Tom McGlade, vice president of marketing for Chicago-based Vienna Beef, will admit that at first glance, a Chicago-style hot dog can be intimidating.
Some compare the numerous toppings – yellow mustard, chopped white onions, sport peppers, neon-green sweet pickle relish, a dill pickle spear, sliced tomatoes and celery salt – to a salad or garden sitting atop a steamed hot dog inside a poppy seed bun, McGlade said.
But once a frankfurter fan bites into a Chicago-style dog, McGlade said, they get the appeal.
“[It’s] a nice combination of sweet and hot, crunchy and soft. The textures are so much a part of food and flavors are so much a part of food, we throw a bunch of them together and they work perfectly,” McGlade said.
For 126 years, Vienna Beef has been the go-to source for the all-beef franks in Chicago-style hot dogs, but the company also makes Polish sausages, deli meats and more, and not just in the Midwest. Vienna Beef is a popular supplier for some of Los Angeles’ most popular eateries.
Marc Canter, of Canter’s Deli, said the famed Fairfax Avenue restaurant has used Vienna Beef products since the 1930s or 1940s. Decades later, Canter’s Deli still gets bratwurst, hard salami and hot dogs from Vienna Beef. Other hot dog vendors have tried to curry Canter’s business, but no one else can match the Vienna flavor, Canter said.
“We’ve always used their hot dogs,” Canter said. “It’s really good quality and I don’t think you’ll find anything better than that.”
Eleven City Diner on Wilshire Boulevard also uses “many” Vienna Beef products, said proprietor Bradley Rubin. He declined to pick his favorite, saying choosing one Vienna product was like picking a favorite child, but he said the company has great meats and great customer service.
“Not only is it a quality product that’s 100% beef, but [Vienna Beef] is run like a small shop because you know everybody. They know who you are. They care,” Rubin said.
Rubin also weighed in on Chicago-style hot dogs, saying while he has “deep respect and appreciation” for the relatively unadorned hot dogs found in Los Angeles, his shop features Chicago-style hot dogs with all the trimmings, including “sport peppers and that green relish.”
The neon-green pickle product may be one of the most identifying features of the Chicago style, but anyone looking to try a Chicago-style dog should know that another common ingredient is missing on purpose, McGlade said, and anyone who adds it does so at their own peril.
“We kind of smile to ourselves and say you can put ketchup on a hot dog if you still have training wheels on your bicycle. Otherwise, ketchup is reserved for french fries,” McGlade said.
Canter’s Deli is located at 419 N. Fairfax Ave. Eleven City Diner is located at 5400 Wilshire Blvd.
For information, visit viennabeef.com, cantersdeli.com and elevencityla.com.
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