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Dogging the Critics

June 18, 1995

If your restaurant critics wonder why they receive little or no respect, perhaps I can help clue them in ("Critics' Night Off," by S. Irene Virbila, April 30). First among Max Jacobson's picks was Rubin's Red Hots, which he touts as not only the best franks in L.A. but also as authentically Chicago. Jacobson may know a great deal, but hot dogs, and especially Chicago Hot Dogs (please bow heads now) he knows not.

I am a native Chicagoan. I cried at the sight of Wolfy's in the movie "While You Were Sleeping." I have been known to fly only on United because it is based in Chicago and would let me stop over for a hot dog. I have actually told relatives not to visit me if they failed to smuggle hot dogs onto the plane. My long-suffering spouse has a special Chicago briefcase that he fills with hot dogs on his way back from business trips.

I have compared Fluky's hot dogs to Wolfy's to Jude's and to others. I have identified subtle differences between South Side and North Side dogs, even between North and West Side dogs.

My credentials are impeccable. I am the Chicago Dog expert, and believe me, Rubin's serves no Chicago Dog. First of all, a true Chicago Dog is always a Vienna Beef on a poppy seed roll (not a poppy seed onion roll). Emerald-green relish like Rubin's, yes, but chile peppers ? No, no, no and again no! They have to be the hotter Louisiana Sport Pepper.

The dog must sport a slice of tomato, because--as we teach our children in their strollers--ketchup must never be allowed to touch a hot dog. And Rubin's does properly add onions to its presentation, but red onions ? And the entire dog must be sprinkled with celery salt and ideally served atop a bed of very greasy fries in a red plastic basket.

Then there's the saddest cut of all, the reason why I didn't hop into my car and drive an hour and a half to Rubin's: no Green River soda !

I, for one, will keep looking for the elusive Chicago Hot Dog.

Ann Griffin



I was enjoying Virbila's article until, amid all the culinary delights, the author suggested that patrons of Chinois on Main "just grab a stool and watch the cooks perform . . . (throwing) live lobsters into a hot saute pan . . . ."

Of course, the lobsters are not human, and yes, they're going to be eaten anyway. But should any living creature be seared to death on a saute pan? And what kind of people would consider that a performance worth watching?

Maybe when we become more caring about the fate of "lesser" creatures, we will become less savage with each other.

Rena Dictor LeBlanc

Woodland Hills


I am puzzled by Virbila's reference to the "water dog" at the Empress Pavilion, which created all kinds of strange and unsettling visual images. Then I realized that she must have been confusing the word for dumpling ( gow ) with the similar word for dog. The two words have almost the same pronunciations with only a slight difference in intonation. As you know, in Chinese, intonation is everything.

Peter Lau

La Verne

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