Food Fight: Uncle Franky's vs. the Wienery coney dogs
Hot dogs are sort of like Lay's potato chips: You can't eat just one. Or at least that's what we thought. The returns from our very small, very unofficial poll suggest that the recommended daily allowance of hot dogs probably hovers somewhere around 1.2. But we're still here to tell about it. Here's how two local hot dog heavyweights match up:
Uncle Franky's Chicago pride is on display before you even set foot on its premises. Signs leading you in to the Dinkytown location announce its Chicago dog, complete with its signature frightening, leprechaun green sweet relish. It turns out Uncle Franky's can respectably turn out another Midwestern hot dog variation as well. The $3.40 coney dog comes with mustard, onion and a ladle-full of meaty chili, all smothered atop a Vienna Beef dog. The dog is hearty and filling, and doesn't get too lost among the other ingredients as happens with some coneys. The chili is dense and just vaguely spicy, kind of like a Sloppy Joe. Uncle Franky's also scores points with us for serving locally-made Shamrock sodas exclusively, including personal fave: Grape Ape.
The Wienery serves up Vienna Beef dogs as well, but a tad smaller than Uncle Franky's. The $2.75 Manhattan dog comes with chili only (cheese and onion upon request). The chili is distinctly tomato-y, with big stewed tomato pieces cozied up with sizeable bites of ground beef, all covered with chopped onions and a sparing amount of grated cheese. And we swear we taste some butter in there. Slathered on the bun? The total package is rich and decadent, so much so, in fact, that one of my dining companions had to leave abruptly. (It turns out, eating two hot dogs in quick succession probably isn't such a good idea.) We dug that the West Bank haunt is just as likely to be serving up dogs to neighborhood kids as it is to local musicians and hungry students looking for cheap eats.
The Winner: We liked Uncle Franky's a lot. Even its shocking amount of Scooby-Doo paraphernalia -- which includes an apparently as-yet-unworn child's Halloween costume that prompted one of my companions to remark, "Now that's just creepy" -- while sort of freaking us out, didn't keep a hush from falling over us as we inhaled our dogs Crazy Legs Conti style. But even sudden, hot dog-induced illness can't keep us from rating the Wienery's dog tops in this battle. The ingredients sang. The flavor popped. What is it that adds that extra, unquantifiable dimension? Years of greasy pile-up? (The Wienery isn't exactly known for its cleanliness.) We don't know. Who cares? And dang, $2.75 for any one of the Wienery's dozen-plus hot dog variations? Can't beat the price. They've also got impressive variety on the menu, including mock duck and a burger stuffed with hot peppers and garlic, supposedly an African version of a jucy lucy. Plus, mad points for the piano on the teeny weeny premises. Place is like the size of Al's Breakfast and sees fit to have a freaking piano in there! So awesome.
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