Kielbasa #atozchallenge


Maestro, a little appropriate music, please!

Kielbasa is called Polish sausage in Chicago, to distinguish it from German sausage, Italian sausage, etc. Since Chicago has the second-largest Polish population of any city in the world (Warsaw is #1), Polish sausage is ubiquitous there. In fact, when Mary and I got married, we had a traditional CBS dinner at the reception: chicken with dumplings, beef with gravy, and Polish sausage with sauerkraut.

Kielbasa (Polish sausage), whole and sliced, on a bed of sauerkraut (source: Omaha Steaks)

Makes me hungry just thinking about it…

The Maxwell Street Market closed (or, rather, relocated) a number of years ago so the University of Illinois at Chicago could expand, but it used to be the place to go to get bargains on Sunday mornings (usually things that “fell off a truck,” if you know what I mean). It was also the place to go to hear the blues and to get a Maxwell Street Polish, a chunk of Polish sausage on a bun with grilled onions and mustard. I used to ride the Halsted bus through that neighborhood on my way to and from work, and there were two stands on Halsted that both claimed to sell the “original.” No matter what day of the week it was, you could smell the Polish sausage cooking.

My father-in-law used to go down there on Sunday mornings to see what bargains he could get. Any time I see a picture of Maxwell Street, I look for him.

Our neighborhood was home to the Baltic Bakery. They sold bread (particularly rye) and other baked goods, of course, but they also sold Polish sausage that they made there and had hanging on a rope to dry. It was one of those places where you heard English, Polish, Lithuanian, Spanish, and probably a few other languages spoken. Food brings people together.


Author: John Holton

I'm a writer and blogger who writes and blogs about things that interest me.

51 thoughts on “Kielbasa #atozchallenge”

  1. I love Kielbasa and the best is Polish. I actually buy Garlic Kielbasa but I don’t cook it but just slice it for a snack. I enjoyed watching the video because it’s so European with the oom-pa-pa(spelling??) and the older people enjoying themselves and dancing up a storm. I love seeing the 2 ladies dancing which is normal in Germany/Austria/Polish and have done this with my mom when we went to the German Club during folk arts festival.


  2. John,

    Mmm, I haven’t had any Kielbasa in a long while and your post just made my mouth water! I love your storytelling filled with memories from your past. I wish I had interesting stories to share. I think it’s neat that particular parts of the country or city largely influenced by immigrants such as Chicago with its heavy Polish population. Maybe I’ll make a Maxwell Street Polish. That sounds so good!

    Curious as a Cathy
    A2Z iPad Art Sketch for K ‘Kid’


    1. You can cook the sausage and onion and put the sandwich together, but I can guarantee it won’t be the same. I think the secret to it is to cook it on a grill that’s at least 50 years old and has never been cleaned…

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Well…that’s a bummer! I don’t have a grill that hasn’t been cleaned for 50 years. Maybe since I haven’t had the real deal I won’t notice this crucial element. 😄


  3. Maxwell Street! – fun times. Love polish sausage and sauerkraut, but it doesn’t like me so much anymore. Portillos, popular Chicago area fast food chain, offers “Maxwell Street Polish” periodically. Tried it once; doesn’t compare to the good Maxwell Street stuff.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve been to Portillo’s. There was one in Oak Brook we used to go to for lunch once a week. I think the trick with the Maxwell Street Polish is the age and cleanliness of the grill, just as I’m sure the secret to why pizza tastes so good in Chicago is that they never clean the ovens.


  4. I love kielbasa. A lot of people in my town make it for Easter and Christmas. The Blue Seal kielbasa factory in Chicopee, MA is about 30 minutes from my home. They used to have a kielbasa festival , they would display the world’s largest kielbasa. Not sure if they still hold the record for that though.


    1. Almost, right? We have a couple of places here that are run by guys who’ve moved from Chicago. One guy used to get all the ingredients from Chicago, and his was the closest to home that I found.


