Eat WELL - The Jack Benny Sandwich

It seems that over time, various people have wanted to attach Jack's name to food items. Member Brad Zinn sent me information on the El Rancho Hotel in Gallup,  New Mexico which features a Jack Benny hamburger:


I once heard of a Jack Benny special that was essentially a children-sized portion of food for half the price of a regular adult meal.  Canter's Deli in Los Angeles (near CBS, which Jack frequented) features a Buck Benny (a knackwurst with onions).  And so on...

IJBFC UK member Ken Miller decided to pursue Benny gastronomical leads, including his memory of a Jack Benny sandwich at Lindy's restaurant in New York.  In this odyssey, he got in touch with Jaime Meadows, the manager of the Uptown Cafe in Waukegan.  This contact has led to the creation of the Jack Benny sandwich in his hometown of Waukegan, which is now getting raves (see below).

And if you know of any other Jack Benny plates, let Ken know!

Jack Benny Sandwich making a comeback

Published in the News Sun 11/19/03

By Dan Moran

I ate Jack Benny for lunch on Tuesday. And, no, this has nothing to do with Hannibal Lecter or Night of the Living Dead.

To be more accurate, I ate the brand spanking new Jack Benny Sandwich at the Uptown Cafe in Waukegan. To be completely objective about this experience, let me state for the record that Jack Benny is delicious. The sandwich, I mean.

Perhaps a little background is in order.

According to Uptown Cafe manager Jaime Meadows, the Jack Benny came to life when city publicist David Motley received a blind e-mail from jolly old England. It seems a Jack Benny fan by the name of Dr. Ken Miller has fond memories of eating a sandwich named for Waukegan's favorite son at the famed Lindy's Deli in New York many moons ago.

Dr. Miller wondered if there were any restaurants or delis in Waukegan that picked up the practice, and he even included a list of ingredients to craft the perfect Jack Benny: "Turkey pastrami and Swiss cheese. Triple dimension, with Russian dressing overstuffed on white bread."

My mouth waters at the very words.

Anyway, Meadows said Motley brought the information to him and they set about bringing the Jack Benny back to life. Reanimating Jack Benny, you might say. Not as easy as it sounds.

"It took me about nine tries to perfect it," Meadows said. "Apparently, this was a sandwich he used to eat after his shows in New York, but we called around and called around and nobody could find a menu with it.

"So we started with all the ingredients (Dr. Miller) sent to us and played around with it. We had the turkey pastrami and Swiss cheese, then we added lettuce, tomato and onion. By 'triple-dimension,' that's what we'd call a triple-decker, on toasted bread."

The trickiest part, Meadows added, was finding an acceptable variation on Russian dressing. He explained that, lacking a traditional Russian variety, he worked with "more of a Thousand Island dressing" and came up with the final formula.

"I kept my fingers crossed that it would turn out good," he said, "and it's tasty."

I would testify to that. The Jack Benny I devoured on Tuesday required no less than six napkins over the course of its four quarters, as the de facto Russian dressing dribbled unashamedly down my fingers. The rest of the ingredients all but melted in my mouth. In fact, I wolfed Jack Benny down so fast I'm probably lucky I was still able to breathe after the fact. That's living in the land of plenty.

By the way, Meadows insisted that I wash it all down with no less than Green River pop, the kind that those with long memories might recall drinking at a Chicagoland soda fountain once upon a time. It now comes in cans, courtesy of the Clover Club Bottling Co. of Chicago, which emblazons the label with the phrase "caffeine free since 1919."

The Uptown Cafe hasn't been around quite that long, but it is now celebrating its second year on the corner of Grand Avenue and County streets. It is operated by Lake County Enterprises, a nonprofit organization geared toward developing jobs for people dealing with mental illness, and Meadows said it attracts a loyal following of local workers who like to grab a deli sandwich or a bowl of soup for lunch.

In fact, Tuesday marked a rare occasion at the Uptown they ran out of soup. Blame it on the Seattle-like weather, but there was a run on the soup du jour, which can be served in a bread bowl. Fortunately, the Uptown has other specialties for damp and chilly days, including a hot apple cider served with melted caramel.

But back to the Jack Benny. It made its debut earlier this month at a Waukegan Downtown Association benefit and will soon have its own sign above the Uptown Cafe marquee: Home of the Jack Benny Sandwich. Meadows said he plans to offer it in a lunch special that includes a 39-cent can of pop.

You get the feeling that Jack Benny wouldn't have had it any other way unless, of course, the whole deal was 39 cents. Or maybe less.