Let us Now Praise Famous Dogs

Chicago hot dog

I was in Chicago for less than 45 minutes before I had a Superdawg, and all of a sudden I had to rearrange my entire visit. I’d laid out an itinerary of fancy eats and highbrow treats, and somehow, shamefully, forgot about the Chicago hot dog.

Have you had one of these? They’re phenomenal—a dog (preferably, and perhaps necessarily, from Vienna Beef) snuggling cozily in a soft steamed poppy seed bun. Yellow mustard, some bizarre neon green relish, dill pickle, tomato, chopped onions, sport peppers, and a key dash or three of celery salt. The textures are a riot, from the snappy dog to the squishy bun and the crunchy pickle, and the flavors mix and match differently with every chew.

congatulations to Thomas and Theresa

Thankfully, my friends Thomas and Theresa came to my hotel with a bag of Superdawgs as a greeting card. Being the excellent sort of people who refer to their regular watering hole as the “bar they belong to” and who get engaged at a Cubs game (she proposed to him, hiding an engagement pocket watch in a bag of popcorn), I guess they’d decided that they needed to correct me. I broke out my printed itinerary and started scratching out, shuffling, and writing in dog-eating opportunities. I had no idea I was in for a weeked of mating rituals, cussin’, and dong jokes.

First, we drove past Superdawg, on our way to dinner, just to take in the magnificence of this palace. It’s a classic 50’s drive-in, but with a pair of 12-foot neon hotdogs standing on the roof. The SheDog leans flirtatiously while the HeDog, dressed in a YELLOW LOIN CLOTH, courts her by flexing his muscles. This is more than I need to know about how they make their hotdogs, but it’s a statement. No one who’s not serious about their hotdogs would work under such a display.


The next day, I found myself at the Wieners Circle, an old-time dog shack holding on in long-ago-gentrified Lincoln Park. As a prelude to dinner at Alinea, we mowed down by-the-book dogs, available with a char option, while listening to the staff scream obscenities at one another and at the customers. Half of them are doing nothing but yelling, but somehow, magically, the orders get filled perfectly, out of memory. I noticed that the tip jar says, “You will tip the jar, bitches!”

“Lunchtime is nothing. You should check it out late at night, when everyone’s drunk,” my friend Emily told me. “That’s when they start getting impolite.”

I fear for a young woman who actually comes in to complain about her dog. “Uh, yeah, um… it’s a little burnt,” she says.

The guy behind the counter, a wiry man who brooks no bullshit, takes a look at it and then directs his vitriol instead at the guy at the grill. “Burnt? Huh? F*** burnt, that motherf***er CRISPY!” He smiles at the woman. “We’ll get another one for you.”

And then there was Chubby Wiener—ok, again, more than I need to know about hot dog reproduction, but I’m always a sucker for restaurant signage that insinuates cannibalism, like when a barbecue joint has a happy pigs smacking their lips thinking about the ribs. The Chubby is jumbo sized, and frankly was too much for me to take (quit it with the jokes! What are you, 13?) after an enormous, superb meal down the street at Spoon Thai, the last of a weekend full of enormous, superb meals. But I was on my let-not-a-dogless-day-go-by plan, so I soldiered on. I considered the Capitalist Pig—a wiener with a bottle of Johnny Walker Blue for $250—to magnify my folly, but I stuck with the original. The dog burst with juice, and I regretted nothing as a rolled myself onto a gurney and had the ambulance take me to the airport.

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