Updated: August 20, 2013 6:15AM
Frankly, I almost drove past the hard-to-see hot dog cart called “Crazy Dogs from New York.”
When I heard there was a new hot dog joint in the region, I had to sample it for myself. For me, the “dog days of summer” are not about canines, laziness or the heat index, but about trying new hot dog joints across the region. I’ve been relishing the idea, though I’ve been in a pickle until this new place opened two weeks ago. (Sorry, I couldn’t resist those puns.)
Seriously, I have a soft spot for these places after making literally thousands of hot dogs over the course of 22 years for my former family food business. Back then, we used David Berg franks, not the more popular Vienna hot dog.
What caught my attention with this new place is that it uses Sabrett franks, New York’s No. 1, all-beef hot dog, renowned for their “snap” natural casing.
“After getting my wife hooked on Nathan’s hot dogs — the other New York hot dog which are available here — she finally had a Sabrett two months ago on a trip to New York City,” explained Crazy Dogs owner Bob Schappert of Portage in between customers.
“She fell in love with them, so we decided why not let the people of Northwest Indiana enjoy the goodness, too,” added Schappert, while topping off my Sabrett dog with mustard, kraut and barbeque onions.
“I won’t eat any other hot dog now,” noted Schappert’s wife, Laura, a former fine dining server.
As cars whizzed past the couple’s traditional-style hot dog cart in the parking lot of Al’s Tires on U.S. 6 in South Haven, I peppered them with questions, specifically why they brought New York-style dogs to this region.
Schappert, a 61-year-old salty-looking guy with tattoos on his arm, explained that he’s originally from Long Island. He grew up on those franks. (Watch a video of his explanation at www.post-trib.com)
“Our Sabrett products are shipped from out east, where they are found on almost every street corner,” he said.
The Sabrett dog definitely cuts the mustard, and they’re different than the ones we normally eat in the Chicago area. The franks are cooked in beef broth, which also adds to their unique taste. If you’re a hot dog lover like me, you should give them a try.
“We are here Monday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.,” said Schappert, who can be reached at 487-4129.
Do you have a favorite hot dog stand in the region or beyond? Is it Ruben’s in Lake Station? Valpo Vienna’s in downtown Valparaiso? The Chuck Wheeler Hot Dog Stand in Gary and Westfield Southlake Mall in Hobart? Let me know.
On today’s Casual Fridays radio show, we’ll be serving up this subject and we welcome your recommendations, which I will print in a future column. Tune in between noon and 1 p.m. on WLPR, 89.1-FM, and call in at 769-9577. If you suggest a hot dog stand that we didn’t note yet, we’ll give you a free pair of tickets to the Portage 16 Imax theater.
AC on the fritz?
On Tuesday evening, my home’s central air-conditioning unit went out, with indoor temps rising to 86 degrees the next day. One minute it worked, the next minute it didn’t.
Despite the extreme heat we’re experiencing, this wasn’t such an alarming issue for me. I love this weather and I often don’t use the AC during daytime hours anyway. But I still had to get it repaired. I immediately turned to my new Yellow Pages: Facebook.
Within a few minutes of my social media post, asking for recommendations of a reputable air-conditioning repair company, I received a couple dozen responses with first-hand feedback. I opted to go with Tin Crafters in Hobart after hearing good things about the company.
I called and spoke with a pleasant woman named Beverly, who told me that a technician could be at my place in a couple of hours. Sure enough, a man named Lowell showed up in no time.
He quickly unscrewed the unit’s cover, disconnected a small metal thing called a capacitor and replaced it with a new one. (Because I don’t know an AC capacitor from the fictional flux capacitor, I posted a photo of it on Facebook for others to see.)
It took Lowell five minutes to fix it, and longer to fill out the bill — $129 ($65 for labor, $64 for the part). I thanked him for his speed, efficiency and intelligence.
“It’s not what I know, it’s what I do,” he replied with a sweaty smile.
I tell you this story because it’s a common problem with air conditioning units in such helter-swelter heat waves. If yours goes out, keep this in mind. Don’t let someone sell you a new unit or new parts you don’t need, especially in these extreme temperatures, which can cloud our otherwise clear thinking.
Kids, need a backpack?
According to the National Retail Federation, parents with children in school will spend on average $95 for school supplies such as notebooks, pencils and backpacks. On top of that, nearly 16 million children in the U.S. live in poverty.
To help the cause, more than 400 participating TCC (The Cellular Connection) stores across the country, including ones in Portage and Crown Point, are giving away 60,000 free school backpacks to local kids through its School Rocks Backpack Giveaway initiative.
“Since the beginning of May, TCC customers have been given the option to round their purchases up to the nearest dollar with the difference going directly toward the School Rocks Backpack Giveaway,” a TCC spokeswoman told me. “Crown Point and Portage residents have also joined the cause.”
On Aug. 3 between noon and 2 p.m., the stores are inviting local families to bring their children to pick up a backpack filled with pencils, paper, a pencil box, folders, glue and more. It’s one of the largest national backpack giveaways ever, I’m told.
The participating store in Crown Point is located at 848 N. Superior Drive, Unit 100 in Building E. The Portage store is at 6054 Central Ave. Each store will donate between 100 and 150 backpacks.
The donations are on a first-come, first-served basis and there’s no criteria for the selection process. Just walk in and ask for a backpack, I’m told.