“You know, once you’ve grown up with a high quality hot dog, you find you can’t stand one of those sorry, limp things from the gas station,” said JP Mansour. “The texture is offensive, the flavor profile doesn’t awaken the senses — eating one of those is like going from driving a Rolls Royce to a Yugo.”JP has every right to claim authority on the subject of hot dogs. A Chicagoan born and raised, he spent a great part of his life frequenting the Windy City’s ubiquitous hot dog stands and restaurants. He hadn’t always planned on becoming a hot dog cuisinier, however. In 2000 he began his mission as a firefighter paramedic, which is in a sense an opposite calling, because he was trying to prevent things from getting cooked (namely us).
“I had to retire from that in 2008 after I destroyed my shoulder catching someone in a fall,” said JP. “It wasn’t as glamorous a save as you might imagine, but enough to put my firefighting career to an end.”
JP’s personal affairs eventually demanded that he and his family relocate to his wife’s native Fargo, where he took a job as an emergency room nurse. “A perfect place to raise a family,” JP noted. “It’s a much safer community than Chicago, the schools are top notch, and there are a lot of great opportunities here.”
While celebrating New Year’s Eve with his wife in 2016, JP considered taking one of those opportunities for himself. He had lamented for some time that Fargo, land of milk and honey that it is, simply doesn’t offer the authentic Chicago-style hot dogs he had treasured in his youth. As anyone who works in emergency services would attest, you only live once, so JP decided to make it his mission to bring Fargo the goods. Now he helms The Dog Father, Fargo’s only Chicago-style food truck.
“The Dog Father ships in all of our ingredients directly from Chicago,” JP explained. “We serve all beef hot dogs, made with natural casings that give them their characteristic snap when you bite into them. They’re made by Vienna Beef, the same company that put the Chicago-style hot dog on the map when they set up a single stand outside the World’s Columbian Exposition in 1893.”
“Our hot dogs are available with many toppings, like our Chicago-style Capone with mustard, neon green relish, diced onions, sliced tomatoes, pickled serrano peppers, a kosher dill pickle spear, and a sprinkling of celery salt, all in a soft steamed poppy seed bun. Our Windy City topped with no-bean chili, gooey cheddar cheese sauce, and diced onions is also a huge hit.”
“We have ketchup, too, but putting that on a hot dog is considered a mortal sin in Chicago. Its sweetness clashes with a hot dog’s subtle flavors, so only kids can get away with using it. We have a phrase back home: NK-17, which stands for ‘No Ketchup Over 17.’”
The Dog Father also serves Italian sausage, Italian beef, and meatballs, all as purely Chicagoan as their hot dogs. You can find JP serving this manna from his mobile eatery, a truck that bears Chicago’s skyline on its sides. Go and try something revelatory if you ever see it parked nearby, or visit thedogfatherfargo.com so you can anticipate where JP will be next. The Dog Father makes it much easier to try the best of Chicago than taking a 10 hour drive.
By David Scheller