Guest Blogger Takes On Hot Dog Challenge

Someone with greater fortitude than I currently possess has graciously decided to take on a challenge on my behalf – that of a reporter and update provider on how the Vienna Beef Hot Dog Challenge now underway is impacting her.

Her name is Stephanie Esposito, Media League Bowling Team Captain Extraordinaire, rugby expert, and all-around Bon Vivant. Herewith, is her report, in her words:

This year, my wrap up of summer comes in a piece of wax paper, pillowy bun, pickle, tomato, sport peppers, relish, onion, and a Vienna Beef hot dog (no mustard for me). 

Just 15 days ago, Vienna Beef launched their Hot Dog Stand Challenge. Where their ‘Top Dogs’ will be adorned with a variety of prizes, swag, and even a trophy. My wonderful and loving boyfriend sent me an article the morning of the competition, we exchanged a few wiener jokes. Just this past spring, he and his friends had a ranking of Chicago hot dog toppings, from most important to least. His friend dismissed this challenge as just something novel to discuss.

I, however, hear the word challenge, and in my head a trumpet sounds and rise to it I must. Now nearly 200 hot dog stands later, my boyfriend is realizing my true competitive nature. 

This is no easy feat, and there is a lot of planning that has gone into my ventures, which I cannot yet reveal as my competition is still close and there is much left to do.

However, I will say that as fun as it has been there has also been frustrations. Like any new competitions, there will be snags along the way. Young teens whose managers are on vacation and the materials are locked in the office. People stealing the materials. People thinking they’re just fliers and customers grabbing them from employees handing them all out in a single day.

Vienna Beef, according to stand owners, have been diligent with trying to get stands new materials ASAP. They are now keeping books more attended to, yet still, here or there, a fresh-faced worker on the register stares at you in bewilderment, or you have to help them understand and fix their display. 

There also is the opportunity to get out and do something COVID safe. See parts of the city, suburbs, and surrounding states even, and appreciate what we have and one of the best parts of summer and Chicago. A few years ago, someone I know came to Chicago for the first time. All he wanted to do was try as many Chicago hot dogs and pizzas as possible to see what all the hype is about.

It has been a blast seeing all the different ‘nichey’ things that different stands display.

Beyond debate, a poppy seed bun out ranks a plain one. Pickle with a cucumber too will outshine just having one or the other. The most expensive item so far was $12 for a hot dog, no fries included, and a milkshake, in the suburbs. The best deal, $2.75 for a hot dog and fries. For me, when it comes to fries, fresh-cut trumps them all, with crinkle cut usually ranked last. However, in Indiana, Corky’s has a garlic butter flavor they put on their fries that makes me question my dislike for the crinkle cut.

Labor Day I hit over 50 stands.

Like any good Labor Day road trip, I am exhausted after a full twelve-hour day in the car, but with a lot more opportunity to stretch the legs than a normal long ride. Stay safe, enjoy the end of summer, and remember it’s not the end of hot dog season here in Chicago.

It’s the start of football tailgating season.

Your Humble Narrator warmly thanks Stephanie Esposito for this guest blog.

And as always, pass the celery salt.

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