ARMOUR SQUARE — For about the last year, Greg Burke has been tooling around in a modified mail truck, peddling schnitzel to conventioneers and downtown lunch crowds.
He’s hoping the small restaurant space, which is replacing the shuttered Pat’s Italian BBQ, will be open by April 1, right in time for the White Sox home opener.
For the uninitiated, schnitzel is a piece of meat pounded thin, coated with breadcrumbs and fried. Burke makes his with pork, tops it with grilled peppers and onions, and squeezes it between a Turano roll.
And he swears it's a knockout.
With no formal training other than throwing a massive tailgate in the South Lot outside Soldier Field for Bears games, Burke has no illusions about his culinary prowess.
“The one thing I know is how to cook quality meat on a grill,” he said.
For that, he’ll use the small restaurant’s big brick charcoal grill for cooking prime rib, lamb and Polish sausage. He also plans to work in a few specials, including pierogis, fried shrimp, dumplings and homemade smoked meats. Also on the menu will be a roster of Eastern European salads.
Burke, 38, of Bridgeport, said he “jumped into the food truck craze” after his father’s Hammond, Ind.-based aluminum and glass business folded, the victim of a bad economy.
“It was gone overnight,” he said.
Since launching the Schniztel King last year with the help of his fiancee, Kristin Casper, he’s been an outspoken critic of the city’s laws governing food trucks, calling them "unfair and unconstitutional." Operators face fines of $1,000 to $2,000 for violating parking restrictions or setting up too close to brick-and-mortar restaurants.
He’s filed a lawsuit against the city, which continues to weave its way through the court system.
For now, Burke, like so many in a neighborhood packed with Sox fans, has his eyes set on Opening Day.