As I said in my last post, my father and I ate out during our shopping trip today. We went to Steak ‘n Shake, which I haven’t been to in a while (and which strictly speaking should be spelled Steak ‘n’ Shake, since two letters are elided from “and”), and it turned out they had some new menu items, namely “steak franks.” Now, I like to eat healthy and I don’t often have red meat, plus I’ve kind of lost my taste for hamburger. (There have been times when I’ve gotten nostalgic and decided to try a burger for old times’ sake, and it just hasn’t been as good as I thought it would be.) But I still like the occasional hot dog. Usually I have turkey franks, but failing that I’d rather have beef franks than pork.
The thing is, in the past there’s been an odd dearth of restaurants or fast food places that served hot dogs. I’ve often wondered why it was that hamburgers were so ubiquitous but hot dogs were virtually impossible to find outside the corner street vendor, unless they were covered in chili and cheese at a place like Skyline or Gold Star Chili. (The “cheese Coney,” a hot dog smothered in Greek-style or “Cincinnati” chili, onions, and shredded cheese, is a recipe for which Cincinnati is famous. It’s a variant of the “Coney Island,” which is what Midwesterners call the chili dog for some reason. Wikipedia says the hot dog was invented in Coney Island, New York, but that doesn’t explain why we use the term only for chili dogs. Until I looked it up just now, I always thought it was an exclusive Cincinnati usage and was named for a now-defunct local amusement park called Old Coney Island.)
But lately that seems to be changing. In the past six months I’ve been to two restaurants that served hot dogs. One is a place called Five Guys that’s apparently famous for doing just basic, conventional hamburgers and fries but doing them very well. Like I said, I’m strictly a veggie-burger guy these days, but they also have hot dogs, and once I saw that there actually was a restaurant where one could get a non-chili-related hot dog, I decided to sample the novelty. It was an okay hot dog, but oddly it was served split in half on a bun that was also split in half, basically presented more like a sandwich than a conventional hot dog. Which made it a hell of a mess, since I had relish and onions on it and they were free to fall out the sides. It also came with an insane amount of fries, apparently a trademark of the place. It was an interesting experiment, but not something I’d want to try more than once in a blue moon.
And now there’s Steak ‘n Shake with its steak franks, available with various toppings, from basic ketchup & mustard to chil and cheese to guacamole. I went with the one that seemed healthiest, the “Chicago-Style” one, which is topped with mustard, relish, pickle slices, tomato slices, and something called “sport peppers,” which are apparently a pickled variant of tabasco peppers, popular in Chicago cuisine. (But there were just two pickled peppers, not a peck.) I figured all those veggies would help balance out the meat and french fries. Anyway, this was also served split down the middle. It was theoretically on a standard, intact hot-dog bun, but the bun was so stuffed that it was split more than halfway through when I got it and came completely apart within one bite. It took me a while to figure out a way to hold the thing, and I was tempted to use a knife and fork. Still, it was pretty good. If I’m ever in Chicago, I’ll have to keep an eye out for the hot dogs. (Although the relish was a particularly garish and artificial-looking shade of green, not very appetizing to look at.)
So now I no longer have to wonder why non-chili restaurants never serve hot dogs, because it seems they’re starting to. Instead I’m left with the mystery of why they split them down the middle. I guess maybe they want to differentiate themselves from the street vendors?
I went out on a shopping/lunch expedition with my father today, and in the course of the journey, I got to use several functions of my new cell phone:
- Speed dial, to call my father easily from the car (while it was parked, don’t worry).
- Calculator, to compute miles per gallon when I filled the tank (again, don’t worry, since the Mythbusters showed us that cell phones pose no danger at gas stations). My mileage has actually improved a bit, perhaps because of more driving on freeways and such.
- GPS mapping, when we got lost. This one didn’t actually help, because it didn’t adequately distinguish between intersections and bridges crossing roads. The good ol’ map book in the car was more helpful. There’s a way to enter a destination and get directions, but I think they charge extra for that.
- Tip calculator, at lunch. This was purely to show off my new toy; hopefully I won’t make a habit of relying on technology to do something I can do myself.
And with all that, at the end of the day I still had two bars left (out of three) on the charge display. I guess that’s fairly good.
These multimedia devices we carry in our pockets have so many functions these days that it seems silly to keep calling them “phones.” They’re really pocket computers. The British term is better. They call them “mobiles.” Originally short for “mobile phone,” of course, but it nicely adapts to the mobile multimedia computing and telecommunication devices they’ve become.
In my original fiction (things I’ve written but not yet sold), I’ve taken to calling them “selfones,” i.e. “cell phone” merged with “self.” My thinking was that the devices would increasingly become our primary interfaces with the world, eventually absorbing the role of identification device, credit card, every interaction we had with any other piece of technology, so that they’d kind of become an extension of the self. But lately I’m rethinking that, since cellular phones have become so ubiquitous that we tend to call them just “phones” rather than “cell phones.” So my prediction of “cell phone” being elided to “selfone” doesn’t really seem that likely now. Maybe I should go with “mobile” instead.
As my father pointed out, though, they still don’t make the bed.