By Roger Naylor | Photo by Richard Maack
Everybody knows that to get an authentic Chicago-style hot dog, you head for the Southside. The Southside of Bisbee, that is.
Jimmy’s Hot Dog Co. occupies a building the color of ballpark mustard and has a 12-foot-tall wiener mounted on the roof. Hey, no one wants to belly up to a bashful hot dog stand.
In his youth, owner Jimmy Pionke worked at some iconic Chicago hot dog stands and frequented others, so he knew exactly what he wanted when starting Jimmy’s. Lunchtime is a rollicking, rowdy affair with the few tables filling fast and diners staking out a hunk of the stainless steel counter lining the walls. Food flies from the kitchen almost as fast as the wisecracks. Even when crowded with out-of-towners, Jimmy’s feels like a neighborhood joint.
The signature dish here is the classic Chicago hot dog, which is culinary architecture. To qualify as a Chicago dog, an exacting blueprint must be followed.
Start with the Cadillac of tube steak, Vienna all-beef hot dogs in natural casings. The casing gives it that satisfying snap, releasing juices and flavor at every bite. The dog nestles on a poppy seed bun from S. Rosen’s, a Chi-town institution. And ingredients are piled on in precise order: mustard, neon green relish, chopped onions, tomato wedges, a pickle spear, two sport peppers and a dash of celery salt.
The result is a private riot in your mouth, a joyous collision of flavors. The juicy beast rolls across your taste buds in waves, a meal vastly more complex and savory than most served on fine china flanked by a mysterious array of forks.
Pionke is an artisan of bun-cradled grub. Every dish displays the perfectionist mark of a craftsman, from the Italian sausage, the bratwurst and the Maxwell Street Polish Sausage (served with grilled onions, pickle and sport peppers on a Gonnella roll — another legendary Chicago name) to a meatball sandwich so big it should be delivered by forklift.
That said, french fries might be Pionke’s true masterpiece. We’ve grown accustomed to fast-food joints, where fries are lifeless twigs stacked in a freezer. At Jimmy’s, five minutes before you eat the hot, crispy fries, they were potatoes. The difference astonishes. The earthy richness of pure spud flavor topped with a light zing of salt rekindles a passion not just for fries, but for food done right and for simpler times in general. That’s the Chicago way.
Jimmy's Hot Dog Co. is located at 938 W. State Route 92 in Bisbee. For more information, call 520-432-5911 or visit www.facebook.com/JimmysBisbee.