High Fidelity is one of my favorite films for so many reasons: endlessly quotable moments* thanks to its Nick Hornby source material, a nostalgia-inducing Chicago backdrop, a cameo by Bruce Springsteen, and a pantheon of “sad bastard music” that could make up about five movie soundtracks.
I’ve long since stopped obsessing over boys à la Rob Gordon and I make playlists instead of mix tapes these days, but I retain a compulsive need to list favorites. Sure, everyone’s got their top five movies, albums, TV shows, or books. But does anyone else have a list of favorite sandwiches? Lord knows I do, and though their rankings shift frequently, the reuben is currently edging out the others—lobster roll, tuna melt, egg-and-cheese, and Primanti’s—as the number one sandwich of my top five.
So although I had big plans to try the grass-fed burgers at Grange Hall Burger Bar in the Chicago’squickly gentrifying West Loop neighborhood, learning that the restaurant’s hot dog of the day was, in fact, a reuben dog made the record scratch. Plans changed. Deal sealed.
Farm-to-table is just as popular a food trend in Chicago as it is across the country, and Grange Hall plays up its urban Midwesternness with oversized quilt panels, pie cabinets, mismatched low dressers serving as the support for a diner-style lunch counter, and honest-to-god barn doors that swing open to brighten the dim space and let the breeze ruffle the cotton print napkins on each communal table.
Taking up our share of communal space with a spread that could feed more than two hungry farmers, I gleefully dug into the oversized spicy beef hot dog akin to kielbasa—which, of course, is the number one contender on my top five meats list—topped with ribbons of Swiss cheese, house-made beer-braised sauerkraut, and Thousand Island dressing on a split-top buttered rye bun. The dog exemplified the harmony of fermentation and flavor that makes a reuben so great: salty, juicy sausage; briny kraut; creamy dressing; a crispy golden bun—a track list packed with hits.
The hot dog, brought to the table on a charming vintage metal tray, should have been accompanied by a side of ranch-style potato and cuke salad. Another game change: though I pouted mightily when told the potato salad wasn’t on the menu that afternoon, I was pleased to be proven wrong by the heaping ramekin of chilled baked beans with slices of sweet fennel that came in its place. Like sneaking an extra bonus track on the end of a mix tape, the fennel was an unexpected surprise.
Dan, ever the burger man, stuck with the original plan, scarfing down a very traditional burger that needed no further accompaniment than a slice of Colby Jack. Sure, he could have added some apple bourbon relish or a fried farm egg, but he’s a minimalist. (The garlic dill pickles that came on the side somehow ended up down my gullet anyway.)
Grange Hall plies its homemade pies, but after our buffet, including a crock of homemade French onion dip studded with sweet white onions and two Midwest craft brews—Wild Onion Brewery’s Paddy Pale Ale and Dark Horse’s Crooked Tree IPA—a scoop of peach-rosemary ice cream was all I could handle. Besides, I couldn’t leave without taking one last bite of that dog. In a town that’s lousy with killer hot dogs, Grange Hall’s reuben version has already shot to the top of my list. Number one, with a bullet.
Grange Hall Burger Bar, 844 W. Randolph St., Chicago. 312-491-0844.
*So many great lines from the movie, but in keeping with my OCD list-making and my love for ’70s singer-songwriters, my favorite quote is probably “And her top five recording artists were Carly Simon, Carole King, James Taylor, Cat Stevens, and Elton John.”