It’s been there for more than 40 years. Situated on the corner of 38th Street and Indian School Road, the Chicago Hamburger Company is a beacon of hope for those looking for Chicago-style favorites. While the neighborhood changes around them, owner Bob Pappanduros and his staff remain dedicated to their menu of hamburgers, hot dogs and beef sandwiches.
Before it was a hamburger joint, the building was home to Pete’s Red Hots, a Chicago-based eatery that served gyros and Italian beef. In 1981, the restaurant changed hands and names and the Chicago Hamburger Company was born. Pappanduros took over in 1989, and this year he will celebrate 30 years as the owner of Arcadia’s little piece of the Windy City.
Pappanduros’ father owned a restaurant back in Chicago called Peter B’s. While he was growing up, Pappanduros worked in his father’s kitchen, continually learning the ins-and-outs of the restaurant business for over a decade.
“I moved to Arizona in 1982 and promised myself that I’d never work in a restaurant again,” Pappanduros laughed. “Eventually I moved up to kitchen management and when I got to the point that I was working too many hours, I decided it was time to get my own place.”
Pappanduros had primarily been working in dinner “houses,” but knew that he didn’t want a place with a large staff or where he would constantly be working nights.
“I liked working in restaurants, but I didn’t want to give up my life. My goal was to have a place where I’d be able to go home at night and be with my family,” Pappanduros said.
The Chicago Hamburger Company is situated within Arcadia’s business community, which Pappanduros said helps with the popularity of the restaurant.
“There are a lot of people working during the day. We have a great lunch crowd,” he said.
Guests are also in for a treat when they step through the door of Chicago Hamburger Company, especially if they happen to be fans of Chicago sports teams.
Plastered on every inch of the walls is Chicago sports and city memorabilia, from a life-size cutout of Michael Jordan and photo of the 1985 Chicago Bears team to street signs and photos of customers wearing the restaurant’s t-shirts in locations around the world.
“This collection is over 40 years old. Some of it was here when I got here, some of it is mine or my family’s stuff, but a vast majority really comes from customers,” Pappanduros said. “They’ll have something – this restaurant means something to them – and they bring it in and give it to us.”
The most popular item on the menu is the Windy City sliders. Pappanduros says they go through about 400 to 500 sliders every day.
“When I first bought the place, in my infinite wisdom, I was going to take the sliders off the menu,” he said. “Then, my first day here back in 1989, two-thirds of the people who walked in ordered sliders. I didn’t realize that that’s what we were known for.”
The Chicago Hamburger Company boasts a devoted staff; all but two of them have been there for more than 20 years.
“The reason why I’m still here is because of my crew. Two of them have been here for 30 years. I don’t have to worry about turnover,” Pappanduros said.
When he’s not manning the restaurant, Pappanduros spends his time as a “hockey dad,” watching his daughter’s games or playing in a neighborhood band with his friends.
For more: chicagohamburger.com.