Windy City Eats
407A Middle St., Weymouth
Hours: Tuesday to Thursday, 11 a.m.-7:30 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m.-8:30 p.m.; Sunday, noon-5 p.m.
Accepts MasterCard and Visa
For the homesick who crave a dog dragged through the garden, there is a little piece of Chicago in Weymouth at Windy City Eats.
At this small hot dog stand where the walls and ceiling are plastered with dollar bills signed by customers, you can find the famed Chicago dog piled high with pickles and vegetables — or “dragged through the garden,” as they say there. But the menu also has more than a dozen versions of hot dogs, along with cheesesteaks and fries.
The Windy City dog is a very particular combination, and owner Grady Carlson was so keen on getting it right that he orders not only the franks straight from Chicago, but also the poppy-seed buns and relishes.
But what does a native New Yorker like myself know about the Chicago dog? For my unscientific measure of authenticity, I turned to two friends who are native Chicagoans.
They declared the Chicago dog ($3) authentic and delicious, and plan to return for more. I declared myself a convert. According to Carlson, a proper Chicago dog has a Vienna Beef frank in a steamed poppy-seed bun with yellow mustard, neon-green relish, sport peppers, onions, pickle, tomato, and a splash of celery salt.
The all-beef dog was very good, and the relish, vegetables, and peppers transformed it into something slightly sweet, sour, spicy, and fresh.
On other dogs, my friends and I were more divided. The Navy Pier ($4) is topped with pastrami; one friend said the two didn’t go together, while another enjoyed it. I stood in the middle, deciding the peppery pastrami melded all right with the frank, but there were better combinations on the menu.
You can’t go wrong with the Bob ($5), barbecue sauce, bacon, grilled onions, and cheese, although it lacked the contrast and pop of the Chicago dog.
The Maxwell Street Polish ($5), a deep-fried Polish sausage with grilled onions and mustard, was more satisfying. One friend said she was used to having it piled higher with the onions, and while I agree that would have been an improvement, it was really good as it was.
The cheesesteak ($6) was a disappointment, though I’m admittedly not a fan of the genre. Windy City’s has the standard shaved steak with American cheese, both of the usual mediocre quality — one friend agreed, while the other enjoyed it.
On another visit, I found the Sears Tower ($5), a jalapeño-cheddar dog with spicy mustard, chili, cheese, and sauerkraut, to be hearty, but a little too spicy. If you like it hot, this dog’s for you.
I had to order the wackiest concoction on the menu, the Brazilian ($4). The mayonnaise and corn unexpectedly went well with the dog, and the potato sticks were a fun topper. Carlson came up with the concept after asking his younger brother upon return from a trip to Brazil how hot dogs are eaten there, and said this item is popular with Brazilians in the community.
Some dogs, like the Sears Tower and the Bob, are the inventions of customers. If an idea sounds interesting, Carlson and his wife, Sandy Le, will add it to the menu and the customer gets to name the dog and eat a few free franks. “But no royalties,” Carlson added.
To wash down the hot dogs, Windy City offers sodas ($2) under its own label in raspberry lime, cream, root beer, or orange.
Carlson is from the North Side of Chicago, “10 minutes from downtown.” He and Le met in California. When they were having their son, Kamden, now 4, they moved to Weymouth, where Le grew up, to be surrounded by family. They opened Windy City Eats in June 2008.
Carlson said it has always been his dream to open a hot dog stand. “Growing up in Chicago, a lot of kids have that dream,” he said. “There’s a hot dog stand on every corner.”
Their stand’s location in a strip mall in Weymouth might seem odd, but it was a practical choice — Le’s sister owns the plaza. There’s almost no seating inside, but there are a few tables with chairs outside. Carlson and Le are looking to open a second location in the area.
These days he mostly is involved with distribution, while she runs the hot dog stand. They distribute franks and products like sport peppers and giardineira, a relish of pickled vegetables, to Cape Cod, Beverly, and New Hampshire.
According to Carlson, the Chicago dog has its roots in the Great Depression, when times were tough and you could get a whole meal out of a hot dog by loading on the toppings.
“Hot dogs are a simple meal you can expand on so easily,” he said. “It’s such a comfort food.”
It was at Vienna Beef’s headquarters in Chicago that Carlson attended “hot dog university,” where he learned how to properly assemble a hot dog. You don’t just squirt on a lot of mustard, Le said. “They teach you it’s just one line of mustard down the bun.”
While Chicagoans scoff at the use of ketchup, Carlson said he keeps it on hand because people in the Northeast like it. “I can say it’s for the fries,” he joked.