I would tell you that I'm from Waukegan, a town about an hour north of Chicago and right below the Wisconsin border. I'd tell you how the population was nearing 80,000, but we only had one high school. How our soccer team never won a game, but our rifle team was one of the best in the state. And that once I turned 12, I couldn't walk down the street with my girlfriends without a car horn hooting and honking in our direction. One time, to the tune of "La Cucaracha."
It's funny, though, that "Where are you from?" is one of the first questions asked when getting to know someone new, even though where a person is from doesn't necessarily say anything about her. So I lived in a somewhat ghetto town with an overcrowded high school and no Starbucks. I'm sure it contributed a small part to who I have become, but it certainly doesn't define me. No, I think a better question to ask would be "Who are you from?"
Because really, for me at least, it's all about the people. No matter where I am or where I live, who I am all comes down to the family and friends and people that I grew up with, and looked up to, and talked to and listened to and learned from. And where I'm from? That's just the background.
I think the same can be said about food. Take any hole-in-the-wall restaurant, for example. Maybe the paint is peeling and there's only two tables and the receipts are sloppily hand written, but who cares? It's the food that defines the place and gets people talking. And if the food is really good, the lack of impressive decor even becomes a little charming. Because here's this secret gem that no one would know about until they stepped in and ordered a sandwich.
Leno's is one of those places, and even nearer and dearer to my heart than any other hole in the wall because it's in Waukegan, and even though I say that Waukegan doesn't define me, I'm still proud of the fact that this town makes a damn fine submarine sandwich. The bread is strong, the fillings fresh, and the dressing is just plain special. I'll go as far to say that it's the best sub sandwich ever. And I'm not just saying that because I'm from Waukegan; I'm saying it because it's true. Murdo agrees, and he knows his sandwiches. So there.
I do kind of miss the familiarity of Waukegan every now and then, but mostly, I just miss Leno's. So I guess it's not just the people who make up a big part of who I am, but really, it's the food, too. But I suppose you already knew that.
1826 Grand Avenue, Waukegan, IL
(847) 244-7320 ·