On a particularly sweltering day in late July, I ventured over to Pup's to get my summer hot dog fill. I kept hearing rave reviews about their steamed all-beef koshers and decided it was time to try one (or two or three) for myself. Certainly, the hot dog is one of the simplest American foods, born of a collision of cultures and then mass-produced. The thing is, way before corporately owned restaurant chains became commonplace, there was the humble hot dog stand and places like Pup's were everywhere.
Sandwiched somewhere between Starbucks and Einstein Bros. Bagels in the Dr. Phillips Marketplace, Pup's is easy to overlook. It's a neighborhood fast-food joint, and the small, sparse room is scattered with a few tables and smells of a carnival. Pup's may not resemble Nathan's along the shores of Coney Island, but it is a distant relative that has adapted to modern times.
Pup's offers more than 15 variations, including the "New Yorkie" ($3.19) with onions and kraut, and the "Chicago Hungry Husky" ($3.39) done up in Windy City fashion with relish, bright green sport peppers, whole jalape'os, tomato and celery salt on a poppy seed bun. There is no end to the list of ingredients they'll throw on your dog, including cheddar, chili, sauerkraut, banana peppers, marinara, mushrooms, black bean and corn salsa. But my favorite was the irresistibly simple "Yankee Doodle Dandy" ($1.89), an all-beef kosher with a quick squirt of mustard and ketchup, and a dollop of relish and onions.
The only selection I didn't care for was the Polish sausage ($4.79). It was a poor representation of anything Eastern European and didn't benefit from being deep-fried, which dried it out and made it taste stale. I much preferred substituting a regular dog topped with the same delicious sauerkraut and Dijon for almost half the price.
The fries, spicy or au naturel, were pleasingly thin and crispy, just the way I like them. I should mention the ample supply of wraps on the menu, which look good, but not as good as the traditional hot dogs that I crave.
As I polished off my third indulgence, I thought of my Ellis Island ancestors who saved up all week to savor a Nathan's hot dog. And while the world has come a long way since then, luckily hot dogs have pretty much stayed the same.