  5. My mouth is starting to water as well. My mother used to fix kielbasa with sauerkraut on a regular basis and I always loved it. Sausages don’t agree with my digestive system like they used to, but I still have Polish sausage now and then. Now if I could find some really good kielbasa and that that packaged processed stuff like I find at the supermarket then maybe I’d be fixing it more often.

    Arlee Bird
    Tossing It Out


  6. I felt like getting on a plane over to Chicago reading this. Yum! I have some German heritage and Mettwurst sausage has been an infrequent treat for me, and something I associate with my grandparents. Now, I eat it and think of them.
    Best wishes,


    1. I spent a lot of time in Cincinnati when I was working, and thought they had the best sausage at Riverfront Stadium when the Reds were still there. They had bratwurst, mettwurst and knockwurst, and I tried all of them. Delicious! My stepfather was German, and he and I would meet at the Berghoff Restaurant in Chicago a couple of times a year. He loved their pork shanks…

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Oh John – it’s been a long time since I had sausage of any kind, but I’m a Chicagoan and know it to be fact that a Maxwell Polish is a thing of pure delight. 🙂 I just had lunch, so my mouth shouldn’t be watering but it certainly is.


  8. I used to take the south train to the Baltic Bakery. Lived in Waukegan and traveled every day to work in Chicago………haven’t thought about that place in 40 years! Thanks!


  9. Holy Cow, I didn’t know you knew about Maxwell St. I use to live in Bridgeport (Mayor Daley’s neighborhood). My Dad took us to Maxwell Street one time I was a Freshman in high school & I really wanted what they called a cabretta (not sure of the spelling – it was a leather jacket – kinda like what they called a car length coat), and dad couldn’t really afford a real leather coat at the time so we went there & he jewed him down (as he called it) to a fantastic price & something we could afford. Mom use to get her high heels there too. Back then 5″ heels were hard to find, but they had them there. hahaha~ We use to stop for those polish dogs cuz my dad loved them. When we moved away from the neighborhood I remember going to see my gramma and getting off the bus at Archer & 1 block past Halsted going east, but then I55 was built and it was all different. Gramma’s neighborhood was strictly Italian and we use to have the St. Joseph’s Day parades and carnivals and food everywhere. We even had a peanut man drive a cart through the neighborhood. YUM WOW Those were the good old days my friend!!! I had an Aunt who was polish that made great sausage smothered in onions and she would say I’ll bring you some if you’ll play me a polka. I knew one on the accordion and that was the Baby Doll Polka. Ah great memories thanks for refreshing my memory! Very cool! Very cool indeed! hugs


    1. We lived in Back of the Yards. Mary grew up there and I moved there after we were married. I think we talked about your grandmother and where she lived. I think that might have been the neighborhood Frankie Laine was from…


  10. Kielbasa sounds fabulous – I’ve eaten plenty of German sausages with sauerkraut in Germany but not these polish ones. Food does bring people together.


  11. I live in the capital of Australia. A few years ago the Polish Embassy had an open day which we went to. As part of the day we had traditional polish food for lunch, which included ssausage which was yum =)


  12. My mom called it “ka-boss-ey” and I thought it was synonymous with all sausage for years. I also grew up around ethnic diversity. The variety was highlighted by the many different Catholic churches (German, Polish, Czech, Slovak, etc.) and the food served at the many summer celebrations.


    1. Our old neighborhood had six churches within walking distance, same thing: Ours was Lithuanian, several were Polish, another was Mexican, and I think one was Slovenian.

      I was in New Jersey once and the parish closest to the hotel was having their carnival. They were Italian and all the food was made by little ladies in black dresses who had come here from Italy in the Forties. They couldn’t speak a lot of English, but they could cook…

      Liked by 1 person

  13. I’m late, but I’ll finish your AtoZ eventually, promise! Anyway, I’m not ususally in a place I can watch the videos with sound, but today I was, and it was the perfect background music to learn about Kielbasa in Chicago! 🙂
    Jamie Lyn Weigt | Writing Dragons


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