You know, sometimes you find yourself having recently completed a thirty-day elimination diet. After stopping by a wellness center where you pick up a smoothie packed with all kinds of super foods and nutrients, you realize you are in the neighborhood of the Vienna Beef Factory. Your desire to complete items off your list overrides your desire to keep eating healthy foods, so you head over to give your very first Chicago Style Hot Dog a try. Go big or go home.
The emergence of Vienna beef dates back to 1893 during the World’s Columbian Exhibition in Chicago where Austrian immigrants Emil Reichel and Sam Ladany debuted their hot dog before a crowd of millions. Vienna Beef’s star began to rise when the Chicago Style dog was developed on street carts during the great depression giving hungry passerby’s a hot meal on a bun for the mere price of five cents. To this day Vienna Beef products are still manufactured right here in Chicago (although they now have plants in Florida and California to ensure product freshness).
While the cafe is open to the public, the majority of the diners were Vienna Factory workers. Complete with hard hats and hair nets they flocked to the counter to load up on corned beef specials, chili and (of course) hot dogs.
I made the decision to order two hot dogs (one plain, one Chicago style) because I assumed I wouldn’t be able to take more than one bite of the Chicago dog. Why? Well I am ashamed to admit it, but I…cannot stand…mustard.
I know…I know…my inner foodie self is hanging my head in shame…but I can’t help it! I have never been able to embrace the yellow tinted condiment. I have tried over the years but I always contort my face in disgust when it meets my tongue. I can never find any other explanation other than “it just tastes…like mustard.” Knowing that you cannot claim a dog is done Chicago Style without mustard made my stomach turn, but I was here to give it a try, and was prepared to make the sacrifice.
Oh and I ordered a side of curly fries for good measure. I love a good curly fry. Which basically means I looked my elimination diet in the eye, and punched it right in the face. Good bye healthy eating, I’ve got curly fries and process meat!
So what exactly makes up a Chicago Dog? I am here to tell you:
You start with a Vienna Beef hot dog (naturally), add mustard (shudder), followed by green relish, onions and several wedges of fresh tomato. You top it with one (just one…this is very important apparently) pickle, two (just two) sport peppers and a dash of celery salt. With that you are ready to savor the combination of warm beef, sweet relish, crunchy onions, a kick of heat from the sport peppers and a briny finish from the pickle. It’s a cacophony of flavors in one bite.
Well I took my first bite and was instantly hit with a blast of spice from the peppers. I don’t have a huge tolerance for heat so after that initial shock I removed the remaining peppers from my dog. However, after a few glasses of water I was back for more, and something remarkable happened: I finished the entire thing. Even with the mustard. I don’t know what’s become of me.
I have a few theories about what transpired:
A) The heat from the sport peppers killed my taste buds, therefore making it possible to ingest mustard when it usually makes me want to hurl.
B) The mustard they use is clearly highly processed and full of chemicals therefore dulling the true mustard flavor because it probably wasn’t real mustard anyway
C) I am outgrowing my distaste for the classic condiment.
Time will tell which of these holds true, but after living in Chicago for almost twelve years it was about time I consumed a Chicago Dog. Mustard or not.