My husband and I traveled to Schaumburg, IL last weekend for a wedding. We met up with our good friends, Lisa and Mike. My husband had one request. He wanted a Chicago hot dog.
“What is that?” I asked. Blank stare back at me. I guess asking that is like being in Philly and asking what a cheesesteak is.
For those of you who don’t know, like me, A Chicago Dog is an all beef hot dog on a poppy seed bun with bright green sweet pickle relish, chopped onions, tomatoes, sport peppers, mustard, celery salt and topped with a kosher dill pickle. NO KETCHUP. Apparently putting ketchup on a Chicago Dog is paramount to mortal sin. You can go to hell for it.
Our friends took us to Portillo’s in Schaumburg. Dick Portillo opened his first restaurant in a 6′ x 12′ trailer in Villa Park IL in 1963. Fast forward to today, they have 50 restaurants in the Chicago area and other locations nation wide.
My husband ordered the Chicago Dog, while I gave the Chili Dog a try. I had a bite of his Chicago Dog, and yes, they are delicious. You get a great sweet and savory combination of flavors. The sweet pickle relish balances with the spicy sport peppers and the onions. And the dill pickle adds that tart crunch. I will admit, I am a ketchup lover on a hot dog, and not the biggest mustard fan, but the mustard is not too vinegar-y and adds just enough zing.
I had the Chili Cheese Dog, which is one of my all time favorites. An all beef hot dog smothered with their home made chili, cheese (similar to Philly cheesesteak cheese) and fresh chopped onions. The chili was spicy and flavorful, with just enough kick. Yeah, it looks a mess, but trust me, it is good. Crispy crinkle cut fries and a vanilla malt rounded out the meal.
If you can’t go to the Chicago area, you can bring the Chicago Hot Dog to you. If go to their website, you can get the Chicago Hot Dog as well as other delights shipped to your home.
Regional ritual foods are so much fun. Every place has one, and the local people are passionate about them. It is a tie that binds people together. How often have you been somewhere, and you find someone from your area? And you start talking about your favorite hot dog, sandwich, pizza or doughnut place. There is an instant bond, a commonality that ties you to a stranger, even if it is only a conversation in an airport. Regional food rituals mean home.
So, when you travel, find out what the local regional food is. And go try it. Not only will you have a fun food experience, you will meet people that you never would have met otherwise.
What is your regional ritual? share you story!