Thursday, August 11, 2005

Windy City Chocolate Milkshake Remix

Last night's trip to Rosamunde's Sausage Grill on Haight St reminded me of another place specializing in luncheon meats of the grilled elongated variety.

My first meal in Chicago (not counting the late night snack of Cantonese Style Tomato Onion Beef my sister-in-law whipped up for me when I arrived from the airport) was a Chicago style hot dog. No ketchup, just mustard, relish, onions, 'kraut, tomato, pickles, and celery salt. The place: The Wiener's Circle, a tiny little wiener shack off Diversey Parkway, and one of the few places (if not the only place) that char-grills their dogs to add that little bit of extra flavor and crunch.

I once read an interview with Mario Batali, who said that his favorite meal in Chicago was a Chicago-style hot dog, but that he always requests his grilled crispy to make the texture more interesting. He was right. A few days after my Wiener's Circle experience, I had another hot dog at the Lincoln Park Zoo. This one was not butterflied and char-grilled; it was boiled whole. Sure, the dog was nearly twice the size of the one I had at Wiener's circle, but at the first bite, I knew it missing something: the crisp crackle as your teeth start to cut through the charred, flaky skin; the aroma and slightly bitter, salty flavor spreading over your tongue, then washing away in a sea of fixin's.

At Wiener's Circle, all types of people came in for their thrice-weekly fix: businesswomen in their pressed suits, construction workers, a janitor, rich people, poor people, white people, black people... An old black gentleman in jeans and a collared shirt sat between a well-heeled businessman and a chunky construction worker at the counter inside. No one cared about their pride, their job, or what their colleagues would think about visiting such a dingy little joint. Why? The food. It was soooo good.

So after hearing so much about this place, I went. Wiener's Circle... was good. Cheap, too. $2.35 for a char-dog, $1.50 for fries. My brother and I didn't even break the $10 mark. A few days later when I told my friend Tony (whom I mentioned before) where we went, he gave me a funny half smile and took a sudden interest in my choice of venue.

"Wiener's Circle, eh? What was your impression of the place?"

"Oh, a good little hole in the wall, good food. Seemed like a place the locals knew about and everyone likes."

"Who did you go with?"

"My brother," I replied.

"Were you drunk?"

"Huh? No."

"Did you go at lunch or at night?"

"Lunch. " I was starting to get confused. "What's the difference?"

"Ah. I see. You had a fundamentally different experience, going in the daytime. Wiener's Circle is where we go when we're piss drunk and coming back from clubbing..."

Tony began explaining why Wiener's Circle was so well known among the denizens of the Windy City. Apparently, the restaurant is notorious for the foul-mouthed women working the grill, taking orders. "You have to cuss out everyone to get anything done," he explained. Think Soup Nazi, except hot dogs instead of soup, sassy black woman instead of enraged Armenian man, and 12 of them instead of one. If you don't have your order ready, they will cuss at you. If you don't return the abuse, they will ignore you. And if they ignore you, you will go hungry.

One time, Tony and his friends were wrapping up a long night of clubbing with a trip to Wiener's Circle. One of their buddies had never been there, so they told him to order a chocolate milkshake. "Whatever you do, you HAVE to order a chocolate milkshake, even if they start screaming at you. You have to get it."

It wasn't on the menu. And it cost twenty dollars. And, the conversation went a little bit like this:

"Twenty dollars? The f--k? The F--K? What the hell kind of - f--k you, I'm not paying twenty dollars for a chocolate milkshake. Three at most. Three dollars."

"Twenty dollars! And if you don't give me the goddamn twenty dollars, you ain't gettin' no f--kin' milkshake!"

"Come on man, just get the milkshake."

A few choice expletives later, fingers grabbed cash, and a twenty dollar bill slid across the counter.

He said, "Alright, now where's my goddamn milkshake?"

Whereupon the woman's top came off and she gave him a chocolate milkshake.


He was traumatized.


At 3:29 PM, Blogger superlefty said...

gah! "p


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