If you go
Island House Café
3801 Bonita Beach Road, Bonita Springs
11:30 a.m to 9 p.m.Monday through Sunday
BONITA SPRINGS — When one thinks of hot dogs, one may think of the Oscar Mayer wiener jingle, the famous Nathan’s hot dog eating contest, the popular destination Coney Island or simply the act of enjoying a frank in the ballpark.
Whatever your vision may be, the hot dog is the all-American food and July is national hot dog month.
So what constitutes the best hot dog?
With many different names, they differ depending on the variety of condiments on top. It will leave you with a multitude of choices.
The type of hot dog you like may indicate the area you are from.
If you’re a New Yorker, you probably like it lathered with spicy mustard and sauerkraut. The Chicago dog is as near and dear to Chicagoans as much as the cheese steak is to Philly.
Gary Chansler, owner of the Island House Café in Bonita Springs serves up the Chicago dog in his Key West style bar and grill.
He describes his place as a “touch of old Florida” and it has been open since 1998.
“People come here for the atmosphere,” said Chansler. His bar includes a kayak filled with ice-cold beers, lights strewn across the ceiling and poles, poster covered walls and bright-colored chairs out front that create a tiki hut ambiance.
The ornamental place gets so much attention customers even ask him where they can find the decorations he uses. A lot of people up north compare the cozy feel to their basements, or cellars back home.
Whether it is Cincinnati, New Jersey or Minnesota, customers frequently ask him to alter his dogs to their hometown favorites. He hails from Chicago, so he prefers to do what he does best. A premium beef hot dog topped with mustard, relish, onion, tomato, pickle, salt and pepper and a dash of celery salt to create the Chicago dog. Chicago natives know this process as “dragging it through the garden.”
“That’s the explosion of tastes that you get,” said Chansler, describing how the condiments on the Chicago dog all work together for a great taste.
Island House Café’s side to go along with the Chicago dog is called a Beach Walker. It is a bag of Fritos, topped with Chansler’s Windy City chili and cheese. You eat it right out of the bag.
There is an old joke in Chicago, Chansler said “Never put ketchup on a hot dog— that’s only for french fries.”
According to Chansler, the hot dog became a sensation in Chicago after the World’s Fair.
“You know the term steak on a bun? That probably wasn’t a joke to them,” he said.
Chansler said there is even a certain way to cook the hot dogs. Chicagoans slow cook them in brine. It can be boiled, grilled or cooked in the microwave, all depending on how you like the flavor.
Chansler said there are “all different slants on hot dogs and that’s the beauty of it, I call it the simple food.”
The dog is also a well-known food item used for fierce eating competitions. On July 4, during the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest champion Joey Chestnut was again victorious with a total of 62 hot dogs eaten in 10 minutes. According to Nathan’s Famous’ website it was Chestnut’s fifth consecutive title. This year was also Nathan’s very first Women’s Championship and Sonya Thomas consumed a total of 40 hot dogs and buns.
Whether you decide to be brave enough to enter an eating contest, or just want to enjoy a Chicago dog in the ballpark, be sure to beware about ordering it with ketchup. You may either get denied or, at best, receive it on the side.