Home' South Florida Gay News : SFGN 070115 Contents 40 // 7.1 .2015 // SFGN.com //
How to Eat Like a Chicagoan
Inour increasingly homogenous culture more and more people
are dining at chain restaurants owned by giant conglomerates.
I’m certain that there’s some comfort in knowing that a
hamburger from McDonald’s will taste the same in Fort Lauderdale
as it does in Anchorage, but it all seems so corporate and soul-less.
Besides that, there’s a sense of adventure in eating foods that are
distinctive to a certain region. Sure you can get a Philly cheesesteak at
TGIF or Chili's, but it’s not going to taste authentic.
When I left Chicago to move to South Florida, I gladly said goodbye
to the winters, the corrupt politics (where no less than three governors
went to jail in my lifetime) and, did I mention the winters. I do miss the
three Fs; family, friends and food.
Friends and family I can handle through visits, telephone and
Internet, but you can’t do that with food. In addition to missing the
best pizza in the world (that’s a whole separate column!), I miss Chicago
style hot dogs. In last week’s column I gave you an overview of how hot
dogs vary from region to region. In this column we’re going to focus on
Chicago style hot dogs, as well as its distant cousin, the Maxwell Street
Polish, and another Chicago specialty, Italian beef sandwiches.
In Chicago the hot dog must be an all-beef wiener from the Vienna
Sausage Company. At a typical Chicago hot dog stand they keep the
sausages ready in a hot water bath. When you place your order it is
placed it in a poppy seed bun that has been kept warm over steam.
The dog is then slathered in yellow mustard and topped with finely
chopped onion, bright green pickle relish, slices of tomato sprinkled
with celery salt, then topped with a dill pickle spear and spicy sport
peppers. Ask for catsup and you may be asked to leave.
Almost every hot dog shop will also serve Chicago’s other two
sandwich delicacies. A Maxwell Street Polish gets its name from the
area of the city where it was served as Jewish peddlers hawked their
wares in the early part of the 20th century. The char-broiled sausage,
slightly larger and spicier than a hot dog, is traditionally served on a
hot dog bun (or a slice of Italian bread if you’re bein’ fancy), slathered
with yellow mustard and topped with grilled onion (the greasier the
Italian beef is similar to a French dip; shaved beef is kept soaking
in an au jus that is rich with garlic and Italian herbs. To assemble the
sandwich, a mound of beef is removed from the jus and stuffed into a
split piece of Italian bread. When you order this sandwich in Chicago,
you’ll be asked, “Hot or sweet?” meaning roasted green bell pepper
(sweet) or spicy giardiniera (a relish of hot peppers, onions, celery and
spices in an olive oil base). Those in the know ask for their sandwich
“wet,” which means the entire sandwich is dipped in the jus. It’s a
soggy, spicy, mess, but well worth the extra napkins you’ll need.
When I get a hankering for one of these tastes of home, I head to
one of these spots, both run by ex-Chicagoans.
Voted No. 1 Dry Cleaners in South Florida
Free Pick Up & Delivery
(Home / Office)
Howie's Top Dog
5021 S. State Road 7
Handsome Howie is behind the counter Monday through
Saturday from a little after 10 in the morning until just
before four in the afternoon. His "Chicago Style" eatery is
as authentic as it gets, from the Formica tables to the music on the
“radio” (“WXRT, Chicago’s Finest Rock” via Internet).
Howie has his supplies shipped down from Chicago and serves
the holy trinity of Chicago sandwiches described above. The hot
dog is $3.29 for a single, $4.69 for a double (two dogs in one bun).
His Chicago style comes steamed with all the classic toppings.
If you prefer, he’ll grill the hot dog for you. It can also be served
topped with chili and cheese. His Polish is $4.29 and he’ll do it
Maxwell Street style for no extra charge. Howie’s Italian beef
$4.29 tastes just like home, with just the right balance of herbs
Another flash from home is authentic gyros, carved off the spit.
It’s worlds away from thin strips of processed meat cooked on the
grill that passes for gyros at some places here in South Florida,
even those owned by Greeks (I’m talking to you Peter Pan!). For
non-meat eaters there’s a decent veggie burger and a choice of
three salads. It’s $5.99 for your choice of Greek, Caesar or Chinese.
Hot Dog Heaven
101 Sunrise Blvd,
Conveniently located and the food also tastes just like home.
My only complaint is that they charge more for a Chicago-
style hot dog than they do for a regular one. Granted,
it’s a small up-charge, less than 50¢, but it’s the principal of the
thing. They’re also not nearly as personable as at Howie’s and
the seating is limited to a counter and a couple of outdoor tables.
When it’s raining, it gets pretty crowded in the already cramped
space. My husband calls it a panic attack waiting to happen.
Their Italian beef is a little salty and garlicky for my taste and
it’s a bit pricier ($7.95, almost three bucks more than Howie’s),
but HDH is in an area where rents are higher, so I’ll cut him a
little slack. HDH also serves a couple of other Chicago treats; a
grilled salami sandwich and Vienna’s beef tamales. This tamale
isn’t even close to authentic Mexican, but when they top it with
chili, onions and cheese, who cares? All that’s missing is a side of
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