Friday, July 12, 2013


Highland Park and Buffalo Grove, IL

I haven't been able to post my all-time favorite hot dog stand because it's in the suburbs of Chicago and I didn't have any pictures. But like a beacon of hope, my childhood pal Caryn Caldarelli was at the Buffalo Grove location today and was kind enough to take some pics for me!

What makes Michael's so exceptional? The hot dogs are absolutely perfect and the cheddar fries unparalleled. Perfectly golden, crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. The sauce is a Wisconsin cheddar, not that Cheez Whiz bs. I could dip my head in a vat of Michael's cheddar and be very content to live like that for the rest of my life.

Michael's also has char dogs/polish and burgers, tamales and my other favorite there, the grilled chicken teriyaki sandwich. I think what makes everything taste so good is that their steamed buns are always so fresh and soft.

I've been going to the Michael's in Highland Park since it was called Nathan's like 30 years ago. Then he got sued and changed the name to Michael's. I've seen it expand with a trendy salad bar in the 80s and the addition of the ice cream stand. But one thing has always stayed the same: the pictures of happy kids eating hot dogs all over the walls.

Some of the staff have been there for decades. I was a camp counselor during the summer in high school and one of my little campers Ben has been there since he was old enough to work. He prob doesn't remember me but every time I go in there and see him it makes me smile.

I go there as much as possible. Even though my parents moved to downtown Chicago, when I visit, I make my mom drive up Lake Shore Drive and Sheridan Road all the way to Michael's. I love looking at the gorgeous mansions in Kenilworth and Winnetka (my fav is a gigantic Spanish estate, picture TK, or a Frank Lloyd Wright) and picking out the one I'll never live in...

The Baha'i Temple is so cool, too...

Michael's: ************ (one million stars)

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Vicious Dogs

North Hollywood

I found my new favorite hot dog stand in LA! Vicious Dogs on Lankershim Blvd.

I don't hang out in the Valley very often, but today I had a meeting in Burbank at 11 am. I'd heard of Vicious Dogs and was dying to try it. So I Google-mapped it while waiting for my meeting to start, and it was only 9 minutes away! Can I get an Amen?!

Now, I was supposed to meet my childhood friend Holli in Tarzana for lunch at 1. After my meeting I had some time to kill so I snuck right on over to Vicious Dogs. Hey, Holli was on a juice cleanse so we weren't really gonna "eat" anyway, right?

The menu board was huge and had really original ingredient combinations (there's another board with even more choices).

Overwhelmed and salivating, I asked the young lass behind the counter for her suggestion, if I was only to sample one dog (I had to pretend to eat lunch again with Holli in like 20 minutes). The lass told me to get a Classic, which is a Kielbasa with grilled peppers, onions and pineapple in a sweet chili glaze...

I must say, this dog was OUTSTANDING. Sometimes pepper toppings overtake sausages but this sweet and spicy concoction was the perfect compliment to the juicy grilled Kielbasa. I'd go back to Vicious just for this dog. Like a hundred times.

Actually, I can't wait to go back! There are so many more to try and so many traffic jams standing in my way! I gotta schedule some more meetings in the Valley just so I can go over to Vicious. Or just befriend people who live near there and use them for their proximity to Vicious Dogs.

BTW, the owner Willie Fedail is awesome...anyone who cares this much about hot dogs and does them justice like this is my hero...

PS I came clean with Holli and told her I went to Vicious Dogs before I met her. She was very understanding...

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest

Brooklyn, NY

Only one place to be in NYC on 4th of July if you're a hot dog lover. The original Nathan's on Stillwell Ave on Coney Island for the hot dog eating contest!

It's more like a swallowing contest! Competitive eating legend Joey Chestnut was the favorite and he didn't disappoint this year. He shoveled down 69 hot dogs in 10 minutes, setting a new world record! I kept thinking he was going to have a heart attack on the spot...

This was Joey's 7th yellow mustard belt in a row, a mind-boggling accomplishment. He's like better than Michael Jordan! However, Joey was apparently disappointed because he wanted to reach 70, the number he decided he would retire after.

I love hot dogs but no way could I ever do this contest. I think the most I've eaten at one time was 5, when I was an athlete in high school, could eat like 9000 calories a day like Michael Phelps and get away with it.

