Cape Cod Chicago Dog Heaven
Ever had a week where you get to do whatever you want and at the end of it you look back and say “how the hell did I get so lucky?” Well, don’t get jealous but I’ve had a couple of those these past two weeks, and I’m feeling pretty damn lucky. First off I got to go down to Hyannis for a library conference where I did a fine job of blending in with the other library nerds, then I stumbled onto a man dedicated to baseball and his hot dog joint, which serves an amazing Chicago dog. Afterwords I trucked across the state to celebrate my 31st birthday with a visit to the Baseball Hall of Fame, Brewery Ommegang, and my wife & I’s favorite uncles. How the hell did I get this lucky?
Like all good people dedicated to encased meats, when I find myself in foreign lands I do the first thing that comes natural: break out my iphone and look for the nearest hot dog joint. In Hyannis that led me to this cryptic listing, providing nothing more than a phone number and address. “What the hell,” I thought, so I gave a call and was a little surprised when someone answered.
Rather than go the the lunch hosted at the conference and listen to the gloom & doom about how Massachusetts isn’t funding its public libraries, I trekked my merry way down to Main Street in Hyannis. I hopped out of my car, made sure I had some cash on me after seeing the “CASH ONLY” sign, and plopped down at the grill counter. Lindsey, who was manning (womanning?) the grill took my order, which had to be a Chicago dog after seeing it on the menu.
If I’m outside of Chicago and see a Chicago dog on the menu, I have two reactions: first, I wonder what bastardized version will be served me, because only Chicago can do justice to a Chicago dog; and second, I order one up. If the hot dog does nothing more than evoke memories of eating a Chicago dog, then they’ve done their job well. Most times, I don’t get further than that–until I ate Hot Diggity Dog’s Chicago dog.
Do you notice something special about the hot dog above? Trained hot dog forensic experts will notice that there’s something that looks like parsley nestled in between the pickle spear and the sliced tomato. That, my friends, is the first neon green relish–an essential ingredient to a true Chicago dog–that I have found out east. When I mentioned this to Jim, the owner of the stand, he proudly pulled out a tub of the stuff and showed it to me. Not only does he get his relish shipped from Chicago, but those lovely sport peppers come from the same place as well.
Now you may be saying “yeah Mike, but he puts the dog on a split-top New England bun!” Then you might be even more horrified when I tell you that he uses Kayem dogs–and they aren’t even beef ones! But you’ve got to stop hyperventilating for a moment, because this was hands-down the best Chicago dog I’ve had in Massachusetts.
The RGD’s didn’t stop with the Chicago dog. After talking for a while about the blog Jim was pretty interested in showing off his other hot dog toppings and he gave me a taste of the two relishes he puts together. The pepper relish was hot enough to bring tears to my eyes, but had a wonderful sweet side that stood out as well, which means it was a winner. What really caught my attention though was his special relish–listed on the menu as a blend of cranberry sauce, yellow mustard, relish, onions, garlic salt and secret ingredients–which was a sweet-savory combination that I couldn’t pass up, so I ordered the Sherm dog.
The relish dog was just right–the subtle pork flavor of the Kayem was balanced with the hearty relish that had several layers of flavoring. This is the kind of relish, or specialty topping, that is a must-have for a successful hot dog joint. Flo’s in Maine, Speed’s, great coney stands, they all have one or two toppings that put them ahead of the rest–and now you can add Hot Diggity Dog to that list, with their relish sauce. After polishing off the Sherm dog, I was highly tempted to try the stuffed clams, listed on the menu as Sam’s over-stuffed quahogs. Jim told me that they’re harvested by hand by a guy he knows, and they’re one of the most popular items on the menu, which only tempted me more. Since the joint only accepted cash and I’m generally not a cash-carrying member of society, I was a bit worried that I might over-extend my finances and not be able to tip. Now the owner, Jim, was a super nice guy–I mean, he was one of the most attentive and engaged HDJ owners I’ve met–and when I told him this he said “well, I think we can make a deal.” I’m kicking myself now that I didn’t take him up on the offer–I had little time to spare before going back to the conference–because I wake up in a cold sweat every night wondering “what if?”
Before leaving, though, Jim wanted me to take a little tour of the stand. He’s got baseball memorabilia spread across the entire joint, and I probably could have whiled away the rest of the afternoon discussing the subtleties of the sport, but like I said I had a conference to go back to (remember that, and not the HDJ, was the reason I was in the Cape to begin with?). I’m not sure why, but the two pictures I came away with from the tour were of bathrooms–maybe I’m providing you with too much of my submerged Id, but they were pretty interesting spots. The ladies’ room had a drawing of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League with signatures from several of the players, which I thought was pretty cool, but the men’s room had an even more noteworthy presence. While constructing the room, there was a spot on the wall that was plastered over and had an odd bump in it–that odd bump resembled the profile of a famous Red Sox player whose name thunders throughout Fenway park when he takes the plate, and so it was dubbed “Youck”. For those of you who don’t know about the booing-like sound that makes Sox fans sound like lowing cattle, I’ve helpfully embedded a video below.
So, after all the fun of the RGDs at Hot Diggity Dogs, I made my way back to the conference to get my mind blown by Cory Doctorow, author of many fantastic books, champion of fair copyright laws and freedom of information, fetishist of all things steampunk, and contributor at boingboing.net. What a freaking amazing week!!!