The Great, Unexpected Hot Dog Experience

hot-dog-bowlingHow much of a great hot dog experience is about the hot dog – and how much is about the place or circumstance where it was enjoyed?

Recall your best hot dog experience. Where was it? Who was with you?

Maybe you were with your Old Man at your first-ever baseball game at Wrigley Field, and the vendor was there to place it right it your hand – or more than likely pass it down the row. They pass the money down the row the same way. The communal, cooperative aspect of that seems astonishing in a fractured world. But it still happens at the ballpark.

Maybe you were out late with friends, perhaps drinking a little too much, and through the haze, you spot a garishly lit hot dog stand that’s still open – and you order two. And at that time and place, they are the best things you ever had.

Maybe you spent an afternoon at a park pushing your kid on a swing, and you spot a hot dog cart nearby, with the colorful umbrella and the potato chip tree – and you and your kid go over there and order up a couple dogs. And maybe you ignore your kid when she asks for ketchup.

Or maybe (and this describes my most recent great hot dog experience) you’re at the bowling alley with your Chicago Media League on bowling night, and your friend T.r. Slyder, who writes the blog “Lists That Actually Matter” for Chicago Now, brings you a couple of dogs with everything from Chicago’s Dog House on Fullerton. Manna from Heaven. The Gift of Good Eats, dropped right there in front of you.

That’s him, photo-bombing the picture, while the precious ingredients of the classic hot dog are in danger of spilling out. It’s a moment. And then, a few moments later, both dogs were gone.

Those were good dogs. All the right stuff, right down the steamed Rosen’s poppy-seed buns. If you’re jonesing super-hard for a Hot Doug dog, you can get the duck, buffalo, elk and smoked alligator sausage here, too. But, as always, make mine an all-beef classic Chicago dog.

Hot dogs at the bowling alley put me in mind of the Mad Magazine parody of “Come Live With Me, And Be My Love:”

“Come bowl with me this evening dear
And we will kill twelve cans of beer:
We’ll join the others on the team
And eat three quarts of peach ice-cream.
And in between each frame we bowl
We’ll eat a burger on a roll,
A dozen hot dogs, sacks of fries
A meatball and two apple pies;
Come bowl with me, you really should --
The exercise will do us good.”

The social aspect of hot dogs cannot be denied. They have their place in the American iconography. There are old men who still get teary eyed recalling their first hot dog at Coney Island, or their first Super Dawg brought to them by a nubile carhop balancing the tray on the driver’s side window, or that time everybody on the team got a hot dog and a root beer after a Little League game.

I know. I’m one of them.


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