You can hear it in chef Brian Luscher's accent; he's from Chi-cah-go. He, like many Chicagoans, misses the food back home.
"As a kid, I can remember running around in a diaper eating a hot dog. That's what we ate," he says. "And I think a lot of people from Chicago have the same memory."
The chef and owner of Greenville Avenue institution the Grape is only a few days away from opening a casual hot dog shop inspired by, but not mimicking, his favorite Chicago foods. Luscher's Red Hots in Deep Ellum is expected to open fully by March 2. And you can bet a bunch of Midwesterners will line up to see if Luscher's red hots stack up to the hot dogs from back home.
But here's the secret: They won't be the hot dogs from back home. Luscher's done that on purpose.
The Italian beef sandwich, one of two signature items, is not made with inexpensive shaved meat and celery-heavy giardiniera, like native Chicagoans are probably used to. This sammy is stacked with wagyu beef from McKinney butcher Local Yocal, then dressed with house-made giardiniera (carrots, serranos, peppers, onions, cauliflower, olives, whew) on an Italian roll from Garland bakery La Francaise. The Italian beef sandwich comes dunked in gravy -- which is au jus, but don't call it that or you'll risk looking like a noob.
It's still an Italian beef sandwich, and you might need to do the "Chicago lean" in order to keep the gravy from dripping on your shirt. But it's a little different than some of the Chicago institutions' Italian beef sandwiches.
"Somebody's gonna come in here and say, 'This isn't a Chicago sandwich,'" Luscher says. "There's a lot of dogma, a lot of fundamentalism with Chicago food. 'It has to be this way,' people say.
"I'm making my own."
Take his $5 Chicago-style dog: It's made from a house-made hot dog and topped with house-made pickle relish, local Lemley's tomatoes, pickled sport peppers and Luscher's brown mustard. Where's the neon-green relish? The yellow mustard from the squeeze bottle? Not here.
These are "Chicago-style hot dogs you won't find anywhere else, including Chicago," reads one of several posters inside the Deep Ellum restaurant.
Here are a few other things you might like to know about Luscher's Red Hots:
Specials are coming soon, and they include a bacon-wrapped hot dog. Monday will be corn dog day. Tuesday will have tallow fries (fries cooked in beef fat). Wednesday: Francheezies -- a bacon-wrapped frank served on toast with a slice of cheese. (Whoa.) Thursday will have a pork chop sandwich. And Friday there'll be a smelt (fish) fry basket. Say it "schmelt" and you'll sound like you're from Luscher's neck of the woods.
There might be a secret menu. How? Where? That's for you to figure out.
Chicago natives, deep breaths: There's Green River pop at the soda machine. For those unfamiliar, Green River is a lime-flavored soda popular in the Midwest. Luscher says it was a symbol of his childhood. It's here, in blazing lime green, made with cane sugar. Cue cries of delight.
There's also beer, root beer and lots of canned soda if you're not into Green River or indie cane sugar sodas. Diet Coke drinkers, don't despair: Your soda of choice is available, just not as a fountain drink. The canned drink selection also includes Hawaiian Punch, a hefty selection of root beers, and beers of the adult variety -- both fancy and not.
Ketchup is available for hot dogs, if you must. Ketchup does not belong on hot dogs, Luscher clarifies. "Ketchup is for kids," he says. But because Luscher's will be serving onion rings and fries -- and because some people have to eat a hot dog with ketchup -- it's available. While not house-made, the red stuff is free of high fructose corn syrup.
Is Luscher's fancy? No way. Luscher makes a lot of his own stuff, and he uses local, more expensive ingredients. All that doesn't mean this hot dog shop is upscale. "A hot dog is just a [expletive] hot dog," Luscher says. It might cost you $10 or $12 for a sandwich or a dog, a side and a drink.
His chili has beans in it. You'll have to forgive him; he's from Chicago. But beware that if you order chili or a chili dog, it's the Yankee variety.
There's a hangover cure here. The B.O.B. is a breakfast pork sausage sandwich with an egg, American cheese and hot sauce, and Luscher calls it the "ultimate hangover cure." It's sold all day.
Want to order like the chef? Get the "Uncle Jimmy, wet." That's an Italian roll piled with pork shoulder, sweet and hot Italian sausage and giardiniera, dipped in gravy. It's named for Luscher's best friend. Or, go for "the Uncle Herky burger," named for his Uncle Hercules. It has two wagyu beef patties, cheese, mustard, mayo, grilled onions and a horseradish pickle on a seeded bun.
Luscher has been trying to open his hot dog shop for more than a year. "This is surreal," he said as employees were being trained for opening day. "This is really going to happen."
Luscher's Red Hots is located in Deep Ellum, close to Cane Rosso and Pecan Lodge. (In fact, you can smell Pecan Lodge's smoked meat from Luscher's patio.) Luscher's is located at 2653 Commerce St., Dallas.