Wednesday, July 23, is “National Hot Dog Day,” a date that was probably chosen because it’s the middle of summer, and hot dogs and summer go together like Wrigley Field and selfies.
Many people wouldn’t be caught dead eating a hot dog, because they dwell too much on where hot dogs come from. Having gone to the excellent World Premier play of Upton Sinclair’s “The Jungle” last night at the Oracle Theater, I have to admit to a slight feeling of revulsion when the boss man stands over the carcasses of a couple of sick cows and says, “Ahhh, we’ll make sausages out of ‘em.”
Times have changed in the meat-packing industry since Sinclair’s scathing (and depressing as hell) foray into the dark heart of struggling immigrants and their American opportunist nemeses. And that’s good news for hot dog lovers!
Even those who typically turn their noses up at the thought of hot dogs can let it down for a day – why not Wednesday? Even if you have to go to the Four Seasons Allium restaurant and pay fourteen bucks for an “everything homemade” Chicago style hot dog, let yourself go. Indulge! Have a hot dog!
I have a few other recommendations.
You can celebrate Dick Portillo’s retirement by visiting a Portillo’s before the standards go down and they change the name to something big and corporate and stupid, like HoDoCom. It’s a perfectly serviceable dog, from a guy with roots in Chicago (well, Villa Park anyway).
On Damen Avenue, you can go to the source: Vienna Beef Factory Store & Café. Chances are, you’ll be able to chat with the factory guys who make the dogs and who eat there a lot, and put your mind at rest about those Upton Sinclair nightmares.
Having just gone to Superdawg on Devon this past week, I have to admit – as I admitted it to Hot-C, my faithful partner in hot doggery – these guys know what they’re doing. No wonder they’re so famous. They will not tell anyone who makes their hot dogs, so they truly are unique. There’s a small garlic kick in there that works, and the tomato peppers are absolutely killer.
Many people swear by Gene & Jude’s. I’m not one of them. I got bawled out for taking pictures in there once, and Hot-C was rebuffed for asking for ketchup – for her FRIES! Take it easy, guys. You ain’t that great. It’s quite a system in there, and those fries are simple potatoes, unpeeled and cut into wedges on a hand-operated plunging device. Wish I could show you what it looks like.
Anyway, on Wednesday, you see a neighborhood stand somewhere, you stop in, you order a hot dog with the works (even the sport peppers) and you revel in being here -- in the best hot dog town on earth.
And I’ll stand on Nathan’s Famous counter in my Vienna Beef t-shirt and say that.
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