There are some foods you can only find in certain areas of the country: Springfield has its horseshoe, Louisville has its hot brown, and Sandwich has the beef roll.
I’ve lived in the Kendall County area for 26 years and have traveled throughout the United States, and I have never seen a beef roll offered at a roadside diner or cafe. But in Sandwich, there are multiple places to find a beef roll.
This time around, I tried one from Gene’s Chicken and Pizza. It’s also called Gene’s Carry Out or, simply, Gene’s. This spot in downtown Sandwich has been serving families for 37 years.
Gene’s has a menu with a wide variety of tasty meals, from their battered fried chicken to their fried seafood offerings like perch, and has a number of specials during the week, like fried chicken livers on Thursdays or a fish fry on Fridays with cod, perch or popcorn shrimp.
They also serve their own pizza (thin and deep dish), burgers, and other specialties. And soft-serve ice cream, if you’re ready for a treat after your meal.
But when I entered Gene’s one recent Friday evening, I was there to pick up some savory treats, including a beef roll.
I’ll be honest, I had no idea what a beef roll was before I ordered it. A beef roll, at least one from Gene’s, has Italian beef, bell peppers and onions along with mozzarella cheese rolled up into pizza dough, similar to a calzone ... but different.
The beef roll from Gene’s was full of beefy flavor, and the onions and peppers added an extra kick to complement the creamy mozzarella.
Gene’s also offers a variety of other rolls: a chicken roll, chicken gyros roll, ham roll, vegetarian lover’s roll, turkey roll, tuna roll and gyros roll.
The interior of Gene’s is old school, warm and inviting. There is plenty of seating, and you can also order and then sit at the bar in back. You can tell, especially from coming into Gene’s on a Friday night, that this is a place where the locals line up for some tasty favorites. It reminded me of a lodge in the north woods of Wisconsin, with folks eating, drinking and being merry.
And some, hopefully, eating a beef roll.
• The Mystery Diner is a newsroom employee at the Record Newspapers. The diner’s identity is not revealed to restaurant staff before or during the meal. The Mystery Diner visits a restaurant and then reports on the experience. The Mystery Diner is not intended to be a restaurant critic but does highlight the parts of a dining experience that he/she can recommend.
IF YOU GO
WHERE: 125 S. Main St., Sandwich
HOURS: 4 to 10 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday; 4 p.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday; noon to 8 p.m. Sunday
INFORMATION: 815-786-9058, facebook.com/genescarryout