Posted By bbinns on September 22, 2009Toledo to Chicago: 220 miles. Three states: Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois
I have slept well, because the most comfortable bed in the world is at my sister-in-law’s house in Toledo. Not to mention the loving, warm feeling of I get when pulling into a real home instead of an impersonal hotel. In this case, there was a long-standing family reunion elsewhere in Toledo, so I happily puttered alone in Nancy’s big and well-equipped kitchen, simmering fresh-from-the-Ohio-dirt sweetcorn, mixing up a salad, and popping large quantities of the yellow tomatoes so generously offered by Farmer Lee Jones. For dessert, two of his neighbor’s incredibly ripe, dripping, summer-perfect peaches. Stella and I were tucked up by the sophisticated hour of 9:30, putting us in prime condition head out early, refreshed and recharged in a way that only family can provide. (Not, of course, before snarfling up a large handful of Charlie’s sizzling bacon and a few more drippy-good peaches.)
September is a luscious month, especially here in America’s heartland. From the Turnpike, I can’t see the effects of our current recession; from my isolated perch here, whizzing by at this golden time of year, it’s tempting to forget our country’s troubles and simply celebrate its fertile promise. Then I switch over to CNN. Oh, well. Briefly, I am in Indiana, and the ambling landscape sports gleaming white barns and burnished steel silos. I drive through Gary and feel compelled to call C (only our third conversation of the day) and sing GaryIndiana GaryIndiana, GaryIndiana…a la Music Man. Within a few hours, I am approaching the Sears Tower. Today is a very short day because I’m heading for a lunch date with Craig “Meathead” Goldwyn, who is—among other things—the prolific author of AmazingRibs.com, the huge and hugely instructive website that goes oh-so-far beyond just ribs. In fact, I’m a recipe-developer/cookbook-author (twenty-one books, and counting), and have never seen such comprehensive and clear instructions for preparing and cooking lots of tasty meat (one of may favorites: the chart “Anatomy of a Rib”), building fires correctly (note: it’s not the way the Weber people have always told us to), plus finding the very best hot dogs all across the country (a subject obviously near and dear to this heart). In my ongoing love/hate relationship with Facebook, I must declare that meeting Meathead ranks high on the plus side. When he discovered that I would be driving through Chicago on my first-ever trek-across via the Northern Route, he kindly offered to personally meet me for some meat—specifically, a terrific dog, for which Chicago is justly famous. But in much the same way as the French argue about which cassoulet is the finest, the most representative of the region, Chicagoans debate the desirability of their various dogs. After some protracted correspondence (of the kind that regularly prevents me from actually getting any real work done), we decided on Superdawg. (6363 N. Milwaukee Ave. Where Milwaukee, Nagle, and Devon intersect. 773-763-0660.)
In Meathead’s helpful round-up of Chicago’s best hot-dog stands, we learn that that he ranks Superdawg as Number Two in Chicago; Number One, Hot Doug’s Encased Meat Emporium, is not open on Sundays and will have to wait for a future trip. This throwback joint, complete with car-bays and bell-hops, has been open since 1948, when Maurie and Flaurie Berman set up the stand much as it still appears today. (Travelers will be happy to note that there is an outpost in Midway Airport, on Concourse B.) This dog is skinless (shock) and all-beef (standard here, according to Meathead), but its defining characteristic is its lush plumpness. And of course, the toppings. I am instructed that it is de rigueur to nestle the pickle inside the bun with everything else that’s already in there—including the electric-blue relish—and this doesn’t work so well for me until I realize it must be nestled with the skin-side-down.
Mmmmm. Happy. This is a dog worth driving for, although the fries are strangely taste-free. (But, why do I need to eat the fries anyway? Just because they are in the box?? After all, isn’t it long past time to start slimming?)