A Taste of Chicago 

Nestled close to the side of the Rite-Aid over in Meridian sits an unassuming hot-dog stand called A Taste of Chicago. As you might expect from a stand going by that name, the little structure is built on an edifice meant to look like Chicago's Navy Pier, and most of the glass on the windows was covered with propaganda—pennants, posters and such—from various Chicago sports teams.

One day last week, BW News Editor Nick Collias and I made a trek out to Meridian to get us some authentic Chicago-style dogs.

When we arrived, the air was bitterly cold and threatening to spit snow—not the best day for dining from an outdoor stand. As we approached, the stand was shut up tight against the cold and what glass was visible through the sports miscellanea was a bit foggy. We knocked on the glass and we were soon greeted by our first taste of Chicago: proprietor Steve DiMario and his pleasantly gruff Chi-town demeanor.

Through chattering teeth, we delivered our orders: for Nick, a hotdog served Chicago style (for the uninitiated, that's with tomatoes, peppers, a neon green relish and mustard, just like you'd get at Wrigley Field) for $3 and a $5.50 Italian beef sandwich. I like my dogs more New York, so I ordered one up with sauerkraut (which set me back an extra 50 cents) and ketchup.

DiMario took our orders and our money and then shut his little window to get down to preparing our food, hot and fresh. He popped out every once in awhile, ostensibly related to the food preparation, but he and Nick (BW's Cubs fan extraordinaire) managed to talk a little ball in between. Nick gave the guy a hard time about putting up both Cubs and White Sox stuff (the teams' fans are at odds, to say the least). DiMario responded with diplomacy, saying that the Sox paved the way this year and that it will be the Cubs' year next time. The Cubs/White Sox bric-a-brac ratio of four to one might indicate that DiMario is a Cubs fan. Or else he just didn't want to alienate anyone.

Our food was wrapped to go, but we hardly got the car started before the delicious smell of the food forced us to start eating. Both dogs were wrapped with hot, salty crinkle cut fries on top. My dog had extra sauerkraut as requested—"enough to make ya' pucker," as DiMario put it—and was delicious. The poppy-seed bun was not a treat I'd had before, but one I look forward to again. Nick enjoyed his Chicago-style dog, as well as the heavy mustard and, surprise surprise, fresh tomatoes. he found his Italian beef sandwich, soggy and impossible to eat as it was, to be fantastic and the giardiniera spicy and authentic.

The food was fresh, filling and delicious and topped nicely to accommodate tastes from Chi-town to the Big Apple. I predict a lot of future field trips to Meridian for lunch at the dog stand.

—Sara Beitia has a fierce 'kraut tooth.

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