In  fact, here's a picture of me eating a hot dog (that I most likely microwaved then put on white bread with a Kraft single and mustard) in my kitchen with Julie Moore Venn before a softball game in high school. I have on red nail polish for some reason, I weigh like 90 pounds and I'm wearing a Chicago T-shirt un-ironically...

Okay, back to Nathan's. Other than the original location on Stillwell, I never really ate Nathan's hot dogs in NYC. The fast food places are kind of filthy and the grilled hot dogs mediocre. I'm not a big fan of New York-style hot dogs with the brown spicy mustard, sauerkraut and onion saucey mixture.

But if you're at Coney Island, you have two have at least two. Then go see the bearded lady in a creepy tent and go on a wooden roller coaster if you don't value your life.

Nathan's hot dogs in general: *
Coney Island Nathan's overall vibe: ***

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Legends of Chicagoland

Wolfy's on Peterson

When I was a kid, we used to drive by Wolfy's every time we visited my Grandma Fae in the city. It was always torture to drive by without going in...

The COSTCO controversy

Everywhere, USA

Okay, it's not really a controversy like the NSA leaker or something. It's just that some snobs don't want to acknowledge that the giant soulless chain has one of the best hot dogs in the country! I'm not gonna lie, there's a lot of riff raff waiting in line for the dirt cheap food at COSTCO...

And you're taking your life into your own hands with the condiments (I haven't died yet)...

But the bottom line is you can get a hot dog and a soda pop for less than 2 bucks...

I'm talking an amazing hot dog. Made by Kirkland, the jumbo quarter pounders are juicy and garlicky. The soft sesame seed bun is the perfect vessel for this red hot...

Do I look like I'm gonna keel over here? No, I look like I'm in ecstasy. And I am. Because I also just got enough toilet paper for seven lifetimes...

I am a hot dog

Whoever took this pic was obviously drunk...


Mamaroneck, NY

Even though I lived in NYC for 15 years, I almost missed this historic landmark, which dates back to 1919! Thanks to my friend Rachel, who lives ten minutes away from there, I got to taste their unique hot dogs before I moved to LA. She insisted I try it.

Walter's looks like a pagoda, but the food is All-American dogs. Some kind of pork or veal blend, almost like a wurst, split down the middle and grilled in a "secret" sauce (tastes pretty buttery to me). The bun is toasted to perfection and it's topped with homemade mustard. I only ate two but could have wolfed down like five. Rachel kept me in check.

That's Rachel there, holding my dog Scooter, and her daughter Emma. Rachel needs to keep me in check. While we stood in the legendarily long line (we waited about 30 minutes), Scooter started sniffing up a guy's shorts. Not thinking about the fact that Emma and her sister Bridget were standing there, I asked him if he had a hot dog in his pants. Oops!

After you get your food (I highly recommend the curly fries), you sit at picnic tables as children run amok around you.

I love Walter's. It's suburban goodness!

Walter's hot dogs: ***
Curly fries: ****
Overall vibe: ****

Monday, July 1, 2013

July 4 - Taste of Chicago

In Chicago, July 4th used to be synonymous with Taste of Chicago. Millions of people crammed into Grant Park, stuffing themselves silly in the unbearable heat/humidity, getting drunk and watching fireworks over Lake Michigan.

Unfortunately, when the economy tanked, they downsized the festival. And if I'm not mistaken, they canceled the fireworks! In the ol' days, every restaurant in town had booths. Giant turkey legs, pizza, ribs, cheesecake, you name it's only 40 food vendors. Sad.

But to be honest, even though there used to be every kind of food under the sun, I usually only ate hot dogs anyway! Here's a shot of me from a couple years ago, lovingly preparing a Vienna Beef dog, from one of my fave's Gold Coast, for devour-ation.

Camden Yards


I love going to different ballparks all over the country to watch baseball but more importantly taste ball park food, especially to sample regional hot dogs. One of my favorite yearly trips when I lived in NYC was to drive to Camden Yards to see the Orioles lose to my White Sox.

