Monday, April 28, 2008

The Chicago Style Hot Dog: A Critical Analysis

I think it really is true what they say. Girls grow up to become their mothers. In my case, that's not a bad thing. Juderonomy is a great role model, and one of the things she always did that I've adapted into my own housekeeping style is generally keeping junk food out of the house. My husband thinks eating right means having iceberg lettuce once a month, and I know that the lack of junk food in the house has driven him to our neighbor's stocked pantry more than once. In fact, I know "I gotta go to Kevin's for a bit" is code for "I hope they aren't out of Doritos."

Anyone who knows me knows I am passionate about food. I love to cook, I love to try exotic and even disgusting foods of the world. There are few foods that I don't like, and I'll even try them again periodically, hoping to overcome my aversions so I can truly become omnivorous. I'm not a strict eater, despite my tendency to keep junk out of my house. I'm a foody, not a moron. I know there's definitely a time and a place for processed, artificially delicious snacks. I like to eat right, but every now and then I have to submit to one of my guilty pleasures: Chicago-style hot dogs.

I'm going to say right now that my critical analysis of a proper Chicago-style hot dog (and if you are a true Chicagoan, you say "haht dahg") is not open for discussion or argument. Just like certain features must be present for a particular vehicle to be called an airplane, certain ingredients are necessary for a true Chicago-style hot dog. It goes a little something like this: A steamed bun (poppy seeds are a fantastic detail and score major points, but are negotiable), the hot dog, of course (which doesn't have to be a Vienna Beef, but it doesn't hurt. And if it's deep fried or grilled, so as to give the dog an intestinal-casing-licious pop when bitten into, all the better. The Wiener's Circle on the North side of the city is competitive in that field), diced white onion, yellow mustard, two wedges of tomato, pickle relish (the bright green kind is preferred), a dill pickle spear, sport peppers (and they must be sport peppers) and a generous sprinkling of celery salt.

Most importantly, there must be not a trace of ketchup on a Chicago-style hot dog. It is blasphemy, culinary sacrilege to put ketchup on any sausage product at all within the confines of Cook County unless you are younger than five years old. It may be a misdemeanor. Let me research that and get back to you.

Anyway, today I gave into my urge and I feel guilty on a variety of levels. First of all, I went for convenience, not quality. Mickey's of Tinley Park can turn out a mean rack of ribs, a tasty gyro and a decent Polish. But I knew better, and instead of going twenty minutes out of my way to go to my friends' restaurant, Windy City Subs, I did the Mickey's run, and here's why I'm disappointed:



Yeah, I ate two of them. So what? Focus on what's important here. What's missing from that picture? Tomato and celery salt. I don't even particularly like tomato, but celery salt makes it taste like something heaven sent. Windy City Subs would never, ever forget those key ingredients. Granted, they don't do the poppy seed buns at either place, but Windy City has the Chicago dog down to such a science, they don't need a trace of opiates to make their dogs more divine than they already are.

And I had to ask for the sport peppers. I'd be happy to pay for extra peppers, and often do. But they should come standard with every Chicago dog. It's a birthright. Again, something you'd never have to worry about at WCS. Mickey's is a hair's breadth from losing me, here. Fortunately for them, I didn't find that hair on my hot dogs.

I will say this: the problem with trying to eat right and occasionally falling off the wagon is that now I don't feel well at all. I knew getting into this little adventure was going to hurt. Mickey's ain't a bad joint, but the next time I feel that need surfacing and I start to itch for a Chicago-style hot dog, I'm going out of my way for the Windy City. It's worth the trip and definitely worth the pain. Back to salads and whole wheat pasta for me, kids, but stay tuned. The infinite mystique of sausage is a life-long passion of mine. I'll be back to wax poetic about the marvels of Maxwell Street Polish soon enough. Peace out.

24 comments:

Mitchell said...

That makes me want a Kansas-style hot dog: burnt on the grill and covered in ketchup and mustard.

Ooooooh doggies!

Nora said...

That sounds good, without the ketchup, of course.

Jude said...

I was "Bap"tized to Chicago style hotdogs a hundred years ago on 87th&South Chicago ave.It was just called the Vienna Red Hot Stand by all who knew it....and it was sublime in the hot dog world!I do need my fix on ocassion,and have a hard time finding a good replacement Stand.Portillos does an OK job,and sometimes those shady looking places are almost there,but like a lost love,nothing will ever replace my original Chicago run it thru the garden Vienna hot dog!!..now I have to get dressed and go get one...Thanks Nora!!!

