I've always loved hot dogs, but as a transplanted East Coaster, I'm relatively new to the Chicago-style dog. I had my first about a year and a half ago at Budacki's Drive In, loved it, and have eaten innumerable ones since. When I spotted the Chicago-style tofu sandwich ($8.75) on the menu at vegan-friendly Handlebar in Wicker Park, I was eager to see how the classic combination of toppings could translate into a tofu sandwich.
It's a very loose interpretation of the style, but this sandwich works. Its base is focaccia, a smart decision, because dense bread is required to hold up the slightly runny toppings placed between the slices. From the bottom up, the layers are garlic aioli, arugula, tomatoes, a thin slab of pesto-soaked tofu, giardiniera, and Dijon mustard, all sprinkled with celery salt and capped off with a thick wedge of focaccia.
Like the loaded hot dog, this sandwich is messy, but I've never been one to complain about getting sauce all over my hands. The strong flavors of the condiments draw attention away from the tofu, but the sharpness of the mustard, acidity of the giardiniera, crunch of the tomato, and chewiness of the bread make this a balanced sandwich with a variety of textures and flavors that work well together.