Local hot-dog hawkers speak frankly about why they’re No. 1 in a bun
Noel Stavropoulos, of Charhouse Grill, holds a plate of french fries and hot dogs at the business on July 2 in Morton Grove. | Buzz Orr~Sun-Times
Updated: August 6, 2012 6:47AM
MORTON GROVE — Though they serve different types of one of America’s favorite fast-food items, they all have one thing in common: They all believe their hot dogs are the Top Dog.
In honor of National Hot Dog Month, which is July, local restaurant owners shared their secrets about what makes their hot dogs No. 1.
For nearly eight years Dear Franks has been serving Chicago-style Vienna Beef hot dogs with mustard, relish, onions, tomatoes, pickles, hot peppers and a dash of celery salt to customers at its location in Niles.
“We always give everything we make an extra dose of pride and love,” said co-owner Randy Kash, who grew up in the area.
Kash said the family business, at 5699 W. Touhy Ave., Niles, makes high-quality hot dogs and uses all fresh ingredients. Dear Franks also has locations in Deerfield and Glenview.
“You’ll get a hot dog that’s perfectly cooked every time,” said Kash, noting that on average Dear Franks sells about 200 hot dogs a day.
Kash believes Chicago-style is the best way to have a hot dog, and though plain-with-ketchup might come in second place, it is “not the Chicago way.”
Kash said many regulars come in to order a hot dog or other popular items such as hamburgers and gyros. He said many people drop in for a bite to eat before seeing a movie or going to the city.
Top-notch customer service is something that Kash emphasizes. He believes that you can teach an employee how to make the perfect hot dog, but you can’t teach them to be friendly, so that is an essential quality he looks for in a potential employee.
While sitting at a table waiting for his order, Mike Hernandez said he is a big fan of the hot dogs at Dear Franks. Hernandez said he grew up in the area and when he drove by he just had to stop in.
“They’re great,” he said, adding that he enjoys all of the fresh ingredients that go on top of his hot dog. “It’s like a salad on a hot dog.”
For Don Drucker, owner of Superdawg, at Milwaukee and Devon avenues, the fact that it’s July doesn’t change the way he goes about his business.
“As far as I’m concerned every month is Hot Dog Month,” said Drucker, noting that the Northwest Side Chicago eatery, which also has a Wheeling location, has been a hot spot to get hot dogs for decades.
Drucker said his hot dogs are truly unique because they are made with a special recipe.
“You can’t get them anywhere else,” Drucker said. “They’re bigger than most dogs in the city.”
Superdawg is known for serving hot dogs Chicago-style with mustard, relish, onion, pickle, green pickled tomatoes and hot peppers. The hot dogs come with crinkle-cut fries in a special box.
Another unique item about Superdawg is that customers can park at an old-fashioned drive-in and a car hop will bring out their food after they place their order through an electronic speaker system.
“Your car is our dining room,” Drucker said.
Drucker also pointed out that everything at Superdawg is cooked to order.
“There’s nothing that’s pre-made,” he said. “It’s not started until you order it. It tastes that much fresher and of higher quality.”
Summer is the most popular time for Superdawg, especially because of the drive-in scene, but he said people in the Chicago area love eating hot dogs all year round.
Another old area favorite, Booby’s, at 8161 N. Milwaukee Ave., has been serving Vienna hot dogs to customers for about a half-century.
Mike Protofanousis, the son of owner Steve Protofanousis, said the Chicago-style hot dogs are the most popular and customers can choose from charcoal-broiled or boiled hot dogs.
“Our hot dogs are pretty big compared to most other places,” Protofanousis said. “It’s a fun place to come and visit.”
Protofanousis said summer is a very busy time for people to come in and order a hot dog, but that Booby’s stays busy all year long, and is only closed three days out of the year.
In neighboring Morton Grove, John Stavropoulos, owner of Charhouse Grill, says his hot dogs have a superior flavor.
Stavropoulos said customers come in and order a variety of ingredients to put on their Red Hot Chicago hot dogs.
“I think they have a better taste than Vienna,” said Spavropoulous, adding that customers typically order a hot dog with fries and a drink combo.
Charhouse Grill, at 6004 Oakton St. in Morton Grove, has been under its current ownership for a little more than a year and also specializes in gyros sandwiches.