Much of their food and restaurants get the same treatment. Blind loyalty mixed with undeserved devotion to unworthy subjects. But at least one foodstuff deserves all the accolades, and that would be the humble hot dog. Or to be precise, the Chicago dog. You can have your Coney dogs, and your chili dogs, your four-ways and your all-beef this or kosher that….to us, the not-so-simple Chicago hot dog is perfection in a bun.
It all starts with the beef, of course, but we prefer beginning with the bun. It must be poppy seed, high-gluten, squishy and extra-fresh. The slightest staleness means it will lose the elasticity needed to contain all the condiments. Those condiments, of course, are what separates the Chicago dog from all others. Neon green sweet relish, a dill pickle spear, chopped onions, tomatoes and pickled sport peppers somehow envelope the all-beef Vienna frankfurter in a cocoon of sweet, hot, and savory snap that makes your mouth fall in love at first bite.
Fastidiousness, you ask? Fuggidabadit. A true Chicago dog is an amalgam of messiness that only adds to the pleasure. It is not for wimps and it is not for prudes. It is sensuality on a bun. An umami depth charge of pleasure, invented (in 1929) seventy years before anyone in America had heard of the word.
For years in our humble burg, Chicago Hot Dogs has been serving serviceable versions of these torpedoes of terrific-ness in a seedy setting on North Rancho Drive. And by “seedy” ELV means the place was don’t-look-in-the-corners dirty and barely functioning as a food service outlet. About two years ago, a new owner, Chicago Bill, bought the joint and gave the entire operation a face lift. A bright new paint job, swanky new counter, and comfortable seating now awaits you in the same space where previously you avoided touching anything but the food.
Amazingly, Bill even managed to improve that. The same all-beef Vienna franks are served, but now the buns are fresher, those condiments of higher quality, and the whole experience more in line with what you’d experience at a top notch stand in the Windy City.
We ordered four different dogs (the standard Chicago, Coney, Jordan (with hot and spicy relish), and the Maxwell Street Polish) and every one was as delectable as the next. But for a little more than pocket change — $4.29 — nothing beats the classic.
Unfortunately, when it comes to some classics, longevity is not always better. Case in point: Chicago Joe’s, a place that inexplicably has remained popular with locals for over three decades. Chalk it up to convenience, ‘cuz they sure ain’t comin’ here for the linguine with clams:
….or the warm house red wine served with a canned peach slice in it:
…but on the plus side, Troy Polee (our recent dining companion) remarked his hot sub sandwich was one of the better ones he’s had in a while. So I guess there’s that.
And, one of our favorite writers — John L. Smith — can be found noshing here on occasion.
So I guess there’s that, too.
But rather than obsess over gummy, gloppy canned clams, and wine so bad it gains improvement from canned fruit, we at ELV prefer to savor the succulence of Chicago’s best…a foodstuff every bit as wonderful as our kind of town.
Take it away, Ol’ Blue Eyes:
Four regular sausages with two Green River sodas came to $26 at Chicago Dogs, and those canned clams over pasta at Joe’s came in at $9.50. The wine was so forgettable we forgot the price, but wouldn’t be worth it if it was free.
1078 North Rancho Drive
Las Vegas, NV 89106
820 South Fourth Street
Las Vegas, NV 89102