Additional dog consumption by Ann Christenson and Howie Magner
While that metropolis to the south has lent its name to a style of hot dog, Milwaukee, frankly, just isn’t a big furter town. It’s not like we’ve never met a sausage in a bun before. Or have some familiarity with that weenie manufacturer par excellence, Oscar Mayer, headquartered just west of here in Madison.
But our city’s German heritage has been far kinder to the brawny brat than the humble hot dog. Still, it’s not as though you can’t find a good dog. Matter of fact, we scored a hot-diggety dozen. But before you read on, one explanation: “Chicago-style” is a wiener topped with onions, tomatoes, pickle, mild peppers, mustard and a green relish not found in nature, on a poppy-seed bun. Got that? Now dig in.
Hi Hat Lounge
The most sophisticated place to eat a dog. Descend into a stone-walled bar of Stygian darkness, relieved only by filament chandeliers like you had in your 1970s apartment. Loud, good music. The Haute Dog is the spécialité de la maison, grilled and served with bacon, pickle relish, pepper slaw, fried onions and house-made ketchup on a poppy-seed bun ($6). Lots of good, hot French fries and a choice of four dipping sauces. (1701 N. Arlington Pl., 414-225-9330)
Sammy’s Taste of Chicago
Sunday is 99-cent Chicago-style hot dog day, so the small parking lot looks like Wal-Mart with a sale on plastic bin containers. A 15-minute wait while standing around, but the Chicago-style dog, even at the $2.25 normal price, is hot and tasty, and there is plenty of seating. Cheerful, funky Americana posters everywhere. Plus, free refills on Sprecher root beer. (10534 W. Greenfield Ave., 414-774-0390)
A perplexing choice at first, because Sil’s is much-beloved for its freshly made mini-donuts, perfect for ending late-night neighborhood revelries. Who knew you could also get Chicago-style dogs ($2.75 each) without leaving the comfort of your BMW? And they were fine – if not notable – automobile fare. Add a dozen mini-donuts ($2.50), and you’ve got yourself a great East Side meal. (1801 E. North Ave.)
I was predisposed to dislike this place because of the publicity about the long waits at its recent opening. So we went on a Tuesday night and still had to join a line of cars in a claustrophobic detour behind a warehouse next to the railroad tracks. Twenty-minute wait on desolation row. Combo of extra-long chili cheese dog and fries was $4.99, and everything needed to be warmer. Fries were bland and saltless. (2080 Miller Park Way, 414-384-8844)
What’s not to love? This comfortable neighborhood deli features a quarter-pound dog grilled, boiled or ripped (fried), for $3.75 ($4.50 Chicago-style). Pickles and chips, too. This was a satisfying
experience, only enhanced when the smiling waitress brought a takeout menu so I didn’t “have to write everything down.” Add the excellent potato salad for $1.50. (4156 N. Oakland Ave., 414-332-7777)
(at Harley-Davidson Museum)
And the award for most original presentation goes to the foot-long grilled dog and large helping of hot steak fries brought to your table in a round metal tray with raised sides. At $7.50, with a buttered bun, this husky dog fits in perfectly with the glass and stainless-steel restaurant interior, its 1960s ambiance and large picture windows. Add grilled onions, cheddar or chili and cheddar for the same price. (401 W. Canal St., 414-287-2778)
House of Frank N Stein
Housed in a former funeral home – and sort of decorated in a horror movie style, with pool table and old-fashioned pinball game – this dark and cozy restaurant/bar would be ideal for karaoke night, which we mercifully missed. The Frank N Mex (sour cream, tomatoes, cheddar, onions, jalapeños, chips and pickle, $4.50) is fresh and hot and quite filling. (726 E. Center St., 414-264-4440)
Martino’s Italian Beef
A member of the Vienna Beef Hall of Fame, yet somehow still unpretentious, Martino’s exemplifies Milwaukee’s ongoing struggle to promote the lowly dog. And it does this well. Utilitarian and spare decor is softened by the eager young staff that appears delighted to prepare your Chicago-style dog, served with a small amount of fries, all wrapped in the same paper. Everything is hot and served quickly. A sign warns, “Don’t put ketchup on a hot dog.” Who are we to argue? (1215 W. Layton Ave., 414-281-5580)
Choose Vienna beef, spicy beef, quarter-pound, veggie, Polish sausage, etc. It’s perfect for students or busy lunch shoppers – and the yellow and red walls match the condiments. The Atlantic City dog comes with mustard, sauerkraut and relish, the latter two being somewhat tasteless. (1433 E. Brady St., 414-727-1224; 3116 N. Downer Ave., 414-332-2810; 1633 W. Wells St., 414-933-9179; 318 E. Wisconsin Ave., 414-226-2664)
Judy’s vienna Red Hots
I order the chili dog ($2.49), having missed a platter of other toppings not readily visible. The Vienna beef dog is good, standard fare, but the chili is nothing flavorful or memorable. (4812 W. Lisbon Ave., 414-447-7570)
How much do baseball fans love their hot dogs? Enough to eat more than 21 million in 2009, according to the National Hot Dog & Sausage Council. It’s a perfect marriage. Vendors throw them. Fans chow them while still holding a beer. They even look good in races. Miller Park’s Klement’s jumbo hot dogs ($4) are atop the food chain, spiced right, brick-red, still juicy. Condiments? You won’t know what’s in the Secret Stadium Sauce, but you’ll want it in you. Slightly sweet and tangy, the barbecue sauce cousin gives your dog some bite. (H.M.)
This friendly street cart – which owns the corner of Water and Wisconsin on Monday through Friday, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. – does a dog right. All-beef links (about $2.25-$3.25) are boiled or grilled, then slathered with whatever you want – onions, ketchup, kraut, choice of mustard, even cheese. And if it’s not right, as the dude who deftly assembles the sandwiches says, “bring it back.” Customer service at its best. Open weather permittingfrom April to November (A.C.)
Alex Vagelatos is a freelance writer whose foray into franks has left him satiated for quite a while. You can write to him at email@example.com.