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Standing Room Only: Morrie O'Malley's Hot Dogs

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[Photographs: Nick Kindelsperger]

Morrie O'Malley's Hot Dogs‎

3501 South Union Avenue, Chicago, IL 60609 (map); 773-247-2700; morrieomalleys35.com
The Short Order:Cheery stand near U.S. Cellular Field with quality hot dogs and other grilled items.
Want Fries with That?Very good hand-cut fries.
Seats? There are a few stools inside and some picnic tables outside.

If I learned anything from Hawk Krall's recent survey of hot dogs near Major League ballparks, it's that every baseball team deserves to have at least one great hot dog stand nearby. The White Sox have two, though they couldn't be more different from each other. 35th Street Red Hots serves feisty minimalist dogs in a stripped down and spare room with excellent fries, Polish sausages, fried shrimp, and... that's it. Morrie O'Malley's, which is located a few blocks west, serves fully loaded Chicago-style dogs in a cheery and well lit space, and features a menu absolutely brimming with dozens of other possibilities. Both are outstanding.

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The hot dog ($2.69) showcases the generosity of Morrie O'Malley's perfectly. The dog comes loaded with all the toppings you'd expect on a fully-loaded Chicago dog, plus a big hunk of cucumber. Though I'm convinced this ruins the symmetrical beauty of the dish (I have a grand theory about this), the cucumber actually blends rather nicely into the whole, adding a cooling crunch to each bite. Of course, it helps that the natural casing Vienna Beef dog is extra beefy and plump. Add in a steamed poppy seed bun, and you have one knockout hot dog.

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Besides the hot dogs, most of the rest of the items come off the grill, including a collection of the usual stand suspects (Polish sausages and bratwursts). But I went for the char-broiled strip steak sandwich ($7.70), a huge slab of beef drenched in A-1 Sauce and paired with melty mozzarella cheese and grilled onions. Looks like the meat would be tough and dry, but it's surprisingly tender and juicy. And I don't know if I have some buried childhood fondness for the steak sauce, but all those spices in the A-1 had me hooked. (Ah, come on. There have to be other A-1 addicts out there!)

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With a menu so large, I had to try at least one random item, which might explain how I ended up with a tamale boat ($4.10), a cup of chili with a Tom Tom tamale broken up and tossed in. Mind you, this is one of those old school Chicago tamales made with corn meal, not one of the heavenly steamed ones. But when you're breaking the tamale up into chili, a cornmeal one actually enhances the basic chili with a faint sweetness. It's a tasty and filling option, though I'm not sure how often I'll go for one again. Actually, I take that back. I can see myself ordering one just so I can say "tamale boat" again.

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Morrie O'Malley's even has a full ice cream menu, so you can walk out with a soft serve cone, sundae, float, flurry, or even a banana split, if you'd like. For whatever reason, I couldn't pass up the chance for a malted chocolate shake ($4.25). But the epic dessert menu also reveals the stand's one glaring fault: Morrie O'Malley's is only open March through November. I've actually made the trek down only to find it closed up for the season. But don't worry too much. This stand is open during the entire baseball season, and considering there are still 140 odd games left, there is still more than enough time to feast before cheering on the Sox.

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