“You hungry?” Murph asks, and it’s sincere and kind of quiet, like he‘s talking to one of his kids. “We can help you with that.”
Bill Murphy is a Chicago icon, with 27 years of hot dogging under his substantial belt, and his customer service skills are as sharply honed as his hot dog making. He’s a pro, and an archetype – the kind of guy you’d want to hang out with over a few beers: a cheerful, proud Irishman with an easy laugh and a starry twinkle in his eyes and a solid sense of his place in the Chicago hot dog firmament.
And what a place it is. Murphy’s Red Hots, at 1211 West Belmont Avenue in Chicago, not far from Wrigley Field, is the 2014 Chicago Now Golden Weenie Award winner for serving up the best Chicago style hot dog in the city.
The Chicago hot dog experience, of course, boils down to more than the hot dog itself. This is an avenue of exploration that Hot-C and I have pursued in earnest for years. The dog is the star, of course, and that’s as it should be. But it’s also about how you feel when you’re at a place – and at Murphy’s Red Hots, the décor is perfect and the good will is contagious. Everyone is beaming. You start beaming yourself. You tell Murph to sweep it through the kitchen – sport peppers? Hell yes.
A patron pipes up: “Did you know that 90 percent of sport peppers produced go straight to Chicago?” You don’t ask for the source – it seems credible enough.
It’s all there: the seven sacred ingredients that make up the classic Chicago style hot dog. The Murphy’s red hot is dressed for success. The produce, including tomato slices and chopped onions are fresh and cut to perfection. The green relish has just the right tang that tiptoes against the yellow mustard and complements the dour savor of the celery salt and poppy-seed bun. The sport peppers are snappy and assertive.
And the dog! You would be hard-pressed to find greater care in the preparation of the Vienna beef hot dogs that Murphy’s employs. It’s easy to see why Murphy’s was Inducted into the Vienna Beef Hot Dog Hall of Fame in 2006.
In a scrupulously clean environment, the snappy, yet juicy and yielding hot dogs are boiled or charred, with char marks that would be the envy of a Michelin chef. Take a look at the care with which Murphy butterflies and grills the foot long char dog:
Our top fifteen places in our little survey of finalists hold a special place in our hearts, and Hot-C I thank everyone who took a moment to fill it out. There’s some passion there.
The thing about hot dog stands in Chicago is that they are personal – they remind us of something good and undeniably American, a refuge that’s unstained by time and strife, a nice slice of our culture and our heritage. Everyone should have their place they like to go to.
For Hot-C and me, this year’s place is Murphy’s Red Hots, and we’re delighted to present them with the 2014 Chicago Now Golden Weenie Award.
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