Some of the most famous attractions in the world are in Chicago, The Sears Tower, The Navy Pier, The Field Museum, Soldier Field, Wrigley Field, Deep Dish Pizza and last but not least, The Chicago Dog. This is unlike anything I have ever experienced, ever. I'm a New Yorker and to me the only condiments that should go on a hot dog are mustard (spicy brown), sauerkraut and/or onion sauce. That's it. Go to the most famous Hot Dog stand in the world (in my NY opinion), Grays Papaya and ask them for a hot dog with the following: Mustard, Pickle Wedge, Tomato Slices, Onions, Bright Green Relish, Celery Salt and a Sport Pepper. Really, go ahead see what happens. You will be one hungry non-hot dog-eating mother you know what.
With in a few days of moving to the Chicago-land area I decided that I had to experience what is known as the Chicago Dog. Now in the greater Chicago-land area there is no shortage of places to get a hot dog. Seriously, there are more hot dog “stands” then McDonalds, Burger King and Wendy's combined. I do research before I head out. I decide to go to Fradillo's. I pull up and park my car, almost excited about my first Chicago style dog.
I get to the counter of this huge (think ¾ of a square block) hot dog “stand”. Yes it's a restaurant, a big giant hot dog restaurant. I order two hot dogs with everything, french fries and a coke. I do not, will not say pop. It's soda. There I said it. It's just another nuance that makes Chicago different. Now back to the hot dog experience. They are wrapped in wax paper and come in a brown paper bag. The bag is heavy, very heavy. What have I gotten myself into?
I sit down, peel the wax paper off the hot dog and can't believe what I see. It's a salad on a bun. Really. No wonder the bag weighed as much as a basketball. There is so much shit on this you can't even see the hot dog. The raw onions are overflowing, the neon green, yes day glow green relish, the bright yellow mustard, the garden red tomato slices, a sport (hot) pepper and the Kosher dill pickle. Why is there even a hot dog on this bun? You don't taste the hot dog. I was disappointed, there was too much going on in that bun. By the third bite almost all of the “salad” was on the wax paper. Why did I order two? What is it with hiding the meat in Chicago? (please refer to The Chicago Way Part 1)
I go back home, feeling a bit of indigestion rising in my now Chicago Style gut, wondering if we have any Pepto in the house. Unfortunately we don't, so now I get to live with this for a day or two. How wonderful. I'm in my garage and a new neighbor strolls up and introduces himself. He's from here, I could tell by the accent. He's asking all sorts of generic questions and I then ask him a bout Fradillo's. Big mistake that was, apparently it's not Fradillo's that has the best hot dog, it's Portillo's. What the fuck? Then there is Superdawg, Hot Doug's and a plethora of other places that are much better than Fradillo's. How can once place be better than the other when they have the exact same shit on a bun?
So over the next year or so I make a decision to try different hot dog joints. Portillos, Hot Dougs, Zippy's and other local favorites. I went in with an open mind to each place I tried. The only differences I noticed was the atmosphere and the bun. That's it, one place had a fresher bun than the other. They all tasted pretty much the same. The Chicago Dog, the skyline, corruption and the Cubs are on a very short list of things done consistently The Chicago Way.