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Event Tue Jul 16 2013
The ballots are in and the first Gapers Block Hot Dog Cookoff was a big win! Five teams of chefs fearlessly pushed the boundaries of what the humble red hot can do, while celebrity judges and hundreds of attendees deliciously decided whose was the top dog.
The cookoff was held on July 13th outside Schuba's, where the crowd sampled hot dogs in between games of corn hole and Old Style tallboys on a perfect summer afternoon. Despite the friendly atmostphere, the competition was fierce and chefs arrived with secret ingredients and plenty of trash talk ready to go. This came as no surprise, though, because in a city of hot dog die-hards, no one is as serious as this crew.
And now, for the good stuff:
ManBQue took the first place prize AND the People's Choice Award with their Sonoran Dog. This jaw-challenging whopper of a wiener included homemade bacon-wrapped, cheese-stuffed dogs, black beans, pickled red onions, avocado crema, fried pork chitlin's, and probably several other types of meat I didn't catch. And as if that weren't enough, Red Hen Bakery made them custom buns to fit all this goodness. Come on! Now you're just showing off.
Harmony Grill took second place and upped the ante with a fiery ingredient. Their bacon-fried hot dog was topped with monterey jack cheese, a jalapeno jam, and flamin' hot cheetos-fried onions. Yes, you read that right. They went there.
Kuma's Corner took second place in the People's Choice Award and first place in shameless pandering for votes. The chefs, clad in sexy his and her aprons, served up a mustard-slathered, grilled dog topped with a chinese five spice chili and a crunchy broccoli slaw. Just like a Kuma's burger, these dogs were embarrassingly sloppy to eat but absolutely worth it. And in my book, they get props both for most unexpected toppings and for most panache.
The Haute and The Dog took the third place prize with a creative bun-less twist on the hot dog. A Dr. Pepper pulled pork hot dog was wrapped in a tortilla and served in a paper cone with a fork-- a method we think could rival New York's folded pizza slice.
And finally, because of a last minute cancellation the Gapers Block team had the chance to jump in and get their hands dirty with their own entry. In less than two hours, we created the delicious Thai Dog: a skewer of grilled mango, peppers, onions, and hot dog, basted with a savory thai basil glaze, dusted with crushed peanuts and basil, and doused with fresh lime. And although we didn't win any official prizes, we think Gapers Block deserves a gold medal in gumption and team spirit.
Official Judges Hot Doug, Bruce Kraig, and David Lissner hotly debated the pros and cons of each dish and eventually came to a consensus. Meanwhile, attendees voted for the winner by casting their ballots and by stuffing the ballot boxes with cash--this is Chicago, after all!
We had a great time at the cookoff! A huge thank you to our sponsors Vienna Beef and Old Style, our hosts at Schuba's, the fabulous chefs, and to all the hot dog enthusiasts who came out on Saturday. The money we raised will support Reach Out and Read Illinois, a nonprofit that prepares America's youngest children to succeed in school by partnering with doctors to prescribe books and encourage families to read together.
Happy summer, y'all!
Photo credits to Brad Snyder