LINCOLN SQUARE — For years, Lincoln Square residents have wondered, "What's up with the vacant building next to Giddings Plaza?" Now they have their answer: Jerry's Sandwiches has signed a letter of intent to occupy arguably one of the choicest pieces of real estate in the neighborhood.
The Fountain View residential and commercial development, 2326 W. Giddings Ave., is already home to a Paciugo Gelato Caffé and Marbles the Brain Store, but the most visible storefront in the building has remained stubbornly empty, with a long-promised American Flatbread restaurant, announced in 2010, never materializing.
"We looked at it and were floored" that it was still available, said Mark Bires, co-founder of Jerry's with wife Mindy Friedler and Uriah Hose.
Lincoln Square will now become the third Jerry's in Chicago, joining locations in Wicker Park and Andersonville, which just celebrated its second anniversary this past weekend (a fourth, the original Jerry's, closed in 2012).
"We're not trying to grow as quickly as we seem to be. We were actively not looking" to expand, said Bires.
"We were just kind of knocked out by the location," he said. Despite Fountain View's proximity to Andersonville, "Within 24 hours, we said, 'Let's pursue this.'"
Since first opening in 2002, Jerry's has morphed from a counter-service operation to a sit-down restaurant offering more than 100 sandwiches (voted "Best Sandwich" four years running by the Chicago Reader) and nearly as many craft beers.
Current specials, which rotate every few weeks, include tandoori steak and crawfish sausage sandwiches.
"If you're looking for Jimmy John's, we're not it," Bires said.
The challenge as Jerry's grows, he said, will be to maintain its Mom and Pop, neighborhood vibe.
"That's something we talk about and are struggling with," said Bires. "Do we turn into Corner Bakery?"
The solution he and his partners have hit upon is for each Jerry's to be managed and staffed by people from the surrounding community, and for each restaurant to feature a unique design.
The Lincoln Square Jerry's "will not copy the other two," Bires said, though it will lean more toward Andersonville's open floor plan.
Original design, he noted, means the build-out will take longer than a plug-and-play approach.
"In a perfect world — meaning we're firing on all cylinders — we'll be open by June," Bires said.
You've waited this long, Lincoln Square. What's nine more months?
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