Well, all us music types over at Nashville Cream are co-sponsoring a big ol' Fourth of July party this Sunday at Mercy Lounge, and our partner in the event is none other than my beloved hometown hot dog purveyors Vienna Beef. Y'all Bitesters are invited, of course. Cover is a mere $5 if you're of age ($8 if you're 18-20), and that price includes a free Vienna Beef hot dog. It also includes the rock 'n' roll stylings of local bands the likes of Ghostfinger, Alcohol Stuntband, Heartbeater and Armed Forces. And for no extra charge, you get a night full of Chris Crofton's funnyman rants.
There may also be some sort of hot dog eating contest, I'm told, but as I've said before, I don't do well with those.
As someone who grew up eating Chicago-style hot dogs in Chicagoland (as we call the greater Chicago metropolitan area), I am infinitely grateful that they've gradually made their way this far south. It's like, I dunno, living in New York and being able to order hot chicken or something.
One of my favorite stories about Vienna Beef hot dogs, aside from the last time I ate one (yesterday, at Hot Diggity Dogs), involves the color. When the company moved from their cramped, jury-rigged facility to a gleaming new factory on the North Side around 1970, they immediately ran into a problem. (Choosing the North Side over the South Side is its own problem, but that's a discussion for another time.) Despite their state-of-the-art technology, ideal conditions and brand-new equipment, they couldn't get the color right. The hot dogs tasted fine, but they didn't have the right snap when you bit them, and they were pink instead of red. Everyone at the company was confounded. Same recipe, same ingredients, same process, wrong color.
One day, a bunch of guys on break started talking about Erving, who had quit because he didn't want to commute to the North Side. Erving's job at the old factory was to cart the newly made dogs from the cold room to the smoking room. Because of the odd layout of the old building, this trip took roughly 30 minutes. In the new building, the cold room and the smoking room were right next to each other, for maximum efficiency. As it turned out, the reason the hot dogs turned their distinctive red color during the smoking process was because they warmed up in the 30 minutes it took to get them to the smoker. So Vienna Beef actually had to build a new room in their slightly over-engineered building to simulate the effect of a guy walking the hot dogs from one end of the building to the other.
As This American Life host Ira Glass put it — a telling of the story aired on Episode 241, and starts around 34:16 — "sometimes, you have no idea why you're a success." Take that statement how you will in light of TAL's recent achievement.
Anyway. July 4. Mercy Lounge. Bands. Beer. Free hot dogs. Doors open at 7 p.m., so you can watch the fireworks (great view) from the Mercy Lounge deck. See you there! And one more note: If you put ketchup on a Chicago dog, you're doing it wrong.