Chicago - Off The Eaten Track Part 2

Do you like eating? I like eating. And odds are, some of the foods you grew up enjoying aren't the same in other parts of the country. Heck, they may not even exist at all. Everywhere has their own styles of foods and drinks. Styles that are unique to your region, and which may even be world famous. Or local secrets. Lobster rolls. Cheesestake. BBQ. All good food that sections of the country take pride in.

Chicago has it's famous foods. Chicago style pizza. Chicago hotdogs. Ribs. And if you're in town for a while, here's the stuff you should try.



Like the pizza, everyone knows about the Chicago Style Hotdog. And there's really no debate on how it's made: a beef frank with yellow mustard, chopped white onions, nuclear green sweet pickle relish, tomato wedges, sport peppers, celery salt, and a dill pickle spear, all on a steamed poppy seed bun. AND ABSOLUTELY NO KETCHUP! Okay, you can (usually) order a plain dog with ketchup, no problem, just don't put it on a Chicago Style dog. There's no room. You don't need it. It already has tomatoes. And face it, if you put ketchup on something, that's all you are going to taste. And that would be a shame.

You can get a quality one at any place you see the big blue Vienna "V". Or you can try a "gourmet" dog from a place like Hot Doug's, Chicago's Dog House, or Franks 'N' Dawgs. Yes, gourmet hot dogs.


BUT DID YOU KNOW? – There's something better on buns then the hot dog or even a hamburger at Kuma's Corner, and that's the Italian Combo. This is a Chicago Ciller Combo.

You start with the bun. This isn't some puffy poppy seed roll. This is a sturdy, tough, crusty roll. Inside of it, you lay down a fire grilled spicy Italian sausage link. But one item does not a combo make. On top of the sausage is a heaping helping of Italian beef. Now this isn't beef from Italy. No, it's a thinly sliced roast beef that is seasoned with Italian herbs and spices, and simmered in it's own pot of au jus.

Now, you've reached your first decision point: wet, dry, or dipped.

  • DRY – My preferred method. And "dry" is a very relative term here. The beef is pulled out of the au jus, and held for a second or two while most of the juice runs off. You're gonna need a napkin, but your shirt shouldn't be in too much danger.
  • WET – This is the default. The beef is pulled out of the au jus and slopped right on the sandwich, carrying a lot of the liquid with it. You will need a couple of napkins and probably will need to hunch to eat it.
  • DIPPED – "Dipped" means exactly what you can't believe it means. The beef is placed on the sandwich, and then the whole sandwich, BUN AND ALL, are dunked backed into the au jus. Forget a napkin, if you've never had one of these before, you will need a beach towel.

Your second decision point is peppers: sweet or hot.

  • SWEET – Roasted green bell peppers. This is what I would recommend for your first one. You may not like the giardiniera (hot pepper/vegetable mix) and I'd rather that not taint your impression of the combo.
  • HOT – As mentioned above, a hot mixture of peppers and vegetables. You can ask for a side of it if you are REALLY curious about it, as it is the only condiment allowed on the sandwich.

Your third and final decision point is cheese: Yes or No.

  • YES - Rarely do any of the places offer varieties of cheese. They have one type, and that's what you get. It will be one of the following: mozzarella, provolone, or cheddar. I prefer either mozzarella or provolone. But if they only have cheddar…
  • NO – The proper response when offered cheddar for your combo is "no"

There are very few options here. There are no condiments allowed. Putting ketchup on this creation is more offensive than putting it on your Chicago Style hotdog. Or putting on your breakfast cereal. Oh, and if you are a guy, no knife or fork is allowed. You have to bare hand this.

Oddly – Writing this last section has had my mouth watering like Pavlov's pooch tied up outside the Ten Bells Pub in London. If you want to try this yourself (ZIBBS), THIS SITE has a couple of recipes and tips.

So, what is your local specialty on a bun or a roll?  Does it involve casing meats?


Cora said...

I was surprised that I liked the hot dog. I didn't think it would agree with me in any way whatsoever, but it did. Go fig.

However, the Italian Combo is ever better! *drool*

Anonymous said...

Being a vegetarian, I haven't had a hot dog in 20+ years, so I don't have any preference here.

Scope said...

Cora - It all works together, doesn't it.

Joshua - Yeah, I knew this wasn't the post for a vegetarian.

Padded Cell Princess said...

I hope my keyboard withstands my drool!!! Oh my heavens that sounds AMAZING!!! You really can't go wrong with meat, topped with more meat...unless you are a vegetarian ;)

Scope said...

Princess - I'm trying to give you some good, inexpensive ideas for a possible visit here.

And no, this isn't a good post for a vegetarian.

So. Cal. Gal said...

We have a restaurant/dive out here called "Tommy's" that specializes in chili-covered dogs, burgers, fries, tamales, etc. It is AWESOME! Unless you have an ulcer. : P

Dr Zibbs said...