September 2, 2014. Chicago. (ONN) GI Joe Perl is legendary. He’s the Sausage Man. And anyone who’s spent a night or two in a neighborhood Chicago tavern has most likely met him. He’s unforgettable, and so are the sausage, meat and cheese samples he happily spreads across each bar he visits with his bushy black mustache, white butcher’s coat and his six-foot-three frame. Even more unforgettable are his genuinely kind manner and the overly generous helpings of free samples he’s been carrying into local taverns for 20 years.
The Perl family’s sausage empire exhibits at a 2013 business expo. Image courtesy of the Chicago Sun Times.
Your author met GI Joe the Sausage Man just about 20 years ago, like everyone else, while sitting in a small Chicago bar. I still consider myself a friend and a proud and loyal customer to this day. I can’t recall the exact night or even the exact bar I was in the first time I saw Joe Perl walk in the front door with a basket on his shoulder loaded with an assortment of sausages, meats, cheeses, sauces, crackers and his patented little golden menu/catalog hand-out. But I can honestly say I never forgot it. Whether it’s his generous and kind personality or the generous and hard to find products his family company offers, GI Joe Perl, aka The Sausage Man, makes an impression.
Perl’s All-American Sausage - in store, online
It seems like everyone from southern Wisconsin to northwest Indiana, and every stop in between, knows GI Joe Perl. But not many are aware that in addition to the roving sausage truck Joe has driven for two decades, taking orders as fast as he can give out free samples, he also has a physical store and an online store. GI Joe Sausage isn’t just a deli on wheels like many assume. He and his family - icons in the Chicago sausage industry - are building a sausage empire. And they’re doing it with the most passionate and loyal customer base you’ll ever find.
For deli lovers who can’t wait until the next time GI Joe walks into their life again, there’s Deli Direct – the outlet store and the online store. The physical location is located at 1420 Ensell Rd. - Lake Zurich, IL 60047. And the online store is located at www.DeliDirect.com. To order via phone, customers can call 1-888-JOE-PERL. Not out of character for the Sausage Man, there’s even a hotline they call the 24-hour “Sausage Emergency Number”.
Catchy slogans, unforgettable food
If there’s one thing the Perl family and GI Joe know, its deli meats and cheeses. And illustrating the colorful characters they are, the catalog of deli items available from Deli Direct and the Perl family has some pretty unique and memorable names. In addition to the offerings of salamis, hams, sausages, bratwursts, kielbasas, steaks, chops, bacons and chickens, you’ll find items like ‘Lotza Hotz Giardinera’, ‘Big Dick’s Perky Pickles’ and ‘Bite Me Harder’ horseradish mustard.
In addition to the large variety of meats and cheeses, GI Joe and Deli Direct also offer BBQ sauces with unique names like ‘Dead Dog’, ‘Don’t Get Mad, Get Naked’, ‘Bullfrog Roadkill’, ‘Uncle Dougie’s World’s Most Dangerous’ and ‘Flamin @ss’ chicken and wing sauce. For readers who were caught off guard by some of the names, wait until you see the names of some of the products offered under the ‘Hot Sauce’ category. They include ‘Sudden Death’, ‘Semper-Fi’, ‘Bad Day At Baghdad’, ‘Raging Red Rectum’ and not to be outdone, ‘Rectum Ripper’. You get the idea - they’re hot.
Chicago’s GI Joe Sausage has met and made an impression on so many people over the past two decades, he’s become somewhat of a local icon, an urban legend even. People tell tales of being in a bar late at night, barely able to remember which bar or what its name was. When suddenly, a tall man with a giant tray of sausage and cheese slices smiled and told them to help themselves. “Who is that?” they ask. “That’s GI Joe, the sausage guy,” the reply always comes back.
As far back as 2001, the Chicago Reader was reporting on the Sausage Man. ‘At eight o'clock on a Thursday night Joe Perl's standing at the bar with a bucket of meat,’ the 13-year-old article begins, ‘In his left hand he has a four-pound ham. In his right a small knife. A half dozen men at the bar are unwinding with shots and beers. Perl's workday is just beginning. “GI Joe!" someone shouts.’ Yep, that’s basically how we all met Joe the first time.
Perhaps some of you caught the 190North episode on TV in 2010, when the show traveled to a longtime northwest side favorite - Edison Park Inn. A large bar on the far northwest side that your author has some pretty wild memories from going back 20-plus years, it was the perfect venue in the heart of GI Joe Sausage country to show off how beloved the man and his meats have become. The television cameras justly capture the entire gigantic bar give the Sausage Man a standing ovation amid deafening cheers. One thing is abundantly obvious after 20 years of knowing GI Joe. You don’t have to be a sausage lover to love the Sausage Man.
“You gotta love a sausage THIS BIG!”
That’s the title we chose for this article. But we actually got it from a YouTube video one of GI Joe’s loyal customers posted online because he apparently just couldn’t contain his excitement anymore and had to share it with the rest of the world. Beginning with a premise many of us share, Stew’s YouTube video begins, “Hey, this is Stew for Lunch. And the greatest thing ever is a guy that can deliver meat, right?”
“Well, last night, hanging out at Flat Rock Tap, 6732 Calumet Avenue, GI Joe, not the Kung Fu grip one, but the guy who brings sausages to the bar and sells it!” Stew goes on to describe his prior evening, “He is a Chicago staple and he comes to northwest Indiana. And you know why? Because he knows good meat people love his meat.”
Stew then goes on to hold up the biggest sausage many of us have ever held in our own hands, typically reserved for the deli case at the grocery store. “I have to tell ya, this is one giant sausage,” Stew exclaims with obvious joy, “Look at this thing. It’s a hot beerwurst. I had some last night and it’s mighty spicy. He then goes on to hold up the other items he acquired from GI Joe the previous night, like a Cajun sausage, habanero stuffed olives, and some jalapeno cheese dip. Stew then holds up his giant sausage and exclaims, “You gotta love a sausage this big!”
For more information on, to check out their catalog of products or to place an order, visit GI Joe the Sausage Man and Deli Direct online at DeliDirect.com. Or call (888) Joe-Perl, (563-7375).
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