I thought I’d take a minute today to do a quick review of an awesome new restaurant just down the street from me here in Duluth, Georgia, Taste of Chicago. Well the sign out front actually says Taste of Chicago Wings, but I think even though they serve hot wings that part of the sign is a hold over from the last place that occupied the space (which indecently had awesome hot wings but was mysteriously shut down one day.)
Taste of Chicago opened up a couple weeks ago and I stopped in for lunch because they had a huge hot dog sign in the window and I was just really in the mood for one. When I got up to the window it occurred to me that this place was more of a hot dog vendor than a wing place as there were dozens of Vienna Beef signs littering the counters and walls. I was completely unfamiliar with the term Chicago Dog, didn’t even realize the city was known for anything beside their wind and deep dish pizza, but according to a poster on the wall I was in for something special.
I’ve never really been a big fan of putting all that much on a hot dog, I’m pretty much just a mustard kind of guy, though I have had a decent slaw dog or two here in Georgia. So the idea of getting one of these insane looking Chicago dogs worried me a bit, but I’m always up for a challenge and if that’s what they’re known for then I was going to try one (I mean why order breaded shrimp at a fancy seafood place when you can get something better, ya know.)
So I bellied up to the counter and decided on one Chicago Dog with the works ("drug through the garden" as I would soon know it) and a Maxwell Street Polish also with the works. When I got back to work and opened up the container I saw a daunting task ahead of me, but I dug in and soon was in love with these hot dogs.
Besides the million and one poster and laminated flyers advertising the entirety of the Vienna Beef product line, the place is pretty unassuming. The owners are proud of their little place; you can tell by the way they’ve posted their perfect score on the restaurant cleanliness and health form right in the front window. They also have it listed on the menu that they happily served Chicago for 16 years before relocating to Georgia. There aren’t many places to sit and I couldn’t imagine eating in, though I have seen people do it in the last two weeks, but what do you really need out of a hot dog place anyways right? The menu is also pretty basic, but once again we aren’t talking fancy schmancy dining here, it’s a hot dog place. Pretty much your choices are two or three variations on either the classic Vienna Beef dog or polish sausage, an Italian Beef sandwich, a surprising variety of fried fish (trout, whiting, tilapia, and catfish), and a few side items like fries, onion rings, slaw, and pizza puffs, not to mention your basic in hot wings.
I decided I was going to try the fried trout and she went with a Chicago Style dog and a Maxwell Street Polish. I assume the older couple working were also the owners as they’re the only ones I’ve seen in the place, and the guy was doing both the cooking and taking orders when we arrived. He was nice and when he brought out the food he mentioned that there would probably be a few bones in the trout, as he had to de-bone it himself ’cause the supplier wanted too much for the de-boned stuff. Glad I got the warning because I hate bones in fish, but going in wary helped to not get one stuck in my throat. The fish was excellent, some of the better fried fish I’ve had in our area. It was crumb style breading and done to perfection. The fries were also good, crispy and hot as they’re cooked to order. It was also served with a bun and a side of slaw.
The Polish sausage was also good, though not all that different from the regular hot dog in terms of taste. I’m used to sausages being s little plumper, but it wasn’t bad. With the works it had mustard, sauteed onions and a couple sport peppers (pickled Serrano peppers.) It’s served on a steamed poppy seed hot dog bun. Like I said, it was good, but nothing special, so I suppose I’ve been spoiled on German sausages.
The best thing by far though and more or less what this place is known for is it’s Chicago Style hot dogs. So what is a Chicago Style Hot dog you ask? Well it’s an all beef wiener on a steamed poppy seed bun with more condiments than you can shake a stick at. First comes the regular yellow mustard, followed by chopped raw onion, and greenest (practically neon) sweet relish I’ve ever seen, a dill pickle spear, tomato wedges, 2 sport peppers, and the coupe de grace, a sprinkling of celery salt. Now, don’t get me wrong, though a lot of Chicagonians will protest that this is the only way to eat a hot dog, I won’t say that this is for everybody. If you’re not a fan of sweet, sour, salty, and spicy thrown in together with more consistencies that you can manage all at once than this isn’t the style of hot dog for you. If there was ever a time to use the silly phrase: "There’s a party in my mouth and everyone’s invited", than this is it. These hot dogs are crunchy (onions, pickle, peppers), wet, meaty, soft, gritty (poppy seeds), sweet, savory, spicy, sour, and salty all at the same time, and if the dog is dressed correctly, in every bite.
I did a little research into Chicago Style Dogs after I got hooked on them and I found this awesome website that has pretty much everything you’d ever want to know on the subject called Hot Dog Chicago Style.com. I’m going to try and prepare these at home this weekend, and so far the only two things I’m having a hard time getting my hands on are pickled Serrano peppers and that weird neon relish, and even though I’m not about to break down and do this yet, you can find these online direct from Vienna Beef here.
Taste of Chicago has been pretty much packed and the phone was ringing off the hook at lunch time, so I hope the place does well, because if it doesn’t I’d hate to have to try and buy that relish on the internet. I never pictured myself as the type of guy to buy relish over the internet, I mean that’s crazy right?