Nora said...

It's an undeniable craving. Like White Castles! Hey, Mom, think we could get some sliders the mail safely to Mitchell?

Mitchell said...

You know, we have White Castle sliders here in the grocer's freezer section. I can't imagine how horrible it would be to head up a hamburger in the microwave or oven, though.

Anyway, I'm hungry as hell right now. I'd eat one if you mailed it and it got funky

theeriver said...

Actually 9 times out of 10 I eat my hot dog plain, but I'm just a meat and bun type guy. It's all about the meat with me. Pound for pound the hot dog itself is a good hot dog at Mickeys. Now the strange thing I eat alot of stuff without condiments, but I do get a hankering for Chitown style dog now and then, and a maxwell street polish I never get plain. Always with grilled onions, and mustard. Just like I use to get on the original Maxwell Street. Bah I could talk about food for hours.

Sometimes I get a bad order from Mickeys, but they always redeem themeselves in future trips.

Where is Windy City Subs, I gotta check that place out?


Hey it's been a week or so since I said Chicken Little....so there ya go.

Nora said...

Ooooh, River. First things first: I now must have a Polish. God, I am on a junk food bender. Windy City Subs is on Harlem just south of 111th. Remember where Kojak's used to be? It's Windy City now. Get the butter garlic fries. Lordy jeez, they are good.

Second of all, you got all kinds of chicken little with Mitchell's candidate video post! And in a political rant on your blog, And I was too nice to call you out on it, but it is ON, Chicken Little!

theeriver said...

I get the butter garlic fries, but then I don't get the girl. Decisions, decisions

How did I get Chicken Little? Be my guest do call me out, now you have me intriqued, because the sky is indeed falling when I SAY it is. LOL :P

Jude said...

The only problem with Maxwell St. Polish with all the grilled onions and mustard is that you smell like a gym locker room on a hot day....but if you're taking a bus you do get a seat quickly...

Nora said...

That ain't the only problem, Mom. But it's a big one!

Jude said...

Just another good way to get a seat on a Chicago bus!!!

theeriver said...

Whats with all the phallic symbol love?

Nora said...

It's the infinite mystique of sausage. Need we explain ourselves?

Besides, you're the one who admits to deep throating weiners without condiments. Nasty!

Jude said...

never trust a guy who doesn't use a condiment....

Mitchell said...

I try to not use condiments unless I absolutely mustard.

ba-dum--bum

Jude said...

It would be easier to picalilly than to play ketchup with all of you.........(OW...that was bad)

Mitchell said...

Oh, how I relish these times. Swapping puns.

theeriver said...

Nora you don't want to know what I do with Kilbasa.

For Jude, it's not that I am insenstive to my hot dogs needs, but when I use condiments I can't feel what I'm eating.

Ok I'm getting hungry....Time to loosen up the gag reflex, but I digress.

Mitchell said...

Am in the wiener of the pun on a bun contest?

Nora said...

You guys and your buns. You're sick!

Jude said...

Mitchell,you win the Oscar Mayer Award

Ratherto said...

WOW! Mitch now has the record for all time. Most puns used in a blog. Excellent!

Nora, I am a hot dog conis?... coiusuer?...coniseur?...expert. I love hot dogs. I just wanted to say you are 100% right. Those were not Chicago Style Hot Dogs. It makes me sad because Mickey's does make a good hamburger and an awesome gyro.

And just to be clear, it's best to take a date to Maxwell Street or Windy City Subs or Mickey's. Because you know at the end of the date you are both gonna stink something fierce. If you both stink then it's not as big of a deal. Or you could just say screw it and not worry about it. Like when I order my favorite pizza. Extra Cheese, Pepperoni, Extra Garlic and Black Olives...that'll make a woman run for the hills.

Oh...and Mitch you'll always be a wiener in my book

theeriver said...

Bored at work, made something for you guys, you can use if you want.


http://i145.photobucket.com/albums/r223/ccavelle/mccainsays.jpg

Nora said...

Ratherto, Mitchell IS a wiener, for sure.

River, you are too kind. Thanks for thinking of us!