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posted: 7/20/2012 11:35 AM

Hot dog! Author to highlight one of Chicago's favorite foods at Naper Settlement

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  • Bob Schwartz, author of "Never Put Ketchup on a Hot Dog," speaks Sunday, July 22, at Naper Settlement.

      Bob Schwartz, author of "Never Put Ketchup on a Hot Dog," speaks Sunday, July 22, at Naper Settlement.
    Courtesy of Bob Schwartz

 
 

Bob Schwartz gets up every morning and talks to people about hot dogs.

The senior vice president of Vienna Beef and the author of "Never Put Ketchup on a Hot Dog," Schwartz is more than professionally involved -- he is a genuine Chicago dog fan. He will speak about his passion -- the hot dog, its history and the people who sell them -- from 2:30 to 4 p.m. Sunday, July 22, in Naper Settlement's Century Memorial Chapel, 523 S. Webster St., Naperville. Participants will be able to savor a Chicago-style hot dog following the presentation.

"The Chicago hot dog stand is such an important part of not only our culture, but our community," Schwartz said. "It's part of a lifestyle in Chicago."

Schwartz said his appreciation of the humble hot dog grew after he left his native Ohio. Now with more than a third of a century of hot dog sales under his belt, he can speak with authority about well-known hot dog stands in the Chicago area and the people who operated them.

"It's amazing how many inspiring stories you get from these people," he said. "The stories in the book are more about the people behind the hot dog stand."

The word "stand" is appropriate, he said. Many of the places were so small that's literally what you had to do.

The all-beef frankfurter that is center of the Chicago hot dog got its start during the 1893 World Columbian Exposition when two Austrian immigrants came over to sell them to fairgoers. They stayed to open a store and then the Vienna Beef factory, now located on Damen Avenue.

Schwartz said the popularity of Chicago hot dog likely goes back to the Great Depression when a hot dog on a bun was a meal in itself that included mustard, relish, onion and cucumber.

Officially, today's dragged-through-the-garden style Chicago hot dog is an all-beef frankfurter on a poppy seed bun dressed with yellow mustard, chopped white onions, sweet pickle relish, a dill pickle spear, tomato slices or wedges, a couple sport peppers and dash of celery salt. No ketchup!

"The hot dog wants to be enjoyed and savored," Schwartz explained. "Ketchup is very sweet and acidic and it would take over the other condiments and the hot dog itself."

Schwartz believes that the friendliness of the local hot dog stand is as much of the attraction as the dog itself.

"They want to know about their favorite places," he said of people who come to his presentations. "They want to tell their own stories."

Superdawg, Fluky's and Jimmy's Red Hots are a few of the names of well-known stands, which Schwartz identifies by geographic area in his book. The Western Suburbs has Portillo's, which has grown to much more than a hot dog stand, he said.

Schwartz won't name any favorite hot dog joint of his own -- saying he has more than one -- but he does confess to a slight deviation in how he dresses his Chicago dog.

"I kind of leave the relish off my own dog. I relish the dog, but not the relish," he said.

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