Hot diggity dog!
I have a confession to make. I’m not from around here — which anyone who’s met me has pretty much figured out in about two seconds. I’m a recent New Mexico transplant, having had a long-distance affair with the Land of Enchantment for several years.
Worst yet, I’m from a big city — Chicago. Yeah, I said it. Again, I’m guessing the born and bred folks here got that pegged as well.
I love the same things all newbies do — the climate, the stupendous mountains all around, the endless skies, the stark, harsh beauty of the desert landscape, chiles green and red and small-town friendliness. But there is the niggling, unrelenting sense of loss I felt until recently. About what, you ask? I was jonseing big time for one of the loves of my life — a decent hotdog. It’s a point of personal pride that I hail from the homeland of said delight. Speak to me not of the feeble New York Nathan’s, nor whatever it is underneath all that chili in Cincinnati. I am a worshipper of the Vienna dog, pure-beef, and served in the only proper and proscribed manner — NO KETCHUP, and preferably dragged in the garden.
Ah yes, let me elucidate. The ideal dog is as follows: 100 percent pure beef — no swine involved, thank you, steam cooked and placed in a soft, fluffy bun — preferable the Mary-Ann brand. The glorious extruded meat treat is then “dragged in the garden” — covered with chopped white onion, radiation-green relish, tomato wedge, yellow mustard (don’t get me started on Grey Poupon,) crisp, garlicky, Kosher-style pickle, hot sport peppers and sprinkled with celery salt.
On that fateful day, as I pulled into the drive-in section of our local Sonic, my heart began to pitty-pat. Here in the land of Frito pie, green-chile cheeseburgers, matanzas and independent tamale entrepreneurs, I saw the signboard — “Chicago-style hot dog,” which meant, perhaps, edible balm for my soul. I nervously leaned out my car window to place my order. Dear God, so close. I didn’t want to risk disappointment, but I had to try and see if the deities had answered my silent prayer — own personal beef manna from heaven. Is this a rave out? Oh, hell, yes!
Dearest readers, it would be a travesty to ignore this bite of Chicago goodness. In the words of Penn Gillette, “Sweet juicy Jesus!!” Blasphemy or no, these dogs look right, smell right, taste divine; with the snap of the frank perfect and toothsome, the onions savory, sweet with a hint of sharpness, and all the trimmins’ as they should be. And the bun, Mary Ann, and it’s smushed in the pics because someone had their mitts wrapped around it too tightly, namely me.
Sonic ain’t a place to while away the hours, or hold hands over candlelight. But for me, it’s Hot Dog Heaven, pure and simple. And the fries! The width of two No. 2 pencils, crispy, sapid on the inside, oily luscious and served with a lashing of salt.
P.S. — the only drinks are the usual soda suspects, but you can get a chocolate shake worthy of another article.