Five Easy Pieces – The Conclusion

Step Three: Experience the local flavor
After our gourmet dinner the night before, I figured that I needed to let Jessica experience traditional Chicago cuisine, so I took her to a neighborhood dive for a true Chicago-style hotdog. My plans were foiled when she told me that her dad taught her never to eat hotdogs because they’re made with cow noses.
“Yes, but 100% beef cow noses,” I added. She chose the hamburger. Yeah, because I’m sure there aren’t any noses in a hamburger…
But still, I schooled her in the proper way to eat a Chicago hotdog. For the uninitiated, it involves exactly these ingredients:

  • 100% all beef red hot
  • Onions
  • Tomatoes
  • Pickle
  • Sport peppers
  • Neon green relish
  • Celery salt
  • Mustard
  • Poppy seed bun

“Seriously? You put all that on a hotdog?”
“Yes, although I admit, I’m not a big fan of the relish. But the one thing you must remember above all is the mustard. You must never, ever, order a hotdog in Chicago with ketchup.”
“But what if I like ketchup on a hotdog?”
“Doesn’t matter. It’s just not done. Some places won’t even serve it.”
“Really? No one eats ketchup on hotdogs here?”
And then I told Jessica about how ketchup almost destroyed my friendship with Natasha. She was born and raised in Chicago, but due to a tragic congenital birth defect, prefers ketchup on a hotdog. I can’t even watch her eat it – it’s like watching someone burn the American flag or put a crucifix in a jar of pee. So anytime we go out for hotdogs, it’s like ripping a bandage off a partially-healed wound. It always starts with:
“I can eat whatever I want on a hotdog! I’m paying good money for this, and if I want to put peanut butter on it, I can!”
“Peanut butter would be less of an abomination.”
“Shut up!”
“No, you shut up!”
“You’re not the boss of me!”
“Oh, hey. Our order’s ready.”
Step Four: Expose yourself to culture
After my karaoke shaming the previous night, I wanted to put the spotlight on someone else, so I took Jessica to see my friend Seamus perform in a play at a local church. I promised her an evening she would never forget, and sweetened the pot by telling her that we would be able to drink beer from cans in a church gymnasium.
For the past three years, we have gone to see our friends in a play at this church. Each year, the story involves someone rich who wants to shut something down, and then there’s some singing, and a big dance number, and then the townsfolk band together and the rich guy has a change of heart. One year it was the local newspaper being bought out. This year, it was a classic hotel being torn down to make room for a new high-rise. These are the kind of heartfelt battles that made Chicago the city it is today.
And each year, there is at least one key scene that makes absolutely no sense, but sticks with us more than any of the others. Last year it was some talking bears who were feuding with chipmunks. This year, it was a group of hotel guests who loved to use words containing the letter “X.”
I forgot to warn Jessica about the obligatory nonsensical scene, so this was the look on her face for a good portion of the play:
Shortly thereafter, there was the big dance scene, and the rich guy had a change of heart.
Step Five: End on a high note
Once our evening of Miller products and metal folding chairs was over, both Jess and I were pretty wiped out. We decided, however, to stop off for one quick drink before heading back to our respective homes. I took her to my new favorite local bar that specializes in fancy cocktails. I ordered an old fashioned, and Jessica got the dirty martini.
”I love dirty martinis! But I’ll just have one.”
These would be famous last words. Although I am a lady, and a lady never calls a friend a lush, I will say this much: Jessica ate 18 olives that evening. I’ll let everyone figure out for themselves how many martinis that was.
Our “just one drink” turned into many drinks, and even more laughs, when suddenly I saw Jessica waving to a table of men behind me. Within minutes, we found ourselves flanked by a quartet of the most handsome and best smelling young men this fine city has to offer.
“Oh honey! You smell good! What are you wearing?”
“It’s Burberry.”
Chicago men wear Burberry cologne, and they’re damn proud of it.
As hard as we tried, we could not get the bartender to keep the bar open longer for us. Something about the law. So our quick nightcap turned into you don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here. Somewhere around 3:30am, I sent Jessica back to her hotel and immediately crashed.
The next morning, or rather, later that morning, I called Jessica up before her flight back to St. Louis, and all she said was, “Ohmigod – that was so much fun! I love Chicago!”
Works every time.

20 Responses to “Five Easy Pieces – The Conclusion”

  1. Tracy Lynn Says:

    I’ll have you know, miss you-can’t-have-ketchup, that around these parts, we have a thing known as the Flo-dog, which is a steamed dog, Flo’s special relish with mayo if you like it sweeter and mustard if you like it hot. While we do not mock those who choose ketchup, we pity them with gentle sorrow for they know not the joy that is the Flo-dog.
    All that other stuff is just plain wrong.

  2. jenny Says:

    I am now sitting in a puddle of my own sick at the thought of mayo mixed with relish. Let the Dog Wars begin!

