Hot Dogs Al Fresco Are Right Around the Corner

With The Dog House on Lawerence Avenue raising its clapboard shutters recently, can Spring be far behind? Yes, the intrepid Hot-C shared the news with me that one of our all-time fave seasonal hot dog stands is open for business once again – and it did our hearts good to realize that we will be dining on dogs al fresco before you can say, “Hey, where’s the poppy seeds?”

Oh! To once again be under a red and yellow umbrella at a picnic bench, the sun glinting off the chopped onions and Hot-C doing her patented move of inserting fries inside ketchup packets so they get nicely coated.

The city is chock-a-block with outdoor hot dog stands offering the al fresco experience, and many of them are the unheralded gems that make up our quest for the perfect dog at the perfect place. Many others, of course, offer cheap dogs without any concern for aesthetics. Leave it to Hot-C and your Humble Narrator to place the gems into the fine settings they deserve, and honestly decry the lesser joints. Or don't leave it to us -- tell us about your discoveries or mention your own faves.

The Dog House, at 4501 W. Lawrence Avenue, is one of the gems.

Sometimes the Music of the Spheres converges in the unlikeliest of places. And here at The Dog House is a hot dog that modestly brings all the elements together in a harmonious, toothsome explosion of balance and bite to make this a Chicago style dog to reckon with.

“The Dog House” is traditionally the place where bad husbands go to sulk and lick their wounds and consider their transgressions. Here, it’s a gloriously understated unpolished jewel of a place to sit outside and have a great dog on a patio with Vienna Beef umbrellas flying the colors, and a few picnic tables thrown in for good measure.

What makes the dog so good? Care, for one thing. The dog is assembled with the kind of love an artist gives his most prized creation, or a doting mother making sure that her child’s raincoat is buttoned up and the collar smoothed down. Suffice it to say, the dog is dressed for success.

Yes, the bright green relish is here, the steamed poppy seed bun, the crisp dill spear, the fresh tomato slices laying just so, the chopped onions, the tasty and tangy yellow mustard, all present and accounted for. Fries are not available, and are not even missed by Hot-C, a noted fan of the crinkle cut. A tamale side is just fine.

There is, most assuredly, a formula at work here, and a recognition of that formula and pride in delivering it that defies tweaking. Why tamper with a good thing? The owner said that everyone’s conception of “a traditional, nostalgic dog is fine” with him.

It’s easy to see how somebody who moved out of state might conjure up the memory of this fine dog when homesickness and hunger merge. Perhaps we should rephrase: Why mess with a great thing?

Some people look forward to “Fashion Week.” Hot-C and I eagerly anticipate “Hot Dog Season.” We’d love to hear your comments about the hot dog joints that offer an unparalleled al fresco hot dog experience. We'll tie our napkins around our necks and pay them a visit if we can.

(Hot-C at the Dog House, a bike-ride away. Don't make fun of the bike --  I love my beach cruiser.)

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