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.