It’s been way too long since my last blog post but I’ve been on vacation, to a dark place where Vienna Beef hot dog stands don’t exist. Although while stopping for gas in the tiny town of Pentwater, Michigan-at a gas station where you pump first and then pay-I spotted a wooden shack with a Vienna Beef hot dog sign on it. No idea where that came from. Before I went on vacation I hit up Huey’s in Andersonville.
As I’m not really in love with the fry situation at Wolfy’s, Huey’s is probably my top local hot dog place. A recently renovated dining room at Huey’s (as well as a slew of Cubs memorabilia) makes it a preferred destination. Huey’s has a really nice menu of encased meat options, some great specialty burgers and excellent milk shakes. I went with the char dog since it’s an option.
It occurred to me while eating this excellent hot dog that I can’t remember ever eating a super-skinny, natural casing dog that had been charred. I feel like the char dog is always slightly larger. Do the skinny ones not char up nicely? Great fresh cut fries, not even a little overly browned. The wife also approves of their burger.
He speaks the truth! I’ll allow ketchup on hot dogs for little kids but once you hit 8 you should be moving on to the harder stuff (aka mustard). Luckily my nephew has gotten a jump on the ketchup situation, although he might be a few years off from mustard or anything else on his hot dog.
How great is Portillo’s though? It’s a one-stop shop for all of your Chicago street food needs. Italian sausage, Maxwell Street Polish, an excellent and I feel underrated Italian beef and of course an amazing hot dog, another one in my top 5. My understanding is that Vienna Beef makes a special recipe dog for Portillo’s, and it definitely has a different taste and-something I never noticed before-a different size.
Either the buns have gotten shorter or the hot dog has gotten longer. Or maybe it’s just always been that long and I never stopped to actually look at it because I couldn’t wait to eat the hot dog. Portillo’s krinkle-cut fries are also excellent and in my book one of only two variety of fry that is acceptable at a hot dog stand (fresh-cut being the other)
Portillo’s is a chain of course, a rather large one actually that now reaches into Southern California where people there can now get a real hot dog instead of whatever it is they are doing out there in between pretending to care about the L.A. Kings and the Clippers (now that they’re somewhat decent) But just because Portillo’s is a chain doesn’t mean you aren’t getting an authentic Chicago hot dog stand experience. Portillo’s is a machine that churns out perfect Chicago-style hot dogs every time. I seriously want to go back to Portillo’s right now and get a hot dog, and then a beef sandwich and maybe a chocolate shake.
If you want a Vienna Beef hot dog you can always got right to the source. Today I had lunch with Julie and Tom from Vienna Beef at the Factory Store and Cafe. They liked the blog and wanted to meet me, which is awesome. Tom told me some great stories about Jimmy’s on Grand and Pulaski, which was my dad’s hot dog stand growing up and one of my top 5. I’ll save those stories for my post about Jimmy’s, whenever I get around to going back there. Tom also had a great story about a hot dog stand owner in Pilsen and the joy he felt when Vienna gave him a neon Vienna Beef sign. I’d like to start talking to the owners of these stands I visit on my quest because I’m sure a lot of them have great stories about the history of their stand and why they chose that business.
Since Julie was buying I went hot dog as well as chicken sausage. Whoever was making the hot dog must have known it was going to be photographed because the toppings were perfectly arranged on there. Great, natural casing hot dog with everything on it. As I had previously mentioned I thought Vienna owned a pickle company and they in fact do.
Chicken sausage with sun-dried tomato and mozzarella in it was also good and the fries were fresh-cut and crispy. Julie was nice enough to give me a baby-sized hot dog shirt, to add to my future son’s growing collection of hot dog t-shirts.
It was great to meet Tom and Julie as well as a couple of other Vienna Beef people. I’m hoping to be able to meet and possibly interview Bob Schwartz, author of Never Put Ketchup on a Hot Dog, which is not only a great book but a philosophy I live my life by. My only question is, how do I get one of these signs for my living room and will my wife let me hang it up?