Hot dogs are considered by many to be America's favorite food. The first U.S hot dogs have roots in New York, St. Louis and Baltimore. But it's nearby Chicago which brought the flavor of authentic Vienna beef to the Midwest.
This Sunday, a local eatery will celebrate all that makes the Chicago dog famous.
Dr. Dawg, a Glendale eatery specializing in Vienna beef hot dogs and other gourmet sandwiches, will host its First Annual Taste of Dr. Dawg, a free tasting event and kick-off for the restaurant's partnership with Hunger Task Force.
The event will feature guest speaker and author Bob Schwartz, writer of the book "Never Put Ketchup on a Hot Dog." As former senior vice president at the Vienna Beef Company, Schwartz spent almost 40 years developing and enhancing strong emotions for the business and for the people who operate hot dog stands.
Schwartz's book is a must-read for anyone who loves hot dogs. A tome of classic proportion, it provides a true insider's view and reflects a true appreciation for hot dogs and the joys of eating them, selling them and talking about them.
According to Schwartz, the inspiration for the title of his book, came from his 5-year-old granddaughter, Edie, who said – knowingly – on a trip to Herm's Palace in Skokie, Ill., "Silly, you never put ketchup on a hot dog."
"A sliced tomato augments," Schwartz explains. "Ketchup detracts. It's too sweet and acidic and detracts from the natural taste of the dog."
Instead, Chicagoans, who are proud of their hot dogs, swear by what is called the "Chicago 7" of condiments: mustard, onions, relish, tomato wedges, pickle spear, jalapeño peppers and celery salt.
"It all blends ... hence the term dragging it through the garden," Schwartz explains. Schwartz theorizes that Chicago's aversion to ketchup dates back nearly a century, when the "dragged-through-the-garden" style of hot dogs made additional condiments unnecessary.
Schwartz himself is a simple guy, who likes his hot dogs "MOT-style," with mustard, onions and tomatoes. Unless, of course, he's indulging in a char dog, a hot dog grilled on an open fire. "Then it's just mustard and grilled onions," he explains.
Schwartz also has a number of beloved stories about the origins of the hot dog.
"One of my favorite stories begins in about 1946 when a tall reckless guy, resembling our remembrance of the Marlboro cowboy, decided to open a little hot dog place on the near-west side of Chicago," he recollects.
"It was on the corner of Polk and Western, and since he was more interested in selling hot dogs rather than marketing an identity, he just called it Polk & Western. Business grew, but he was a restless gambler and just like in the movies he put up his hot dog place as a bet in a poker game ... and lost it.
"But a year later he and a buddy got together and opened another one out further west and called it Gene & Jude's, named after the two friends. They offered only Vienna beef, skinny, natural-casing hot dogs with the fries on top of the sandwich and just mustard, onions and relish as condiments. Absolutely no ketchup allowed. That place is now over 60 years old. Another hot dog operator told me that his Uncle Tony was first in the family in the business when he won a hot dog stand in a card game back in the late '40s."
But, even Schwartz admits that Chicago isn't the only place to find a great hot dog.
"Chicagoans are passionate about their hot dogs and their favorite hot dog places," Schwartz comments. "And folks from Milwaukee should be too. You have great places like Martino's, a 33-year-old icon on the south side, the Dogg Hauses, and now Dr. Dawg and his quality sandwiches in the northern 'burbs."
To chat with Bob Schwartz yourself and learn more about the history of the hot dog, attend The Taste of Dr. Dawg Sunday, Feb. 19 from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. at Dr. Dawg, 6969 N. Port Washington Road in Glendale. David Ross, a.k.a. "The Doctor" and founder of Dr. Dawg, will host the event.
Schwartz will present the origin and history of the famed Chicago hot dog. Autographed copies of "Never Put Ketchup on a Hot Dog" will be available for purchase, with 25 percent of all book sales donated to the Hunger Task Force.
The Taste of Dr. Dawg event will also feature free samples of sandwiches like Da Dawgs (Chicago-style hot dogs), Da Burgers (natural angus beef burgers), Maxwell Street Polish Sassage, veggie sausages, Italian beef and Dr. Dawg's famous hand-cut French fries. The Taste of Dr. Dawg is free and open to the public.
Lori is an avid cook whose accrual of condiments and spices is rivaled only by her cookbook collection. Her passion for the culinary industry was birthed while balancing A&W root beer mugs as a teenage carhop, fed by insatiable curiosity and fueled by the people whose stories entwine with each and every dish. She’s had the privilege of chronicling these tales via numerous media, including OnMilwaukee and in her book “Milwaukee Food.” Her work has garnered journalism awards from entities including the Milwaukee Press Club.
When she’s not eating, photographing food, writing or recording the FoodCrush podcast, you’ll find Lori seeking out adventures with her husband Paul, traveling, cooking, reading, learning, snuggling with her cats and looking for ways to make a difference.