By Robin Garr
Spring is fully sprung, more than one-fifth of Americans are vaccinated, and the Cubs return home to Wrigley Field to play the Pirates on Friday, April 16. Wrigley Field? Now I want a Chicago-style hot dog.
If there’s one thing that can unite Chicago’s perpetually warring Cubs and White Sox fans, it’s the classic Chicago dog. It doesn’t matter whether you get it at Wrigley Field or Sox Park. Either way, it’s going to be the same treat, a meal on a bun: a snappy Vienna Dog in its natural casing, topped with a lunch counter full of traditional toppings.
I would be totally down for a lazy afternoon in a seat on the third-base side at Wrigley right now, but the 310-mile trip takes five hours, and then you’ve got to find parking. Here’s a more practical idea: Let’s go to Lonnie’s!
That would be Lonnie’s Best Taste of Chicago, serving Louisville its best and most authentic Chicago dog for the past 20 years.
Lonnie’s not only offers authentic Chicago dogs made with pure beef Vienna brand hot dogs; but it’s one of the cheapest eateries around. A half-dozen hot dogs – each named after a major Chicago avenue – range in price from $3.59 (for a Congress Parkway cheese dog) to $5.59 (for a still-modest Jumbo Clark Street dog), to $5.59 (for the Chicago classic, a jumbo Clark Street dog).
Four Polish sausage sandwiches are $5.09 to $7.29. A half-dozen Chicago-style sliced Italian beef sandwiches are priced fro $5.19 (for a small 3-inch sandwich, hot peppers optional) to $8.79 (for a beef and sausage combo). Four burger options are $3.89 (for a quarter-pounder) to $6.99 (for a full half-pound burger); and five specialties are $2.35 (for a hot tamale) to $7.99 (for a Greek island gyros with fries). Daily specials offer attractive deals; the Wednesday soul food plate and Friday catfish fry (both $10.99) are deservedly popular.
Lonnie’s is currently closed for indoor dining, with the interior set up with furniture to mark socially distanced waiting spots and a no-go zone close to the kitchen. You’re welcome to come in, place your takeout order, and wait, though, and we did that, splitting an oversize dog, a bag of onion rings, and a slice of memorable yellow cake.
Both Wrigley Field and Sox Park will supply you with the standard preparation: a Vienna brand dog served with yellow mustard, green relish, diced onions, sport peppers, tomato wedges and celery salt in a poppyseed bun. That’s an accurate description, too, of Lonnie’s Clark Street Dog ($4.99) and Jumbo Clark Street Dog ($5.59), 311 and, oops, 502 calories respectively.
The jumbo dog, pictured at the top of the page, boasts a very firm, snappy natural hot dog skin that pops and releases hot juices when you bite; the all-beef flesh within is very firm and tightly packed into the skin. This is not your floppy grocery hot dog; at five ounces it’s not a huge sausage, but there’s lot of pure beef flavor and subtle spice packed into that casing. Just as described, the dog is snuggled into a white poppy-seed bun slathered with yellow ballpark mustard, topped with chopped white onion, and neon green relish, with tomato wedges and tart, vinegary sport peppers on top.
Onion rings ($3.89) were crisp, hot and good; creamy cole slaw ($3.29) was well-made in a tangy mayo-vinegar dressing, and a generous slice of yellow cake ($3.50) was fluffy and light, with a perfect, luscious caramel icing.
A jumbo dog and sides came to $14.38, and we discarded percentage calculations to add a $6 tip.