an member station
Chicago Hot Dogs
1078 N. Rancho Dr.
The name almost says it all, and like the town it’s named after, Chicago Hot Dogs is all business and no fluff. The business is street food chi-town style which is another way of saying that vegetarians and vegans should beware and steer clear, but if your taste runs to steer--in this case--all beef dogs, smothered in condiments, polish sausages or Italian beef sandwiches on good Goronella bread, then you'll find a slice of heaven on North Rancho in the seediest shopping center this side of north town. The address is known as Twin Lakes Plaza and from the look of things, its heyday was around 1963. Most of the stores feature Spanish names and run down exteriors and I’d bet a case of champagne that it’s owned by an absentee trust fund or some old Vegas family that spends more time dodging taxes than improving the neighborhood.
But as any road food warrior will tell you, good taste is often found in bad surroundings and Chicago Hot Dogs is no exception. It’s about the only non-gringo threatening store on the lot, but resolute souls should still beware, the tastiness of the sandwiches will definitely threaten your waistline—and since the most expensive menu item is about five bucks---you can enjoy your cholesterol-fest without denting your wallet.
Another threatening feature-–at least to those with timid tongues--is the oily hot and sweet diced cherry pepper relish that food snobs like me call giardinere. This stuff is smeared on everything on the menu, and it even makes plain bread taste great. Best of all, you can take quarts of the stuff home with you, for the next time you need to spice up your life, your hot dog, or your wet Italian beef and melted mozzarella sandwich. . .yum.
We should be thankful to Chicago Hot Dogs for bringing a slice of urbanity to our pathetically suburban foodscape, and I guess we should thank those chintzy landlords for keeping the rent low enough to keep one of the last real street food vendors in business.
This is John Curtas.