By Polly Campbell
The Cincinnati Enquirer
Wondering where to get a Chicago-style hot dog? Don't go to Illinois, go to Kentucky.
A reader, Brian Fannin, e-mailed me to tell me about PJ's Hot Dog Haus. "Real beef hot dogs fixed just like they do in Chicago," he wrote.
I'm not from Chicago, so I didn't feel any personal urgency about this, but I know it's information that many of you would love to have. Plus PJ's is in a Shell station on Dixie Highway in Erlanger, which I thought was sort of funny. I got down there right away.
It's a cute little place, right in the gas station, but with plenty of booths and tables. I ordered one Chicago dog ($2.25), and I liked it, with its eggy bun and dense, lean dog piled with onions and relish and topped with tomato slices. But I'm not from Chicago, so what do I know?
IF YOU GO
What: PJ's Hot Dog Haus
Where: 3060 Dixie Highway, Erlanger
When: Open 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday-Saturday
Phone: (859) 331-3010
Also serving: chili dogs, Italian beef, pulled pork and barbecue ribs
I got one to go, and back at the office, carried it over to the closest Chicagoan in the newsroom, movie critic Margaret McGurk. I unwrapped it in front of her. I guess you'd have to say her eyes lit up.
"Very, very close," she said, as she looked through all the layers of stuff piled into the bun. "Oh, yeah, here's a pickle spear and the little pepper. A sport pepper, we call them."
"It's a Vienna Beef dog," I helpfully pointed out.
"Yep, it's steamed and it's got the right pop," she said as she took her first bite, through the natural casing of the all-beef dog. "And the bun, the bun ought to be kind of steamed like this, not crumbly or falling apart. And it's got the poppy seeds."
"What about this bright green relish? It's like neon," I asked.
"The relish is right. The onions, mustard - the only thing missing is cucumber. And not everyone in Chicago puts those in anyway."
"What's with the celery salt? That's what I don't get."
"Oh, it just ties it all together. Gives it one more vegetable flavor."
"So, overall, you like it?"
McGurk didn't answer, because she couldn't, politely. Her mouth was full. She just gave it the thumbs-up.
The day after we tried the PJ's dog, I found out that Kentucky is getting another automotive-related Chicago-style hot dog stand, inside the Tom Gill Chevy dealership on Ky. 18 in Florence. It will open this week.
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Chicago-style hot dogs in Ky.