No, I don't mean these two festively-garbed grill jockeys. I mean the things they're cooking, those deliriously unhealthy yet delicious hot dogs. Much like our pizza, people in Chicago and its suburbs take hot dogs very, very seriously. We have our own hot dog "style," so to speak. According to our friends at Wikipedia,
"A Chicago-style hot dog - as served in the U.S. city of Chicago, Illinois and its surrounding suburbs - is a steamed or boiled all-beef, natural-casing hot dog on a poppy seed bun. The hot dog is topped with mustard, onion, sweet pickle relish, a dill pickle spear, tomato slices or wedges, sport peppers, and a dash of celery salt; but never ketchup."
Amen. I'll never forget an episode of PBS's "The Frugal Gourmet," back at the height of his popularity, when Jeff Smith practically drooled while describing the "salad on a bun" that accompanies a Chicago dog. Truthfully, I tend to lean more toward just mustard on mine, but stand in line at a hot dog spot and listen to the detailed orders being placed - Chicagoans order hot dogs like Seattleites order their cappuccino.
And lest you think the current fast-food smorgasboard of chicken sandwiches, turkey burgers, fresh fruit cups and Tex-Mex Ranch BBQ Thai Cilantro Kiwi-flavored Whatsit is cutting into Mr. H. Dog's popularity, here's the hard truth: According to the Oxford Encyclopedia of Food & Drink in America (2004), more than 1.25 billion pounds of all types of hot dogs are sold every year in retail stores alone. That's a lotta dogs.
How about here in Des Plaines? Where's the best spot for the perfect dog? And while we're at it, who's got the best fries, since enjoying a hot dog without fries is tantamount to treason in these parts? A PlainTalk reader specifically requested that we take a local survey of the best hot dogs, so please send us your favorites! All you need to do is click on "Comments" and start typing. And hurry up - I'm getting hungry!