Mr. Bill’s Chicago Dog
Happy New Year, hot doggers! Hope your holidays were better than mine, which started with a bout with pneumonia and a totaled car–both on the same day. Anyway, enough of my bellyaching, all this time at home has given me the chance to realize I had a couple of posts that were left unattended from the summer, so let’s get blogging!
Over the summer Sam & I visited her family down in Southern Jersey. My mother-in-law Ilene is a wealth of recommendations for hot dog stands in their area, and while Sam & I were making our way from the Philly area to the south Jersey Shore, Ilene suggested (or, really, warned Sam) that I would want to stop at Mr. Bill’s. Now, the way she suggested it wasn’t like, “you should check out Mr. Bill’s hot dogs”–it was more like, “there’s this place in the sticks of Jersey where all sorts of hillbillies stop to eat, you should go there. They have Chicago-style dogs there too.” Oh, did I forget to mention that my background as a Hoosier has labeled me a hick for life in Sam’s family?
Maybe it was this Alfred E. Newman lookalike that caused Ilene to label this a “hillbilly-only” stand. My adolescent years were partially formed by reading Mad Magazine–perhaps that’s why I’m always giving snappy answers to stupid questions–so I was star-struck by this giant of a man that is Mr. Bill. Inside the restaurant I was able to read up about Mr. Bill from all the press this deli has received over the years, and I learned that before the open sign he held a rather ominous-looking axe, which would give Ilene’s hillbilly-haven story a bit of a Deliverance cast. There’s another website that describes him as a “happy half-wit muffler man” which I’m assuming means he used to advertise auto mufflers–his hands are certainly in the right position for it.
The menu for Mr. Bill’s was pretty overwhelming, so I was happy that I didn’t have to take my time and deliberate–I was there solely for the Chicago-style dog. There were plenty of trappings that led me to believe it was going to be a treat, such as all the Vienna umbrellas covering the picnic tables. I ordered one dog to go (having eaten a cheese steak just an hour and sixty miles ago) and strolled outside to spend some quality time with my encased meat.
The verdict? It was a pretty damn good dog, especially for a place that had more menu items than I would care to peruse. Usually a place that does so many plates ends up doing them all in a mediocre fashion, but not so with Mr. Bill’s hot dogs–all the condiments were spot on, and I would assume shipped from Chicago (with the exception of the tomatoes–those gotta be Jersey ‘maters!). My only complaint was that the bun was a little soggy, but that’s nothing compared to the pleasure of having a well-executed Chicago Dog in New Jersey. The sharpness of the vinegar-laden condiments blended with the heat of the sport peppers, was smoothed out by the tomato and then balanced with the heartiness of an all-beef Vienna sausage. Well done, Mr. Bill! Now not only do I have a place to get a great dog while traveling to the Jersey shore, I also have a place where I can feel safe plucking the strings of a banjo while sitting barefooted on the porch.
Mr. Bill’s 453 South Route 73, Hammonton NJ