Spring is fully sprung, more than 20% of Americans are vaccinated, and the Cubs return home to Wrigley Field to play the Pirates on Friday, April 16. Wrigley Field? Now I want a Chicago-style hot dog.
If there’s one thing that can unite Chicago’s perpetually warring Cubs and White Sox fans, it’s the classic Chicago dog. It doesn’t matter whether you get it at Wrigley Field or Sox Park. Either way, it’s going to be the same treat, a meal on a bun: a snappy Vienna dog in its natural casing, topped with a lunch counter full of traditional toppings.
I would be totally down for a lazy afternoon in a seat on the third-base side at Wrigley right now, but the 310-mile trip takes five hours, and then you’ve got to find parking. Here’s a more practical idea: Let’s go to Lonnie’s!
That would be Lonnie’s Best Taste of Chicago, serving Louisville its best and most authentic Chicago dog for the past 20 years.
Lonnie’s not only offers authentic Chicago dogs made with pure beef Vienna brand hot dogs, but it’s one of the cheapest eateries around. A half-dozen hot dogs — each named after a major Chicago avenue — range in price from $3.59 (for a Congress Cheese Dog) to $4.99 (for a still-modest Clark St. Hot Dog) to $5.59 (for the Chicago classic, a Jumbo Clark St. Dog).
Four Polish sausage sandwiches range between $5.09 and $7.29. A half-dozen Chicago-style sliced Italian beef sandwiches are priced from $5.19 (for a small 3-inch sandwich, hot peppers optional) to $8.79 (for a beef and sausage combo). Four burger options are $3.89 (for a quarter-pounder) to $6.99 (for a full half-pound burger). Five specialties are $2.35 (for a hot tamale) to $7.99 (for a Greek island gyro with fries). Daily specials offer attractive deals — the Wednesday soul food plate and Friday catfish fry (both $10.99) are deservedly popular.
Lonnie’s is currently closed for indoor dining, with the interior set up with furniture to mark socially-distanced waiting spots and a no-go zone close to the kitchen. You’re welcome to come in, place your takeout order, and wait, though, and we did that, splitting an oversize dog, a bag of onion rings and a slice of memorable yellow cake.
Both Wrigley Field and Sox Park will supply you with the standard preparation:
A Vienna brand dog served with yellow mustard, green relish, diced onions, sport peppers, tomato wedges and celery salt in a poppyseed bun. That’s an accurate description, too, of Lonnie’s Clark Street Dog ($4.99) and Jumbo Clark Street Dog ($5.59), 311 and, oops, 502 calories respectively.
The jumbo dog boasts a very firm, snappy natural hot dog skin that pops and releases hot juices when you bite; the all-beef flesh within is very firm and tightly packed into the skin. This is not your floppy grocery hot dog. At five ounces it’s not a huge sausage, but there’s lots of pure beef flavor and subtle spice packed into that casing. Just as described, the dog is snuggled into a white poppy-seed bun slathered with yellow ballpark mustard, topped with chopped white onion and neon green relish, with tomato wedges and tart, vinegary sport peppers on top.
Onion rings ($3.89) were crisp, hot and good; creamy cole slaw ($3.29) was well-made in a tangy mayo-vinegar dressing and a generous slice of yellow cake ($3.50) was fluffy and light, with a perfect, luscious caramel icing.
A jumbo dog and sides came to $14.38, and we discarded percentage calculations to add a $6 tip.
Lonnie’s Best Taste of Chicago
121 St. Matthews Ave.
We scream, do you scream, for ice not-cream?
I’m not vegan, although I can see the argument against industrially-produced dairy products, and I don’t even like milk. It would be hard for me to give up favorites like artisanal cheeses, pastured eggs and ice cream, though.
But that ice-cream thing may be changing. The other day I noticed a case at Graeter’s promoting its new line of Graeter’s-branded Perfect Indulgence vegan ice cream, animal free and lactose free in assorted flavors at $7.99 for a pint.
A little research revealed that, in a process akin to that of the meatless Impossible Burger, Perfect Indulgence developed a way to make real milk proteins — whey and casein — without the presence of animals. In brief, the company developed a type of microflora that can ferment simple plant ingredients to produce the same dairy proteins found in milk.
The result, in my opinion, speaks for itself. Tasted alongside a scoop of Graeter’s regular chocolate chip French pot ice cream ($5.99 for a pint), it was almost impossible for me to tell which was which. Perfect Indulgence melted a little faster than regular Graeter’s, with the happy effect of making it seem even more creamy.
Just for fun, we threw in a scoop of a more traditional vegan ice cream, SO Delicious Mint Chip Coconutmilk Non-Dairy Frozen Dessert ($4.69 a pint at Kroger). The subtle mint flavor singled it out, but as an ice-cream type dessert, it was delicious, too. I’d happily enjoy any of the three.