Camden Yards is the coolest stadium I've been to. It was the first to be designed "old-school" when all the ballparks were getting facelifts. I love the new Comisky (I refuse to call it The Cell) but they missed the boat when designing the exterior. I mean, look at Camden...

Okay, let's get to the important part -- the food! Camden Yards has excellent hot dogs and Polish sausages. I can't believe they can get away with calling their stand "Polack Johnny's"


Camden Yards also has incredible pulled pork in the outfield and fresh soft homemade pretzels. I completely pig out when I go here because among the parks I've been to, it has the second best food (Comisky's is amazing and I'll post pics after I go to a game in August).

Here's me stuffing my face like an animal at Camden Yards...

I've been to Camden with my friend Paul, my ex Sophie and best of all my dad and I did a road trip from NYC together I will never forget. We stopped along the way and had fresh crab at the famous Cantler's near Annapolis. Then we pigged out in our amazing seats at Camden. The Orioles used to be so bad that you could get first row behind the White Sox dugout for $70. At Yankee stadium those seats would be $1500.

Here's some awesome shots from that incredible trip, my amazing brother Brett (I call him Bert) caught us on TV and took screen shots...

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Crif Dogs

East Village, NYC

I mean, I adore this place, it's in my top 3. According to legend (and the owner Chris) the name Crif is actually how you say the owner's name with your mouth full of hot dog.

I have so many special memories of Crif. Before Shake Shack, it was my go-to place when I needed a good hot dog. It was my go-to place when I used to drink my face off at Duke's on Ave C. In our wild poker game days at my buddy Paul's apartment, we ordered in Spicy Rednecks, Philly Tubesteaks and tator tots from Crif's after everyone smoked a ton of weed. For the record, I just liked when they blew it in my face...

My nephew Buster would only eat plain hot dogs until I took him here. Then he tried a dog with pineapple and cream cheese and he became a hot dog nut, too. He's headed to NYC this fall to go to the New School and I hope he eats here at least five times a week.

This place was experimenting with different flavors before everybody started doing that. They did morning dogs and southwestern dogs and teriyaki dogs first. One of my favorite dogs is the Jon Jon Deragon, which has bacon, green onion, cream cheese and is topped with everything bagel seeds. Yum.

Hot dogs: ****
Tator tots: ****
Root beer: You have to here

Betty White is a Hot Dog Lover

Food Truckin'

LA has amazing food truck culture. So far, I've only tried Dogtown Dogs, when it parked outside of Old Navy one day. I had the Morning Commute with bacon and a fried egg and it was delicious. I follow them on Twitter now, along with the Greasy Wiener, and I'm waiting with bated breath for them to head back to the South Bay.

It's my dream to own my own hot dog stand one day. I will. Someday...

Legends of Chicagoland

Hot Doug's

Chicago, IL

So, here's another stand that is often voted best in Chicago. They have a line out the door before they open in the morning, especially on Fridays, when they cook their fries in duck fat. They also have unique sausages, brats and polish sausage.

This will not be very popular, but I'm not a huge fan of Doug's. To be fair, I've never eaten the sausages (named after local celebs like Steve Swisher) and I haven't yet had the fries in duck fat. But I have had regular dogs and fries there and I think they're mediocre.

What I just said is sacrilegious but since four people will read this, I'm probably's just that other places are more my fave.

Doug's regular dogs: **
Doug's regular fries: **

Hot Dogs in Breaking Training

Scottsdale, Ariz.

I've been to Spring Training about five times to see my beloved Chicago White Sox. When I travel I always like to scope out the best local hot dog. But during spring training I'm watching baseball all day and we usually go out for a nice dinner. So I haven't discovered the best local hot dog yet.

What I can report is that the hot dogs at Camelback Ranch, where the Sox play, are outstanding. First of all, they ship in Vienna Beef, so that's not a stick in the eye.

But they also have a local delicacy, The Sonoran Dog! Which is basically a taco on a hot dog. Salsa, cheese, sour cream, guacamole and bacon. I ate this whole thing without a fork and it was all over my face and my clothes. Everyone around me was laughing at what a fat slob I was.

Luckily my boys in black didn't notice because they were busy winning. Which hasn't happened since Spring Training. They are in last place and totally stink. But I still love them. And hot dogs.