My last couple trips to Steak 'n Shake have been a bit odd. I'm no economist as Tony O. would attest to, but it seems to me that in this struggling economy, anything that's not McDonald's has been struggling a bit. It seems we've seen a lot of new fast food/quick service products lately. Arby's has those Roastburgers, Quizno's has those new Torpedos, and Wendy's has boneless chicken wings (that's another post). Steak 'n Shake has been really tweaking out it's menu lately and while I don't mind what it used to be, I can't say I'm complaining all that much about what it's become.
A few weeks ago, my family and I went and saw that they now have a little book on all the tables you can flip through showing their various shake specials and other food specials. There is a lot of great stuff that Steak 'n Shake is offering. So many great things, I whipped out my iPhone and started taking pictures. Bacon Cheese Fries, Hershey's Special Dark Syrup Milkshake, Guacamole Steakburger, and much more. I was a bit taken aback though when I got to the Steak Franks which were Steak 'n Shake's version of hot dogs. Seriously? It's just hot dogs. What's the big deal?
Then one more flip and there it was...CHICAGO-STYLE STEAK FRANK!!!
I already had my mouth set on a juicy Steakburger that night, but I strongly contemplated this. Part of me also was fearful that one of my favorite food items would not live up to my high standards. But the fact of the matter is, I have no options. If I want good, Midwestern food, here in the state capitol of Florida, Steak 'n Shake is about my only option. So for lunch today, I decided to splurge and grabbed myself one of these Chicago-Style Franks.
1. Poppyseed Bun - Honestly, when it comes to a Chicago-style hot dog, this is the one area where I'm not a purist. I don't dislike the poppyseed bun, but the bun can be normal for all I care. Steak 'n Shake used a regular bun and that was fine with me.
2. Yellow Mustard - Yep, there was yellow mustard. Good amount, but not too much.
3. Chopped Onion - Again, chopped onions were present and there were a good amount.
4. Green Relish - To me, this was the key. More than the hot dog itself, this element had to be correct. It's not enough to just have relish, Chicago-style hot dogs have to have the bright green relish that is only found in the Midwest...and apparently at Steak 'n Shakes across the country. Perfect. The only downside is that there probably was a bit too much relish on this particular dog, but I can't imagine many Tallahassee patrons order this so maybe they saw this as an opportunity to unload some extra inventory.
5. Tomato Wedges - Here's where the formula starts straying, but I'll give them a pass on this one and the next one. Instead of thick wedges, they only put two half slices of tomatoes on the dog. I get that they're working with what they have. Even their salads traditionally have tomato slices from their sandwich topping station. I'd like to have had a bit more tomato on this, but it was okay.
6. Pickle Spear - Again, we're working with what they have. Instead of pickle spears, the dogs had two (cut the long way) pickle slices. Could've have used more pickle, but again, I'll live.
7. Celery Salt - There was no visible evidence that there was celery salt and the dog didn't seem to have it, but if it was missing, it wasn't detrimental to the dog.
8. Sport Peppers - Two nice sized sport peppers were present. Another pleasant surprise.
9. Vienna Beef - Of course the Vienna Beef chart tells you you need their brand of hot dog on a Chicago-style dog. Probably, that what you'd ideally use. And you'd boil water, then dump the dog(s) into the water and let them cook for 20 minutes or so in the scalding hot water. Instead, the Steak Frank is an all-beef grilled hot dog. The dog is sliced nearly in half and then laid flat on the grill for cooking. Not a bad hot dog. I still wouldn't have ordered one without the Chicagoization of it, but good.
10. Ketchup - There was no ketchup on my dog which scores a ton more points in favor of Steak 'n Shake.
So, how was it all together? Please indulge me just a bit longer, I will tell you. A few years ago, I was in a particular situation for a long time that I didn't want to be in. It was during this time that my love for Chicago-style dogs grew. If you've been reading this blog for a while, or you know the Nerd Lunchers, you know of our fondness for Niro's Gyros. That place was awesome. For $3 and some change, I could drive a few blocks and get two Chicago-style dogs and a thing of thick-cut french fries. That cannot be beat. And in the midst of my situation, I would occasionally find moments of solace when I went and got lunch at Niro's. When I've gotten to eat Chicago dogs from Niro's during return trips, I find myself thinking about those times as I chow down. Fortunately, in spite of the situation I was going through, Chicago dogs are not ruined for me. I remember the feeling of escape and solace whenever I have a Chicago dog and I guess my judgment about one from a place other than Niro's hinges on whether or not I can get to those feelings. I will say that by the middle of the dog, I got there. And that was a good thing. Was this perfect? No. I'll give it a solid B though, maybe even a B+.
Thank you, Steak 'n Shake for giving this guy in the deep south a chance to have a little taste from back home. Now, begin work on adding a gyro to your menu, please.