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Dog Days, Vol. I: Skoogie’s Chicago Style Deli

on Friday, 13 July 2012. Posted in Magazine, Eat This! Summer 2012, LOCAL Bites, Follow This!, Restaurant Spotlight

skoodogeditedDog Days.  The name is derived from the lingering appearance of the brightest star in the night skies of summer.  Sirius, the main attraction in the constellation Canis Major, or Big Dog, is prominent throughout the days of June, July, and August.  It’s no coincidence that the hot dog gets a special place on summertime tables.  As cuisine has evolved to a high level in the Lowcountry, so has the hot dog.  I present you EatThisCharleston.com’s Dog Show.


Dog Days, Vol. I: Skoogie’s Chicago Style Deli


By Patrick Graham


If there is one thing that the Second City brings to the dinner table every night, it’s delicious (albeit unhealthy) food.  Deep dish pizza may be the healthiest thing that Chicagoland can offer in the sense that it contains all four food groups if you play your cards right.  Sausage and its brethren with the last name of “Wurst” are popular items in the meat group in northern Illinois, so the fact that the area boasts a good hot dog or two should not be a surprise.  Skoogie’s Chicago Style Deli on Coleman Boulevard has brought Polish sausage and geographically correct hot dog preparations to Mount Pleasant for a couple of generations now.skoo12


When Upton Sinclair set out to help clean up the stockyards of Chicago in his 1906 novel The Jungle, a distant representative of that reform is called Vienna Beef Ltd., one of the most famous purveyors of hot dogs and other assorted varieties of tubular meat products.  Such is the immediate advantage that Skoogie’s has over its competition.  The standard quarter pound all-beef frankfurter really deserves a lot more praise than just being called a “good hot dog”, as its no-filler clause in its creation contract makes a real difference when that little plastic basket of goodness rolls around (that also goes for the Eastern European cousin of the hot dog, the Polish kielbasa, which, at the intersection of Belmont Avenue and Milwaukee, is a food group).

So it would make sense that both the hot dog and the Polish sausage would have to be represented in this little trip over to the Central time zone.  On the right would be the very popular “Homewrecker”, the very popular big brother of the Skoogie dog, and it tops out at easily a half-pound.  On top there would be their homemade chili and a good squirt of melted cheese, along with some chopped onions and mustard (not pictured).  The core of the Homewrecker über-dog is the aforementioned Vienna frank, and it’s the best thing going on its own, hands down.  What you put on top of it is up to you, but you are risking dimming its simplistic brilliance if you bury it with trimmings, and I thought I hurt mine’s feelings with a bath of meat sauce.  The same was not true, in my opinion, with its counterpart in the basket above, the Polish sausage “all the way.”  Let’s expound upon “all the way”, shall we?  


In order, according to the sign:  Mustard, relish, onion, sauerkraut, sport peppers (a zesty cross between a banana pepper, a pepperoncini, and a jalapeno), pickle, cheese, tomato, and celery salt.  Celery salt??  That’s right, celery salt.  Let me be very clear--if you added ketchup and a healthy splash of Ketel One, you’d have a Bloody Mary on a poppyseed bun.  Eating this miniature garden was not an easy task, either.  Have you ever backed an aircraft carrier up to your mouth?  There was a hell of a lot to like in that self-inflicted two-handed balancing act, and I enjoyed this food fight.


These two creations, along with more than a dozen other delicatessen favorites, are being served in a small dining area lined with permanent stools on one side, mini picnic tables on the other, and a tiny kitchen the size of a walk-in closet.  It is truly amazing what is taking place in such a small area at Skoogie’s.  So tiny that mini Moon pies and little bottles of Coke and Sprite were all that would fit in the fridge next to the register.   The air conditioners reminded me of a couple of R2 units charged with keeping its customers cool and happy in this little slice of Chicago.


Just one thing: don’t throw away the baskets; they hate that.

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