If the Director of the Michelin Guide, Jean-Luc Naret, made anything clear on Thursday night’s Chicago Live show, it was this: Chicago has the widest spectrum of dining options in the world. From three-star four-hour meals at Alinea to grabbing a hot dog for two bucks, Chicagoans have 6,000 dining options when they go out to eat.
Yet, for all the choices Windy City citizens have, the weekly radio and stage show – which ended its 2010 run on November 18th – decided to highlight Chicago hot dogs. And, well, why not? Everyone loves a good snappy dog, especially one that’s dragged through the garden.
In the Chicago Live segment, “The Great Hot Dog Debate,” Chicago Tribune’s Bill Daley sat down to talk to three hot dog experts: Hot Doug’s Doug Sohn and America’s Dog’s George and Manolis Alpogianis.
First things first, Daley started off simple: what makes a good wienie? It’s not just good ingredients, Doug said after the audience laughter died down, but also the attention given to preparation. As for Manolis, it’s all about the bright neon green relish.
The hot dog Chicago Live segment was unexpectedly short — the panelists just warming up when their time was cut off — but they still had time to impart some knowledge. For one, why is ketchup a huge no-no with the Chicago-style toppings? Other than Manolis and George chasing people out of the restaurant, the vinegar in ketchup just doesn’t react well with veggie toppings.
There was a hot dog debate in all this, but Daley waited to provoke his panelists until the end. He excused himself by saying he’s from the east, where dogs have more garlic and salt. So, ‘why so bland here?’ Daley asked to the shock of the entire audience.
George hit back hard. “We have a pure product,” he countered. The toppings add, instead of overpower. Put another way, the toppings are like a fine wine, according to Doug; they add to the meal. Speaking of wine, what’s a good drink to pair your dog with? Doug Sohn suggests Mr. Pibb.
The Chicago Live hot dog debate seemed to end just as it started, but hot dog talk didn’t end there. It spilled over into the Chicago Live panel about the Chicago Michelin Guide, where every single panelist – including Jean-Luc, Stephanie Izard, Graham Elliot, and Paul Kahan – agreed. Hot Doug’s is the best hot dog spot in town, bar none.
After Jean-Luc’s praise of the encased meat emporium, he explained why Hot Doug’s wasn’t included in the first Chicago Michelin Guide: people order and then sit down. But he also provided a tip. “Wait for the second edition,” he cautioned. Good gourmet food doesn’t necessarily require a wait staff.
As if Jean-Luc’s comments aren’t enough of a ringing endorsement of Chicago hot dogs, the Chicago Tribune also provided a cake in the shape of a hot dog – and other city landmarks – to celebrate the end of the show’s 2010 run.
Not to get lost in all this Chicago hot dog love, let’s not forget you heard it hear first. Hot Doug’s might end up in the Michelin guide next year, proof positive that Chicago has the best hot dogs anytime, anywhere.
Want to know more about the world of hot dogs? Email me at esanfilippo (at) LizsInk (dot) com.