Plump hot dogs, skinny French fries are specialty of Chicago's Dog Haus


October 07, 1990|By MICHAEL & JANE STERN | MICHAEL & JANE STERN,Universal Press Syndicate

CHICAGO -- As plump Polish sausages sizzle on the grill, the Dog Haus counterman dips a ladle into the fryer (whence cometh the French-fried potatoes) to get some hot fat to pour over the grilling tube steaks. The grease helps give them a blackened, crisp skin; it also gives them a look of glistening, luscious avoirdupois. Here are some of the heaviest, greasiest Polish sausages in a city where Polish sausages, along with their beefy brothers, hot dogs, are matters of serious culinary consideration. If you are a Polish sausage fanatic, it isn't likely you will be blase about the big, charred tubes they serve up at Byron's Dog Haus: You will love them or hate them.

The hot dogs are more civil. We can recommend them to anyone who likes a substantial, all-beef frank. These are Vienna-brand beauties, perfectly steeped to plump succulence, with a faint crackle as you sink your teeth into them. Our only complaint is about the buns. These buns, alas, are a bore -- small, plain (no poppy seeds), forked right out of their plastic-wrapped container (not warmed), and therefore a bit too redolent of cardboard and plastic wrap.

On the other hand, Dog Haus condiments are gorgeous. Eleven toppings are advertised on the outside wall of the tiny cubicle restaurant (the same sign proclaims Byron's motto, "THEE HOT DOG"). The toppings include strips of green pepper, cucumber disks, piccalilli, squeeze-on yellow mustard, onions, tiny "sport" peppers (hot!), and virtually whole tomatoes that happen to have been cut into slices. Yes, there resting atop your hot dog and all its other condiments, is one tomato. It isn't quite round anymore, because it has been cut into slices; but because the slices don't go all the way through, it stays in one piece until you try to eat the dog, at which time, unless you are one of Chicago's semiprofessional hot dog eaters, everything falls into a splendid mess. The tomato is customarily gilded with a sprinkle of celery salt.

Alongside this outstanding specimen of frankfurter pulchritude, you want French fries. They are skinny and crisp -- an ideal spuddy companion to the highly seasoned sausages that are this restaurant's specialty; and they are served forth in a big paper cup.

We often dream about dining at Byron's when we are away from Chicago. We think about those Polish sausages and hot dogs, and about the French fries. The wieners are foodstuffs virtually impossible to duplicate at home (who has the energy to prepare and arrange 11 different condiments for a homemade hot dog?); but the French fries are easy.

Whenever we get a hankering for skinny fries as served at the Dog Haus, we use this classic double-frying recipe, which yields crisp, savory sticks of potato every time. It was a technique first developed in the 1860s, in Scotland, by a Belgian potato vendor with a food stall in a Dundee market. He took his recipes back to Belgium, where double-fried potatoes, served in a paper cup (and dolloped with mayonnaise -- yikes!) have become a street-corner staple.

Skinny french-fried


Serves four.

4 baking potatoes (do not use new potatoes)

vegetable oil for frying

salt to taste

Pare potatoes and cut them into 1/4 -inch-thick strips. Soak in ice water 30 minutes. Drain and dry very, very thoroughly.

Heat oil in deep skillet or deep-fryer to 350 degrees. Fry potatoes, about a cup at a time so they aren't crowded in the oil, until pale and limp -- under 2 minutes. Use a slotted spoon (or the fryer's basket) to remove them quickly. Drain on paper towels and allow them to cool at least 10 minutes.

Raise the heat of the oil to 375 degrees. Fry potatoes again, a cup at a time, until golden brown, about 2 more minutes. Drain on paper towels; salt and serve immediately, in paper cups or a towel-lined bowl. Do not cover.

Byron's Dog Haus, 1017 W. Irving Park Road, Chicago, Ill. 60613; (312) 281-7474.

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