As a pre-teen, I became the "bat boy" for my mother's softball team. This meant spending countless hours at softball games and being quite bored. My grandma would often come out to support her daughter, and sneak me a hotdog she had made from home. She would boil hotdogs at home, slap them in a bun, add ketchup then wrap them in foil and put them in her purse. By the time she arrived to the game, they were steamed perfectly and the most delicious thing I can ever remember eating (at that age anyway). I can only imagine now, what others must have thought at seeing a red haired grandma taking hotdog after hotdog out of her big black satchel of a purse, but I didn't care.
I don't quite recall when I had my first Chicago style hotdog, but I do remember heading to the city a few times with my father to visit museums and having a hotdog from a street vendor on the steps before going in. It was quick and easy food, and for me the most fun was to be able to order and eat food outside of any restaurant. It was like a picnic that had standing room only, but I didn't mind.
I can't begin to count how many Cubs games I've been to and been able to enjoy a dog at the park, and I don't know how many miles I've driven out of my way to search out local hotdog stands. I can tell you though, having met a man that is just as crazy about hotdogs as I am doesn't help tame the dog-seeker in me. We've driven 60 miles round trip just to get a Superdawg, and continue to frequent local Chicago favorites like Wolfy's, The Wiener Circle, and Hot Dougs. Last night I was watching a show called, "Chicago's Best" and it was all about hotdogs! Now, I have two more stands to frequent, Frank and Dogs, and Jimmy's. Anyone ever been to either of these?
It may seem crazy that I'm such a hotdog fanatic as it's such a basic food, but as you can see I have a lot of memories tied up in this "food". The hotdog for me is more about the experience then just eating a simple encased meat sandwich. I have fun seeking out new stands and venturing throughout the state in search of the perfect dog. I've had the hotdog served in many a way, from ketchup only (this is only acceptable if you're under 12 years old), Francheezie, Chicago style, Coney Island style, and even American. I have yet to try a New York dog with mustard and sauerkraut but Hot Dougs has served up rattlesnake and even antelope dogs! No matter what you order, just remember that if you're in Chicago, the hotdog is a way of life and whatever you do, don't ever, ever order it with ketchup!