It might not be Adam Richman-worthy, but the South Side Italian Sausage sandwich at Wiseguys Chicago Pizza and Sandwiches in Horn Lake is going to defeat 90 percent of diners who try to go all "Man vs. Food" on it. It's going to smack you around, even if you're in the victorious 10 percent.
It's laughably large, an enormous curved link of sausage on a soft hoagie bun, tips poking several inches out of each end. It's served with red gravy and peppers (go ahead and get the hot ones, which you know you want if you're on the path to tackling this bad boy.)
Here's the deal, though: The sausage is excellent. It's spicy but not hot, grilled until there are a few brown spots here and there, and it's juicy inside (but, um, those juices are really the fat). There's a light touch of fennel, a hint of oregano. What you mostly taste here, though, is meat.
There is a lot of attention to meat at Wiseguys, and just as much to indulgence. This is not the place to eat a virtuous meal. In addition to this outrageous sandwich, it's also the home to Chicago-style hot dogs and that peculiar creation, the Chicago deep-dish pizza.
Full disclosure: I'm not a fan of the deep dish. I haven't been since I ate my first slice more than 30 years ago at Gino's East in Chicago, a pizza joint regarded by many as the only place for deep dish (and disputed by just as many, too, as pizza inspires the devotion in Chicagoans that barbecue does for us). Even then I was puzzled by the dish that calls itself pizza but really — come on! — is a casserole. No matter, I understand the appeal it holds for millions of pizza lovers around the country.
In case you're unfamiliar with Chicago deep-dish pizza: It's not a thick-crust pizza, which pizza chains might have led you to believe over the years. The crust is a bit on the doughy side, but it's not thick. It's spread in the bottom and up the sides of a round pan that is roughly 2 inches deep. Into this shell go the toppings, in upside-down order. Cheese on the bottom, fillings, more cheese, sauce and cheese on the top. It bakes for 45 minutes, maybe an hour, and voila! -- your pizza casserole is delivered. Get your knife and fork ready.
Does it taste good? Of course it does — it's pizza on steroids. But it's too much. Too wet. Too deep. Too — and this might be the only time you'll get this from me — cheesy. That didn't stop me from working my way through part of a piece, for work purposes, and there were people with me eager to eat it up.
The verdict is: If you like Chicago deep-dish, you'll love it. If you've never had it, you should try it. And if it's not your thing, don't worry. The thin-crust pizza at Wiseguys is mighty good, and the decadent sandwiches are delicious.
New York and Chicago really have it in for each other when it comes to pizza and to hot dogs. For the latter, the Windy City whips down the Big Apple big time. I say Chicago-style is the only way to eat a hot dog. (And at Wiseguys, it comes with a side of hand-cut fries, all for $3.)
Vienna Beef dog. Poppy seed bun. Dill pickle, sliced tomato, nuclear relish, sport peppers, onions, mustard and a dash of celery salt for good measure. Truly, I didn't even eat hot dogs until I discovered this magic mix of toppings. Sport peppers are similar to the small green peppers that come in vinegar sauce, so beware the heat; nuclear relish is a psychedelic green sweet-pickle condiment.
But as good as that all is on a hot dog, it's even better on a hot hot dog.
As long as you can take the heat, order the Chicago Firedog, which is a spicy Polish sausage, and go with the same toppings.
And while you're in Polish sausage territory, give the Chicago Maxwell Street Polish Sausage a try. This one comes with grilled onions, mustard and sport peppers. If you omit those, there's still a huge amount of flavor, but no heat. It's also excellent.
I'm not as fond of the Italian beef. The giardiniera (pickled vegetables, in this case the hot topping) was nice, as were the roasted peppers (the sweet topping), the bread and the gravy or jus. It was the thin deli-sliced meat that I didn't like, though I wouldn't rule out giving the sandwich another try, and I don't question its authenticity.
The thin crust pizza does not have thin crust, by the way. It's not thick, either, but it's on the soft side -- nothing cracker-like about this one except the very edge. Toppings are exceedingly generous, the tomato sauce has just a touch of sweetness, and unless you have something against cheese, you'll like this pizza.
Wiseguys is in an old house on U.S. 51, and houses generally make for convivial restaurants. That's certainly the case here. It's homey and comfortable, servers are downright friendly, and there are kids' drawings on the walls.
Wiseguys Chicago Pizza and Sandwiches
Address: 5441 Hwy. 51 N., Horn Lake, Miss.
Telephone: (662) 342-5334
Hours: Sunday noon-8 p.m.; Monday through Thursday 10:30 a.m.-9 p.m.; Friday 10:30 a.m.-10 p.m.; Saturday noon-10 p.m.
Reviewer's choices: Chicago dog with house-cut fries, $3 (it's the only sandwich that comes with fries, though you can order them separately); Chicago Firedog, $3.75; South Side Italian Sausage, $5.50; Chicago Maxwell Street Polish Sausage; $4.25. Pizzas range from small thin crust supreme at $12.95 to a large meat lover's deep dish at $25.95 (plain cheese and veggie pizzas cost less, starting at $5)
Alcohol: Beer and wine