A new sandwich shop coming next month to Irving Park may be the only Chicago restaurant to feature a collection of the Midwest’s greatest creations between sliced bread. J.T.’s Genuine Sandwich Shop, a labor of love from owner Christopher Cunningham, is slated to open in October at 3970 N. Elston Avenue. The space formerly housed Nancy’s Pizza, which closed last year.
Cunningham said he grew up in Moline near the Iowa border and his wife was raised in Grand Rapids, Michigan, so the pair were inspired by the sandwich culture and specialities of the Midwest region. J.T.’s menu will feature around 11 sandwiches, with a few rotating seasonal options. Highlights include Detroit’s cult favorite coney dog, an Iowa-style breaded pork tenderloin sandwich, Italian roast pork sandwiches, Chicago-style hot dogs “dragged through the garden,” and more Midwestern comfort food. “In general, we’re pulling from the best of the Midwest region,” he said.
The 25-seat restaurant is about 70 percent complete, Cunningham estimates. Lately, he spends much of his time patching holes in the walls and ordering kitchen equipment, scheduled to arrive next week. He hopes to create a “super homey and family-friendly” feeling in the space and will offer counter service. Ice cream sandwiches, chili fries, and a kids’ menu will also be available.
A chef with 15 years of Chicago-area experience, Cunningham took a break from cooking professionally to become a stay-at-home dad. He named the restaurant for his sons, whose names begin with J and T. As his youngest prepares to start preschool, Cunningham is eager to get back in the kitchen and start slinging sandwiches to hungry neighbors.
“This is my neighborhood — I live a block away and all our friends are nearby,” he said. “The dream is someday to sneak away to watch a soccer game or pick up the kids from school.”
Humboldt Park stand Lola’s Coney Island opened in January, bearing a sign that read “coming soon the only Detroit-style Coney Island in Chicago.” J.T.’s will offer the Detroit dogs in addition to a host of the Midwest’s most popular regional sandwiches starting in October.
Stay tuned for more news as J.T.’s progresses.