Hidden a short distance off Interstate 170 in St. Louis you will find Woofie's, a Vienna Beef Hall of Fame member serving up Chicago style hot dogs. Unless you work in the area, just getting to Woofie's these days is an adventure given the current construction on Interstate 64. However, seeing the journey though to the end will find you elbow to elbow with both tradesmen and white collar workers at a slim counter, enjoying some of the finest hot dogs in the city.
For over 30 years Woofie's has been serving up an eclectic mix of hot dogs, some classic like the Woolfie Dog and some downright inventive dogs like the Chili Pie and the Coney, a Vienna dog on a seeded bun topped with a slice of American cheese, chili, onion and a pickle.
Gastrointestinal challenges like the Chili Pie aside, I was wondering how the restaurant's flagship dog, the Woofie, stacked up to a Mid-west perception of a New York dog. While I'm sure this establishes my East Coast bias in hot dogs, the Chicago style is without a doubt impressive and I can fully appreciate the adoration this dog receives.
First up is the Chicago style:
The Chicago style hot dog is built for it's city, for the people that live there and for surviving its weather systems. This is the hot dog that the Mike Ditka would eat on a Saturday Night Live sketch. This is the mid afternoon snack of futures traders at the CBOE. The Chicago dog contains all the major food groups, is here to take on your stomach, and it's brought all of its friends for the fight. The Wolfie Dog is what you would expect from a Hall of Famer, riding deep into the pocket of a seeded bun and covered in a garden including a neon green relish.
On several occasions my Woofie Dog was served with a knife and fork. This experience reminds me of a meal I enjoyed once with a friend's family, owners of several Italian restaurants. Dining on a plate of pasta one night and perplexed by the act of twirling linguine around a fork, my host pointed at the spoon and said, "Andrew, some Italian's use the spoon...but not the good ones." This is the essence of the Chicago dog. While help is provided, reaching for it is a sign of defeat. Woofie's Dogs are indeed woof'ed sans fork in a manner that is messy but in the end, fulfilling.
The New York Dog:
The New York style dog is also a homage to its fair city. From street vendors and small shops, the New York hot dog is made for transport. Dogs are topped with combination of onion sauce, sauerkraut and mustard, wrapped in paper or a single napkin and eaten on the fly. Even loaded down, a New York dog appears to be perfectly designed for an action figure's kung-fu grip. A New York dog is not here to bullshit with you.
The New York hot dog at Woofie's is delicious. Instead of being steamed, it is cooked on a griddle like the dogs at Grey's Papaya. It comes topped with a spicy mustard and a bed of sauerkraut, sitting there in front of you like a nest on a branch. Alas a New York dog it is not. Instead it is a Mid-western nod to the original, as if Chicago looked at it and said, "there, New York...now you are finished."
In the end, the Chicago style Woofie Dog wins this throw down of cities and dogs, but it was never really a competition with Chicago's near home field advantage. Either way, I can't help but think that is it the diner who wins, no matter what their cardiologist says. For all I know your doctor might be sitting next to you as you eat. Woofie's is that good.
Opinion: Highly Recommended
1919 Woodson Rd