Welcome to “Chowdown Showdown,” a weekly feature where we take one type of food and ask readers to nominate their favorite restaurants in Evergreen Park, Oak Lawn and Palos. This week’s food in focus was the hot dog. We tallied the votes on each respective Patch site and Facebook page.
The selected restaurants for our second “Chowdown Showdown” all made great Chicago-style hot dogs (you’re only allowed to put ketchup on a hot dog if you’re under 6). We sampled each and selected a winner.
Palos Patch: The bun was soft, the hot dog had snap and the mustard and relish added the perfect tangy taste. This was your standard Chicago-style dog that we all know and love. The toppings were all nicely portioned and it didn't feel they were competing for attention. 4 stars.
Oak Lawn Patch: I thought the hot dog was a little tough, but a hot dog connoisseur told me that wieners either come with their natural skins or skinless with no sausage casing. Still a good Chicago-style dog with generous servings of the “salad” that makes Chicago’s weenies the best in the universe. 4 stars.
Evergreen Park Patch: This tasty hot dog had a nice helping of sweet relish, but could have had a bit more mustard. The fresh onions and tomatoes didn't overpower the dog, and were just the right amount. 4 stars.
Oak Lawn Patch: I don’t care what’s in them. I love hot dogs and Oak Lawn has a lot of great hot dog places—Pluto’s, Jr.’s Hot Dogs and Frankie’s Beef, Pasta and Catering were frequently mentioned. But in the end, Smilin’ Clyde’s Hot Dogs—the rebel with a dog—garnered the most reader commendations. Clyde Anhalt, who purchased a wiener wagon last summer after he lost his stipend as an Oak Lawn High School baseball coach (he still volunteers as a coach) fired up his weenie wagon for us and served us a hot dog that was a gastric delight. Great taste and aesthetics. 5 stars.
Evergreen Park Patch: What won me over about this hot dog were the celery salt and cucumbers! The tangy taste topped off my Chicago-style hot dog. Additionally, this hot dog had just enough mustard, hot peppers and tomatoes. With such a beautiful presentation, I'd describe this one as "best in show." 5 stars.
Palos Patch: The freshness of Clyde's toppings were the main factor for me. The crisp cucumbers and bright red tomatoes were a nice touch. The steamed dog and poppyseed bun gave the hot dog a soft and light texture. 5 stars.
Evergreen Park Patch: You've got to love a classic. Souzy's hot dog was pretty simple, but very good. It also had plenty of fresh onions, mustard and a few tomatoes, but the hot peppers and little bit of celery salt gave it a tangy edge. One of these days, I'll have to try Pappys' hot dog, which also got many votes. Readers praised them for their freshness and customer service. But I must admit, I'm still quite fond of the Auntie Anne's pretzel dog. 4 stars.
Oak Lawn Patch: Souzy’s hot dog had a nice bite to it from the hot peppers which were crunchy and fresh. I loved the blast of celery salt. I’d call this “a best in breed” Chicago-style dog. 4.5 stars.
Palos Patch: This dog had more tang than the other two. I think it might have been a combonation of the peppers and relish. The actual dog was great and the bun held up to the pile of toppings. 4 stars.
And the winner is: Smilin’ Clyde’s Hot Dogs in Oak Lawn. As Clyde’s granddaughter told us, “Grandpa has the best weenie,” and we wholeheartedly concur. The “salad” on Smilin’ Clyde’s hot dog—tomatoes, onion, pickle spear and cucumber—was fresh and flavorful. Nicely slathered with mustard, celery salt, nuclear green relish and served on a poppy seed bun, this dog was as close to perfect as you can get. We’ll keep you posted on the whereabouts of Smilin’ Clyde’s Hot Dog wagon this summer.
MEMO TO THE VILLAGE OF OAK LAWN: Clyde DID NOT SELL us hot dogs. He prepared them in his garage and then served them to us in his home, the way you would when inviting a friend over.
READ past "Chowdown Showdown" columns: