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Speaking of lunch…

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?

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  1. September 4, 2010 at 10:06 pm

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