On first glance, Best of the Wurst in the North Market is a stand that's easy to walk by. We've seen the dressed-up, wacky-topped hot dog concept before. Most of the time, these attempts are heavy on quirk, but short on flavor. Recently, though, I stopped to take a closer look at exactly what is on the menu at this hot dog and panini stand, and found the toppings surprising, but not in a shock-and-awe kind of way. Instead the combinations sounded fresh and interesting, but also made sense-like kimchi and crisped, crumbled bits of seaweed.
On first glance, Best of the Wurst in the North Market is a stand that's easy to walk by. We've seen the dressed-up, wacky-topped hot dog concept before. Most of the time, these attempts are heavy on quirk and short on flavor.
Recently, though, I stopped to take a closer look at exactly what is on the menu at this hot dog and panini stand and found the toppings surprising, but not in a shock-and-awe kind of way. Instead, the combinations sounded fresh and interesting and made sense-like kimchi paired with crisped, crumbled bits of seaweed.
Pay attention to this little market stand. Good things are in the works.
Best of the Wurst co-owner Kye Pimparatana readily admits creativity is great-her stand runs on it-but what's the point if it doesn't taste good? Flavor is the No. 1 consideration when her kitchen staff is crafting new menu items and specials (like the colorful Village Dog topped with lettuce, tomatoes, onions, Italian dressing and crispy capicola).
This approach makes Best of the Wurst worth a look on this National Hot Dog day (July 23).
"If you are game for anything and everything, I would steer you toward the hot dogs because that is what we pride ourselves on," says Pimparatana, adding the all-beef dogs are sourced from an old company in Chicago. "I think it's five times better than Vienna."
The must-try is the Gang-Nam Style-a Korean-inspired dog topped with pleasant kimchi, Sriracha aioli and crispy crumbled seaweed. The best surprise on this dog, though, is the sweet Asian radish pickle that hides underneath the dog, giving it a little vinegary bite.
If you want something classic, but still unusual, go with the Reuben Dog. It's a German brat wrapped in house corned beef and piled high with sauerkraut, lemony Russian dressing and a sprinkling of caraway seeds that mimic fresh rye bread.
For the kids, Pimparatana recommends the Cheesy Coney with finely grated Boar's Head cheddar and fresh garden-style chili.
Pimparatana laughs when asked how a kid from Chicago who grew up in Thailand came to own an American food stand. "I'm a very American Thai kid. And a very Thai American kid," she says. "I love all styles of food."
Exactly how she came to run Best of the Wurst is perhaps just as happenstance. The hot dog shop has a long history in the North Market. It was opened by market veteran and Curds & Whey owner Mike Kast, who eventually sold it to Nida's Thai owners Nida and Chris Perry. Pimparatana, who had worked for Nida at her Short North restaurant, eventually partnered with her at the stand. In 2013, Pimparatana bought Best of the Wurst and started crafting regular specials to positive results from customers.
Next up, Best of the Wurst will go through one more change-a full concept refresh. Pimparatana wants to Americanize the approach even more, transforming her stand into the spot for inexpensive smash-style burgers, hand-cut fries and creative hot dogs in the North Market. The changeup will mean a new look and new name-Market Tender. Look for changes later this year or early 2016.