The boys and girls on Madison Avenue would have you believe that nothing screams America more than hot dogs, apple pie and Chevrolet.
Not sure about you, but I prefer my pies in the George Washington-approved cherry variety. And I cannot honestly tell you how long it has been since I was even a passenger in a Chevy. In fact, Chevy doesn't want you to use the word Chevy anymore, to avoid brand confusion abroad. An early June memo sent out by Chevrolet's Vice President of Marketing Alan Batey even suggested that employees be subjected to a "swear jar" payment for anyone in a factory who uses the term.
We figure Don McLean must owe the jar about a zillion dollars by now for driving his Chevrolet to the...um...leveerolet..
Whatever your choice of pastry fillings or automobiles, the hot dog is doubtless associated worldwide with America.
The hot dog comes in many shapes and sizes, and depending on where you hail from in these United States, it can titillate your sensibilities and strike a chord contentment. Consider the variety:
The Dodger Dog: The Los Angeles foot-long frankfurter served steamed and dressed with mustard and relish.
The Fenway Frank: A stubby boiled then grilled dog that is served on the same bun you might serve with a lobster roll, slathered with mustard and relish.
New York Street Dog: A Hebrew National Kosher Frank, steamed and delivered with a just-made fragrant onion sauce and deli mustard, or simply sauerkraut.
Milwaukee Brat: Not an authentic dog, but those visiting the Brewer's Miller Park would be remiss not to order at least one of these pork and beef sausages enjoyed by millions each year. This version of the dog is grilled and dipped in what they call "Secret Stadium Sauce," nestled onto a grilled roll and crowned with sauerkraut and spicy mustard.
As evidenced by our short list, a dog can define a region.
For our Toque to Toque challenge today we will examine another dog that defines, and pay homage to our friends in the Midwest in what we call the Chicago Dog Showdown: Eddie's Deli and Chicago Hot Dogs vs. Wild About Harry's.
In searching for the perfect Chicago dog, I stumbled across Eddie's Deli in its Abrams Road and Northwest Highway digs on a hot tip from a friend of City of Ate. I was warned that the odd hot dog shop might not always be open during the hours listed on the window, and although they wish to make deliveries, that service would depend on how many employees are actually on duty. But I was told that if I caught Eddie musing about the shop I would definitely get a great hot dog.
Sounds like a challenge I cannot refuse.
I will say it took me three visits before I found the shop open for business, but in all fairness to this deli, my visits were not exactly during peak lunch hours. The first time was at 1:15 p.m., the second at 12:50 p.m., and the final and most successful visit was at 11:45 a.m.. All on different Mondays. Hey Eddie, I hate Monday's too.
Finding the door actually open, I was thrilled to find our man Eddie perched behind the counter surely anticipating his lunch-rush crowd, and was greeted with a primal "What'll you have?" I expected nothing less from a gentleman from Chicago. The place screamed authenticity from the get-go.
I placed my order, and Eddie vanished for a few minutes, reappearing with the huge Chi dog in hand, beaming like a student proudly presenting his science fair project.
The dog was ripe with all the natural and unnatural ingredients that make up the legendary dog: yellow mustard, bright neon-green relish, fresh chopped onion, two tomato wedges, a thinly sliced pickle spear, a deuce of sport peppers and a dash of celery salt all properly placed on a poppy seed bun. It must also be noted that any dressing, and there are no variances from the list, must be placed on the dog, not the bun.
Eddie may not be the best at clocks, watches or sundials, but he knows his Chicago dog. This was a masterpiece.
Next stop was across town to Knox Street where they keep regular hours and make a mean frozen custard. Wild About Harry's creates about 50 flavors of custard and 10 varieties of hot dogs that include the Savannah (think cole slaw), the Knox Street (sauerkraut, Swiss cheese and Thousand Island dressing) and our champion of all dogs, the Chicago dog.
Harry's subscribes to the same Vienna Beef dog that makes the Chicago dog stand out. The ingredients are exactly the same. The same neon relish. The same bun. The same dog that is steamed--never boiled--to give that delightful snap. Wild About Harry's makes an amazing hot dog.
As it turns out, if you sell the Vienna Beef product, you are implored to serve the dog as instructed. They even have instructions on mustard placement (on top, so it's visible).
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We loved the dogs at both Eddie's and Harry's. We even had the dog at Dallas Farmers Market where Old World Sausage Co. has the same instructions about mustard placement and the number of shakes of celery salt.
How do you judge something that is exactly the same? In this case we will award the Toque victory to Wild About Harry's based on their respect for the time and space continuum -- and a damned good dog.
Eddie's Deli and Chicago Hot Dog 5844 Abrams Road 214-692-5844
Wild About Harry's 3113 Knox St. 214-520-3113