Welcome to the new Bites column, written and curated by Evanston-based food writer and multimedia designer, JT Newman. Here you will find weekly-ish reviews of the best dishes to be found in Chicagoland. Old and new, far flung and close to home, we’ll cover it all and give you an ever-expanding map of where to find these delicacies. JT is a Third Coast Review co-founder and a Gapers Block alum who left Chicago for a while. We’re happy to see this byline again.
For the first Bites Column, I felt like I should to pay homage to a Chicago classic: something yummy and summery. As I took a shortcut home from O’Hare a month ago, the clouds parted and the sun beamed down as I stopped at the light at Devon and Milwaukee. I glanced skyward and spied the darling faces of Maurie and Flaurie, the anthropomorphic hot dog couple, named after Superdawg’s founders. “Oh my god! SUPERDAWG!” I thought to myself with delight. Freshly moved back from NYC, I had forgotten about this place in my five years away.
Obviously, we had to head to Superdawg Drive-In at the corners of Milwaukee, Devon, and Nagle on the northwest side for the first of these columns.
There’s a lot of controversy surrounding the Chicago dog and which is best. Like Italian beef and deep dish, people can get heated about the whole thing. My girlfriend Toni and I pulled into Superdawg for lunch on one of the cerulean picnic benches adjacent to a drive-in spot on an overcast June day. First up, we had to sample their version of the classic, as a first step in finding a personal fave. (Since I’m newly moved back, I need to make the rounds and make sure my favorites are still up to snuff….)
We also ordered up a few other items to try, including an incredibly thick chocolate shake, onion chips (Superdawg’s nod to the onion ring), and the Whoopskidog, described as a charbroiled Romanian, Hungarian, Polish sausage, basted in special barbecue sauce, and served on a “Whoopskiroll” with grilled onions and dill pickle.
When the carhop walked our food over to our vehicle, it wasn’t even a contest. The Whoopskidog was our clear favorite. Toni and I were so enraptured with this dish that we didn’t even open our Superdawg box until we were halfway through demolishing the former.
The Whoopskidog’s casing was crisp and the sausage had just the perfect amount of char on it. The Whoopskiroll, toasted with just a tiny bit of char on the edges, held up well to the toppings. And the flavor makes a perfect umami mix of salty charred sausage jus, sweet and bitter carmelized onion, and tangy pickle and sauce. Honestly, if they hadn’t pre-cut it in half for us (I asked, since we were splitting) one of us probably would have wolfed the whole thing down before the other noticed.
Honorable mention, by the way, goes to the chocolate shake. They advertise it as being so thick we give you a straw so we can prove you can’t suck the shake through it. A perfectly creamy and chocolatey counterpoint to the Whoopskidog, which is a perfect Bite.
Get your Whoopskidog, shakes, and a menu of drive-in delicacies delivered right to your car at Superdawg, open since 1948, at the intersections of Devon, Milwaukee, and Nagle Avenues in Norwood Park. www.superdawg.com.