January 4, 2005
The greatest hot dog stand in Chicago--and, very possibly, the world--re-opened today after being shut down by a fire over half a year ago. Back before it burned, it was a glorious place; a place where more often than not I would run into someone I knew, seated with friends around a table, everyone laughing and eating, and you could pull up a chair and laugh with them, waiting for your food to come out, steaming hot and heaping with toppings. It was the kind of place no one ever spoke ill of; a magic place--if you believe in that sort of thing--where nothing ever went wrong.
I wrote about the place a few years ago in my magazine. It was a theme issue about Chicago, and I felt like nothing embodied the spirit of this city more than a hot dog stand run by a kind-hearted proprietor who had trained to be a gourmet chef, but instead found his calling in making an honest lunch for honest people. In a lot of ways, that's really all any of us can hope to do.
When word spread of the fire--not their fault, I'd like to point out, Mr. Bush--every person who heard the news witnessed their heart break just a little bit. Everyone waited longingly for the place to reopen, but with each month that passed, our hope faded--until that last glimmer of hope actually turned into a reality.
And so it was that five of us from work went to the store's new location this morning--early enough to be there when they opened, though we weren't the first ones there--and shared once again in the greatest lunch five dollars can buy. And as we sat there, eating and laughing and talking with friends (fully three-quarters of the place was occupied by people we knew one way or the other, though no one had planned it), I thought about how, in this week filled with destruction and devastation, it's good to know that it's possible to regroup and rebuild.