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Chicago Area Italian Beef

Searching for the Greatest Hot Dog While Engaged in Italian Beef Gorging


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Searching for the Greatest Hot Dog While Engaged in Italian Beef Gorging

david hart nelson | Oct 7, 2001 01:05 PM

Whenever we return to Chicago for a visit, we make the rounds of all the classic places: Margie's, Superdawg, Al's, Walker Brothers, Heaven on Seven, the Berghoff -- to name just a few. On our just-completed trip, I made a trip to Al's on Taylor Street at about 12:30 a.m. for a super-sized, dipped, sweet pepper-laden Italian Beef. It was great and the mountain of fries that accompanied it was great, too. A very large but solidly built man was standing next to me as I ate; he was clearly a Chowhound of a certain bent. We discussed Italian Beef -- he said Al's was "OK" but that Johnnie's on "Nort Avanue" in Elmwood Park was better. I tried Johnnie's later in the trip and concluded that it is almost but not quite as good as Al's -- the sandwiches and fries are just a sliver below Al's and the chocolate shake I ordered was foul. I asked my companion why if Johnnie's was better he was at Al's instead? "Dey don't stay open late," he explained. When I finally visited Johnnie's, I noted that they stay open til midnight seven days a week. I guess one man's early closing hour is another man's .... Oh, well.

My new friend then asked if I liked hot dogs. "Of course," I said. "Polk 'n Western," he announced. This statement was delivered ex cathedra; it was not open to dispute. "Our family has always liked Superdawg," I responded. "Not good," he intoned. "Dey don't use Vienna but some off-brand dog." I like their malts," I said, trying to salvage something out of my live-long love of Superdawg. "Deir malts are good," my friend admitted.

My friend then got up to leave. "Want the rest of my fries?" he asked. "I can't finish 'em." I looked at the remaining mountain of fries in front of me; Al's does not short one on the side orders. "No room," I said. "But thanks." An offer to finish a Chowhound's fries! I had the feeling we had just bonded!

Anyway, I'm now back home in Virginia and never made it to Polk and Western. Does anyone know what place he meant? I would like to try it on my next visit.

Dave Nelson

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