Saturday, May 22, 2010

Chicago Dog — FAIL

My long weekend in Chicago was chaotic and exhausting. I got to spend a lot of time with my family and tried some interesting food. But I have to be honest and say that I think I failed when it came to trying some of this city’s classic culinary delights.

For example, I left without eating a deep dish pizza. FAIL. I couldn’t squeeze in a trip to any of the four Rick Bayless restaurants (the guy is lazy and doesn’t work on Sundays AND Mondays, which turned out to be the only free time I had with my nephew’s graduation taking up much of Saturday). DOUBLE FAIL.

But probably the most disappointing of all is that I left without eating a Chicago hot dog. MAJOR FAIL.

Oh, don’t get me wrong, I had a list of possible locations to check out the legendary hot dog topped with pickles, hot peppers and creamy mustard. Despite the warnings about no ketchup on a Chicago dog (you know I’m a ketchup fan), I was still up for the taste challenge.

After doing some research, my short list included such buzz-worthy locations like Fat Johnnie’s Famous Red Hots, Superdawg, and the extremely popular Hot Doug’s (where I read the wait can be up to an hour).

But what I realized when I arrived in town was that all these popular hot dog places were nowhere near the heart of the city. Some of them were close to the airport or in some outlaying neighborhood that wasn’t even on my hotel map. And because I didn’t have a rental car, I wasn’t about to pay $10-plus for a taxi ride just for a hot dog.

Also, I was with my family and they aren’t die-hard hot dog fans like me. But on Friday, the day my younger sister arrived with her family, my brother-in-law suggested getting a Chicago dog. He asked someone at our hotel and they recommended Mister J’s Dawg ‘N Burger, which was just a few blocks from the hotel.

Mister J’s definitely had the ambiance of old town Chicago with its greasy-spoon décor. A scan of the menu showed various hot dogs, Italian sausages and gyros. But nothing yelled out “Chicago dog” or at least nothing was labeled such. All I saw was Vienna beef dogs.

So instead of getting a Vienna beef dog, which for some reason reminded me of Vienna sausages in the can, I got an Italian sausage with sweet peppers. So really, is a Chicago dog any kind of sausage that you eat in Chicago with peppers on top? That’s pretty close, right?

Well, my brother-in-law and nieces got the Vienna dog, which I’ve learned now is the elusive Chicago dog (not called Chicago dog when you’re there like how Chinese food is just food when you’re in China). So at least I know how it looks. And my Italian sausage was fine, although slightly dry.

I did get a banana milkshake at Mister J’s and it was perfect!

Mister J’s Dawg ‘N Burger, 822 N. State St. (at Pearson), Chicago, PH: 312.943.4679.

More dog love:
Hot Dogs Put on a Show (Show Dogs)
Frankly It's More Slim Dog than Hot Dog (Let's Be Frank)


Carolyn Jung said...

I actually sat across from Rick Bayless at lunch on Friday in Monterey. He was being honored as educator of the year by the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Alas, my lunch didn't include any of his amazing Mexican specialties. Guess I'll have to fly to Chicago for that, just like you! ;)

cheeseplatesf said...

Oh it's too bad that you weren't able to try any of the Chicago treat. My native Chicago-ian (?) boyfriend took me to all of his favorite places when we were there last year. The Chicago dog ranked pretty high on my list of favorites.

The Chicago Dog I had was in a bar/ club district (I don't remember which area). I saw a line going out the door so I figured that's where to go. The Chicago Dog is a work of art. All of the toppings are layered just so and the proportions of each condiment were really balanced. I didn't even miss the ketchup (I'm a big fan too!) I probably had 5 Chicago Dogs in the 6 days I was there!

But I tell you, all of the food I had over there was SO heavy. I was eating salads for 2 weeks when I came back to SF! So maybe it's better for you to have missed those Chi-town delights!

Single Guy Ben said...

Carolyn, just remember to be in Chicago Tuesday through Saturday because Bayless restaurants are closed the other days.

Cheeseplate, I agree, that's what I've noticed about Chicago dining, it's real big Midwestern portions!