  3. mike Says:

    What’s the final word on diced green olives on one’s hotdog?
    (and I heard that it wasn’t noses, but rather lips & a$$hole$ – maybe that was in a movie?)
    And finally, because clearly I love posting in threes, I have totally enjoyed your photos as of late. Especially “Confused Jessica at Heartwarming Play”. Golden.

  4. Jessica Says:

    Dearest Jenny, I love how you conveniently don’t mention that I was ordering my martini’s with extra olives.
    ‘Tis true, however, I do now love Chicago.

  5. Kevin Says:

    I think you already know my opinion of Chicago hot dogs…

  6. Caitlinator Says:

    I guess I can still like you, even though you look down on those of us who like ketchup on our hot dogs. I also guess it’s probably a good thing that I don’t eat too many hot dogs.

  7. Sarah Says:

    Mmmmmm…hot dogs.
    Maybe the day of TequilaCon we can meet in Coney Island so you can get a Nathan’s hotdog. New York, baby, knows hot dogs.
    Mustard and sauerkraut.
    Love the photo of Jess at the play. I have that look on my face 95% of the time, actually.

  8. The Other Vivian Says:

    Jesus I’ve got to get to Chicago.

  9. communicatrix Says:

    Wiener’s Circle!!!
    Oh, I miss a fluffy bun…

  10. shari Says:

    I’ll have the chicken fingers, please, instead of the dog. But the martinis? I’m in!

  11. teahouseblossom Says:

    Oh, no! I love lotsa lotsa ketchup on my hotdogs. That’s good to know before my next trip to Chicago.
    In New York we have the dirty water dogs off the street and in the ballparks. You can put whatever you want on those, I’m pretty sure.

  12. jenny Says:

    mike: i’m very intrigued by the green olives. is this a personal concoction, or do people regularly eat this in canada?
    jess: yeah, right. if you consider two olives per martini to be “extra,” then, yes, I guess you did order extra olives. ;)
    kevin: i do? have we discussed this? was i drinking at the time? i don’t remember!
    caitlin: it’s okay – you can eat ketchup on a hotdog in other cities, just not in chicago…
    sarah: coney island! coney island! actually, sauerkraut and mustard sounds okay, but really should be on a bratwurst (yes, i’m from wisconsin).
    tov: yes. yes, you do!
    communicatrix: yeah – the weiner’s circle, where the food is cheap and the service is brutal. they drop the f-bomb on you if you don’t have your money ready!
    shari: no hot dogs for you? fine. based on that photo of you on your site today, i can only imagine how big your martinis are…
    thb: “dirty water dogs?” like, they’re sitting in pools of dirty water? well, i suppose if you put enough hot peppers on them, it would kill some of the bacteria. yum!

  13. sandra Says:

    Ooh…I now want a Chicago-style hot dog (Kevin, if you’re reading this, I know you’re grossed out). Although for the record, I scrolled down and looked at the picture before reading and thought, briefly, “why is there a carrot on a bun?” Apparently I need sleep.

  14. Ketchup, of thee I sing Says:

    Ketchup goes on everything.. it’s the perfect condiment and is the origin of all tasty, tangy sauces. Dammit, I can eat a hot dog anyway I like! Don’t use your blog to push your anti-ketchup agenda on these good people. Why can’t you let us live in peace? OH! This makes me SO MAD.. why did you have go there again?!! – ARGHHH!! Nat

  15. kris Says:

    Re: The Weiner Circle.
    F-bomb? Jenny, I’ve heard the C-bomb dropped by the staff many, many times. One time in reference to ketchup on a hot dog.
    Y’all have been warned.

  16. jenny Says:

    Sandra: Carrot on a bun sounds like a tasty vegan alternative to the Chicago hotdog.
    Nat: Fine. Eat your ketchup on a hotdog. Spell it catsup for all I care. Drink your red wine with fish. Wear your white shoes after Labor Day. Wear your underwear on the outside of your clothes. Let’s all live in frickin’ anarchy, why don’t we?
    PS – are we still on for drinks tonight? :)
    Kris: The C-bomb? Dannnngggg! That’s why I stay on the north side – they’re not quite as mean.

  17. ms. sizzle Says:

    i almost forgot that the beginning of this tale involved hot dogs. (i hate hot dogs, ewww.) thank god for the drinking! ;)
    that play sounds hilarious.
    :) sizzle

  18. Jessica Says:

    I nearly choked on my hot tea when I read Nat’s comment and then almost spit out the second sip to your response, Jen. You girls kill me….I want to have drinks with you both tonight!

  19. peefer Says:

    “a crucifix in a jar of pee” is something I will remember for a very long time.
    What is mustard?

  20. TCho Says:

    Omg. Those hot dogs put Gray’s Papaya dogs to shame.