Monday, May 18, 2009

Maurie and Flaurie Berman

Hot dogs may be universal, but the Chicago dog is an icon that rivals the Philly Cheesesteak. You'll find mustard, pickles, relish, tomatoes, onions, and celery salt on a Chicago dog, but don't ask for ketchup. Hot dogs have been in Chicago since the 1893 World's Fair, where they were introduced by Austrian immigrants. Nothing was particularly new about the sausage; what makes a frankfurter a hot dog is the bun, a novel concept at the time (earlier introduced in St. Louis and NYC). In the century since, the Chicago dog has been honed to include the toppings mentioned above by thousands of hot dog vendors. I believe they are all Heroes of Capitalism, but today I'll highlight one particularly famous stand I pass on my bike every week: Superdawg.

Superdawg was opened in 1948 by the newly married Maurie and Florence Berman. Maurie was a WWII veteran who was said to have noticed many of his fellow vets opening hot dog stands in the city. Believing this to be a great idea, and wanting to differentiate themselves, Berman and his wife founded a stand at the end of the Milwaukee streetcar line with two massive hot dogs on the roof. Their hot dogs were unique as well; in fact, they've never been called hot dogs - or frankfurters - at all. They were named "Superdawgs," spicier than the traditional Vienna Beef-brand frankfurters common around the city.

Superdawgs retain much of the Chicago traditional toppings, save the celery salt. They come on a poppyseed bun. Ketchup is available, but do you really want to draw attention to yourself, outsider? The stand celebrated 60 years in the business last year and has cautiously opened a second location at Midway airport with plans for a third. They also offer another Chicago staple, the Italian Beef sandwich (named the "Superbeef"), as well as a polish sausage (the "Whoopskidawg") and hamburgers.

One of the reasons I love Chicago is the dynamism found in its neighborhoods. Chicagoans are very entrepreneurial; concepts may sweep the city but brands rarely do. Hot dog stands come and go and no-one dominates the market, so it's quite remarkable to have (until recently) a single joint with national appeal. For 61 years of serving Chicago dogs with a twist, The Bermans are today's Heroes of Capitalism.

Superdawg history
Superdawg menu
Favorable review
Average review
Image taken from here

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