. Recently, they converted and added Geraldine’s in January 2019 next to Jerry’s in Lincoln Square. It allowed them to utilize the space and hire a pastry chef, Eileen Kerbal. The pumpkin cheesecake comes highly recommended! There are plans for pastry at the Andersonville location too
- Jerry’s offers catering and event space rental. This is really their background, as they used to do weddings. They currently can cater to groups of about 20-30 is ideal. Their goal perhaps someday is to acquire more space to offer for larger parties. They’ve done small weddings, and acoustic music events. Their former Wicker Park location had music 7 nights a week. And interesting fact: Music -wise, they only play full albums, featuring Americana for the most part – rock, jazz, blues. Both their food and music is rooted in what people like.
- Change in the restaurant business over the years has been dramatic – case in point, their former location on Division. They watched restaurants clear out. There are many more small concepts now, in contrast with larger businesses like Lettuce Entertain You. For example, someone like Parachute. Mark shares, “There’s such dynamic dining now. You’ve got to really be sharp – and we’re aware of this. You have to know what you want to do, focus on it, execute it properly, and make sure it’s something your customers want.”Trey adds, “The word foodie hasn’t been around that long. There are whole YouTube and Food Network channels dedicated to food. The general public’s perception of the food that they eat is different. Obviously chains still exist, but in cities people are less interested in chains. Food trends in the 70’s and 80’s would be 5 years or so, and now they’re 6-9 months. People look at the way they eat a lot differently than they used to.”
- Jerry’s is participating in the 3rd Annual Viking Pub Crawl this coming weekend on November 16. When asked, “Why do you think people like this so much?” Because people like dressing up, whether they admit it or not! Chicago might have a bad rep for pub crawls – bud we do it right. The right people and attitude has everything to do with it. Andersonville has a very chill pub crawl, and it’s relatively weather-proof! This year’s offer is a cocktail, along with Solemn Oath “kidnapped by vikings” beer.
- Mark’s biggest advice for restaurateurs, “Work in the business for as long as you can. You need to see what unique element you can bring to the table – or something you have a passion for that you can deliver and execute really well. This goes for any industry. Wait for your eureka moment, and be hands-on. You have to be there for all the details because it’s such a hyper-competitive industry.”
- If they could trade places for a day with another Andersonville business, Mark would pick Gethsemane Garden Center – he loves to doodle in the garden, would love to be the gardener in a hat. Trey would pick Woolly Mammoth Chicago. He loves it’s eclectic stuff and their history. If you’re listening – he’d love to hang out!
This episode is brought to you by Meetinghouse Tavern, located at Clark and Winnemac where you can enjoy free pool, darts, skeeball and more. Or, play one of the dozens of board games. They have daily specials to quench all thirst, plus Thursday night karaoke and the Sunday Social Variety Show. Never a cover! Find out more on Facebook.