Perfect Recession Food? | WBEZ
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Eight Forty-Eight

Perfect Recession Food?

People are spending less these days--on everything from vacations, to clothing to food. But some edibles are faring better than others. As the economy goes to the “dogs,” hotdog sales are actually up. According to market research firm Information Resources, Inc., retail spending on hotdogs increased 2.5 percent in 2008. So WBEZ's Adriene Hill went to check out the “link” between the economy and hotdog sales.

Chicago loves its hotdogs....

PASCHALIS: A Chicago hot dog is an all beef hotdog on a poppy seed bun, and there's mustard, onions, relish, pickle, sport peppers tomato and celery salt. 

That's Gus Paschalis. He owns and runs a hotdog stand called, I kid you not, the Weiner and Still Champion in north suburban Evanston.

PASCHALIS: Most people would say a hole in the wall, mom and pop type restaurant. 

It's definitely a little divey. But you can get a dog and handcut french fries, that are fried to order for 3.50. Not bad, for a meal that contains most of the major food groups.

Turns out the Chicago dog has a good "pedigree" for surviving tough times. The Chicago style hotdog loaded with veggies and condimentsgot started back during the late 1920s. You could get your meal on a bun for a nickel; at least one hotdog stand called it a "depression sandwich." And while it may be overselling it a little to say sales now are "steaming" or "red hot"  these days at Weiner and Still Champion, they're good. 

PASCHALIS: We're actually doing better than we're doing last year.

The dinner time rush is pretty impressive for a hotdog stand. Melody Vogel's waiting on an order of french fries. She says she still has a job, she works at a nearby church, but she's more careful about how she spends money on food.

VOGEL: I'm trying to be a lot more conservative in what I buy. I grew up in a big family so I'm used to the make spaghetti and eat it for a week and make soup and add water.

She eats out less and she's more likely to go for cheaper options when she does eat out.

TRISTANO: Consumers are trading down. Rather than going to casual dining like an Applebees and paying at the $12-13 level they're shifting down to limited service.

Darren Tristano is an executive vice president at Technomic Incorporated, a food industry research firm. He says hotdog stands are set to capitalize on food trends-they're cheap, the food is fresh, customizable, portable, and he says Chicago hot dogs taste really good. All of which makes them a strong contender for a great recession meal.

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