The other day Gary Wiv trucked down to the picaresque Fat Johnies for a cucumber clad dog. The use of cucumber immediately made me think of the old Wally's on North Central. They too garnished with that cool green veg. And beside making me think where the heck has AnneK been, Wally's made me think (and want) a Leon's hot dog. For Wally's was a fine example of the Leon's school of hot dog.
With Wally's gone, I know of only one place serving this unique sub-genre of the Chicago hot dog, a version I believe that originated with Tast-e Hast-e on the northwest side of Chicago. The Tast-e school of sausages, beside frequently having the word tasty in the moniker, had two distinguishing features. First, they featured skinless, squishy Leon brand hot dogs. Second, they dragged the dog through the garden, adding lettuce, cucumber, and green pepper the standard heavily dressed Chicago hot dog.
When I was growing up, we had a version of this nearby, Tasty Pup. I never took to it. Somehow, I associated the mushy dog and heavy use of lettuce and celery salt as a goyish type of thing, like white bread and mayonaise. To partake was almost like sampling a communion wafer. As I aged, I have held my faith, but grown to appreciate the quirky spice of a Leon's dog. I still keep the lettuce and cucumber away but will allow a green pepper slice to occasionaly garnish my dog.
So, with that taste of Leon's on my palate I went to Famous Bowser Dog tonight. Back in 1983, Hot Dog Chicago noted the dogs were fat and juicy but the trimmings were second rate. How swell to know an opinion can last nearly 20 years. For a place that makes a big deal of its "Every thing on", you would think they'd do a better job with their everything on. The tomatoes were especially putrid, purchased most likely from the same vendor who sells to hundreds of Mexican and Middle-Eastern resturants who insist on serving bad tomatoes year round.
Bowser Dog offers a meal on a bun, and they offer many a meal on a bun. Beside the famous Bowser Dog, there are chili dogs, pizza dogs, kiddy dogs [?], rueben dogs, burger franks [a burger taking the place of the bun] as well as foot long polish and half polish [what ever those are]. If a place ever called out for ReneG to visit, this is it. I just wish the food would be a bit better.
I am sure there are tons of other places still around in the Tast-e tradition. In fact as far as I know, even Tasty Pup still stands in Niles. I would love to hear other places to get my Leon's fix.