Chicago dogs are great. They really are. But when the heat hits I crave a good and sloppy Southern slaw-and-chili dog. (And don’t knock it if you haven’t tried it!)
A good pork wiener (hard to find in these days of chicken-filler) tucked into a grilled bun (sorry, Chicago, grilling beats poppy seeds hands-down) alongside mustard and raw onions, with a slop of hotdog chili on top and crowned with creamy cole slaw. Oh yummmm. The best dog diner in Burlington, NC has a “deluxe” version with bacon and Velveeta added. That's the only variation I've liked, and I wouldn't even say it's better than the original. But bacon and Velvetta...those push some good buttons for me.
Now don't get me wrong, I like Chicago-style dogs. No doubt, they're healthier (and who'd've thought you could say that about a Chicago specialty?). My only complaint is that too many places put on so many sport peppers that you can't taste anything else, and the best parts of the classic Chicago dog are everything else - the garlicky all-beef dog, summer ripe tomatoes, crisp dill spear, and sweet-tangy relish, all with the mustard and onions that are a personal must for any dog and that final dash of celery salt. It's great on a hot day, and even has the requisite messy factor.
But I'm just not convinced that even the quirkiness of a dill spear and sweet relish can top chili and slaw.
The whole thing is quite do-able in Chicago except for the chili, which is smooth rather than chunky. My favorite version in the South is Texas Pete’s “Chili Sauce” (which is really just chili, not chili sauce), and after having Mama bring me some when she visits for the past several years, I’ve now found it in both fresh Market and Ultra Foods! So come on Chicago, give the Southern dog a try! (It’s not like I’m asking you to put ketchup on it!)
On a side note, in the old diners in the Carolinas, if you ask for a hamburger “with everything,” you’ll get it topped with mayo, mustard, lettuce, tomato, onions, pickles, chili (same style as on the hotdogs), and slaw. Snappy Lunch in “Mayberry” (Mt. Airy, NC), where Andy Griffith grew up getting lunch, serves their pork chop sandwich the same way. Didn’t anybody ever tell you the best things in life are messy?