The Great Hot Dog Project – U.S. Cellular Field
[This is the fourth in a running sequence featuring one of my favorite street foods: The Chicago Style Hot Dog. A snappy sandwich which can be considered a 400 calorie snack or the cornerstone of a typical Chicago lunch from 1983: two hot dogs, a basket of fries and a Coke. Check out the first installments here.
Chicago Style Dog Official Ingredients: Poppy Seed Bun, Steamed Hot Dog, Yellow Mustard, Chopped White Onions, Mint Green Sweet Pickle Relish, Tomato Wedges, Dill Pickle Spear, Sport Peppers and Celery Salt.]
U.S. Cellular Field a.k.a The Cell, Comiskey Park
333 West 35th, Chicago, IL
Summertime. Baseball. Hot Dogs. Motherhood. Apple Pie.
The summer in Chicago starts with the consumption of two things: a baseball game and a Chicago Style Hot Dog. For most Chicagoans, the chains of winter come off around May, about eight weeks into the Major League Baseball season. If you’re not from these parts, it’s an astounding thing to see.
“Chicago is the best summertime city in the entire United States.” ~ Charles Barkley, a native of Atlanta and noted caricature.
Anyone who commutes on the Kennedy knows the daily travel time increases by 50% when it gets hot. The people have been locked up and shut in for seven months and are ready to come out swinging. For grouchy old souls such as myself, it can be extremely aggravating, but for most city dwellers, it gives the community a sense of energy and the stink of alcohol induced vomit.
I started my 2012 summer at U.S. Cellular Field on a breezy, comfortable Friday night in May. As noted above, the summer doesn’t start until you’re watching baseball with a hot dog in hand. The unfortunate reality is that if you’re picky about your hot dog, the ballpark can be a challenge. First of all, there are hundreds of kiosks selling similar items, not identical items, forcing you to walk halfway around the stadium to make a decision on what to eat. Knowing this, I still blew it. I WAS FOOLED BY THE CONDIMENT STANDS!!! All I saw was ketchup and mustard. No longer were the onions and relish in a metal box with a dispensing wheel. It was total confusion. I ended up getting a Premium All-Beef Hot Dog for $5.25.
The hot dog came in a hard, dry white bun, unfortunately, but it did come with grilled onions, which I love. The dog looked to be the massive 1/4 pound skinless Vienna Beef wiener. I added the yellow mustard at the condiment stand, only to find out later that this particular stand was an anomaly. Most of them actually did have the metal boxes with onion and relish. Oh well. They made it difficult on me. Penalty. It was a solid dog, no doubt, but I think they need to do a better job with this. The ballpark is an ambassador for the city. The Chicago Style Dog is a quirky item that tourists tend to try. Not surprisingly, I get aggravated when obvious out-of-towners say things like, “I’ll have one of those famous Chicago hot dogs” and proceed to order the piece of junk dog for $3.75 with no toppings and report that it “wasn’t anything special.” No kidding. You just bought a white bun with a mediocre hot dog and put some mustard on it. Argh!!
Here it is. To be clear, this is the $5.25 premium dog, not the $3.75 junker.
U.S. Cellular Field
Premium All-Beef Hot Dog: $5.25
Hot Dog Rating: 4.0
Restaurant Experience: 2.0
Hot Dog Quotient: 2.5
The true heartbreak came after looking for additional condiments for my Premium dog. I came across this:
My heart sank into my chest. Look at that uniform! That hat! The pizzazz! This piece of junk hot dog in my hand was just dripping in disappointment. I had to go back. Thankfully baseball games last three hours, leaving me plenty of time to work up an appetite for a real Chicago Style Hot Dog.
This guy was great. The added sass to the dog is like the 10th ingredient. Almost a necessity. Listen to him. My ticket to the ball game came complete with a seminar on the Chicago Style Hot Dog from a true professional.
This guy had it down. It really was one of the prettiest Chicago dogs I’ve had. No need to run through the ingredient list for the millionth time; it had them all. Very well done. Everything was solid except for the always difficult tomato. All-in-all an exceptional dog. At $6, it’s pricey, but you’re at a ballpark. Unfortunately for this dog, the Hot Dog Quotient doesn’t care about your location.
U.S. Cellular Field
Chicago Style Hot Dog Cart: $6.00
Hot Dog Rating: 8.0
Restaurant Experience: 10
Hot Dog Quotient: 3.8
1. Superdawg changed its menu since I was there last. They now have the option of buying only a Superdawg rather than the Superdawg with fries. Thus, the price has been reduced to $3.00. The Hot Dog Quotient landscape is dramatically different at this point.
2. I need to work on the HDQ. Currently the only difference between the Hot Dog Quotient and the simple Rating/Price Ratio is that the U.S. Cellular Chicago Style Hot Dog gets a boost over Dino’s and Home Depot.
I’ll leave you with this. Fireworks night at Comiskey.