When Chicago transplant Debby Graham couldn’t find a Chicago hot dog exactly to her liking, she started a food truck that would serve one.
That was the birth of Lakewood-based Hometown Dogs, a food truck that launched more than three years ago serving Chicago dogs and a broader menu of other kinds of gourmet hot dogs.
Now, the truck has closed.
The business always served a bigger mission than selling hot dogs.
Graham is the executive director of Centerforce, a nonprofit that provides job training for developmentally delayed clients. Graham started Hometown Dogs to help train clients for careers in food services.
Changing state rules and other policy changes required it to shift its internal training programs to external training. Those changes caused the nonprofit to shutter the truck.
“We’ll continue to do on-the-job training with businesses,” said Graham, adding Centerforce just celebrated its 50th anniversary. “We go in and train that individual in the community business, and then we follow up with them on a monthly business to make sure they succeed.”
She said the truck is now for sale (email email@example.com for details).
When Graham started Hometown Dogs, it was one of few options for a real-deal Chicago dog. She imported Vienna beef dogs along with the neon green relish that’s a signature of a Chicago dog. Her version was pure — a hot dog loaded with sport peppers, chopped onions, tomato slices, a pickle spear, yellow mustard, a dash of celery salt and served on a poppyseed bun.
The closure might leave local diners wondering where else to get a Chicago-themed dog. Here are a few options.
CaskCades: This downtown Puyallup craft beer taproom with a menu of gourmet hot dogs and a family-friendly atmosphere has had a Chicago-themed hot dog on its menu since it opened in 2018. They get every aspect of a Chicago dog correct here, from the neon relish to the sport peppers and celery salt. They build their Chicago dog with imported Red Hot Chicago Beef Franks and serve it on a poppyseed bun ($6.50). 106-A N. Meridian Puyallup, 253-256-4210, caskcades.com.
The Red Hot: Tacoma’s Sixth Avenue, 21-and-older bar calls its Chicago-themed dog The Tacoma Dog ($5.25). In the early days, The Red Hot made its Chicago-themed dog with the signature neon green relish, but the restaurant changed its relish a few years ago to one the kitchen staff liked better. The natural casing, all-beef dogs are from Chicago, said co-owner Stu Miller. There’s also a vegan version called the North End Not Dog. He added for the Chicago transplants, “We also have a Chicago-style pork chop sandwich on the menu.” 2914 Sixth Ave., Tacoma, 253-779-0229, redhottacoma.com.
Shake Shake Shake: The Stadium neighborhood burger restaurant also sells a Chicago-ish dog. It’s called The Tacoma Dog. It comes with a split-and-grilled all-beef dog with diced onions, sport peppers, relish, yellow mustard and celery salt ($5.29). 124 N. Tacoma Ave., Tacoma, 253-507-4060, shakeshakeshake.me.
Patty’s Burgers: The South Tacoma Way burger restaurant known for its retro ‘50s decor and giant hamburgers also has a big menu of hot dogs. They list a Chicago dog, served with fries, but in my experience, it was missing the celery salt and the tomatoes and peppers were chopped, but otherwise a pretty good version of a Chicago dog ($8.99). 5615 S Tacoma Way, Tacoma, 253-474-0844.