At a lot of restaurants, hot dogs are an afterthought.
You’ll scan a menu full of steaks, burgers or seafood, and then, at the bottom of the last page – under “for the kiddies” – you’ll see a hot dog.
Luckily for people who believe hot dogs can, and should, be the center of attention in a culinary sense, there is Chicago Dogs in Scarborough.
At this casual, sports-themed eatery attached to a car wash, the hot dog is king. There are 12 different dogs on the menu. Or you can get a plain dog and jazz it up with the many relishes, mustards, hot sauces and other condiments lining a counter for public consumption.
Each dog can be bought by itself or as part of a combo that includes a medium portion of hand-cut french fries and a fountain drink. The combos range in price from $5.93 for a plain dog combo to $10.93 for the extra-large and loaded “dogzilla” combo. Most individual dogs are in the $2 or $3 price range.
When I was there on a recent lunch hour, the staff was kind enough to create for me a fat frank/Reuben combo for $8.43.
What happened was this: First I saw the Reuben dog combo, which is a hot dog topped with Swiss cheese, Thousand Island dressing and sauerkraut, just like a Reuben sandwich. Then I saw a fat frank combo, which has an extra big hot dog, so I asked about that.
My server told me she could combine them. So I said, yes, do that. By all means.
Chicago Dogs is owned by Joe Palmieri, who hosts a morning sports talk show on the Portland AM radio station known as The Big Jab. Not surprisingly, the place has a definite sports theme, with TVs showing sports news all day long and photos of sports stars hanging on the walls and over most tables. The booth in which I sat had a picture of famed Chicago Cubs slugger Ernie Banks.
When I ordered, my server gave me a receipt with my order number, 22.
“You’ve got 22, Doug Flutie,” she said without missing a beat. (Flutie, the former Boston College and NFL quarterback, was indeed No. 22.) She did this for everyone in line, but my mind was not quick enough to catch all the other sports stars’ names she attached to numbers.
My hot dog was indeed fat, as its menu moniker indicated, with a nice snap to it and a fairly mild flavor. It was on a poppy seed bun with lots of dressing, cheese and sauerkraut. It came with a huge portion of hand-cut fries – sort of like the ones you get at a fair, but thinner. Overall, it was a very filling lunch, probably more than I should have ordered.
Other interesting dogs on the menu are the signature Chicago Dog, with tomatoes, pickles, onions, mustard, bright green relish, celery salt and peppers, as well as a corn dog and a chili-cheese dog.
There’s also a “beef and sausages” section to the menu, which includes an Italian beef sandwich ($5.99), a Chicago or Philly cheese steak ($6.79 for a large) and a Polish sausage sandwich ($4.49). The 10 or so items on this section all come in combos as well.
Other menu items include chicken wings and tenders, burgers, salads and wraps.
But if you’re going to a place called Chicago Dogs, you really need to try the dogs.
The staff of GO anonymously samples meals for about $10.