October 30, 2012
Q: I write you from autumnal New England with one quick question about a Chicago food tradition, Best's Kosher Franks, which were made in the Windy City for a long, long time. They were the absolute best frankfurters available (even here in Massachusetts) and were gobbled up and disposed of by Sarah Lee. Has anyone revived the recipe?
Dana T. Wilson, Haverhill, Mass.
A: As far as I can tell, the recipe for Best's Kosher Franks hasn't been revived or duplicated since Sara Lee discontinued the line in 2009.
What to do? Well, there are some alternatives.
"While not kosher, we encourage consumers who enjoyed the flavor of the Best's Kosher Franks hot dogs to try the Ball Park Deli Style Beef Frank as it uses a similar spice blend,'' said Ashley La Croix, a spokeswoman for Hillshire Brands of Downers Grove, which is what Sara Lee morphed into.
Craig "Meathead" Goldwyn, a food writer and blogger, thought Best's Kosher Franks were the best. Indeed, he rated them first in a double-blind tasting of all-beef wieners some years ago. In a later tasting of all-beef hot dogs, Goldwyn listed these two brands as tops: Hebrew National and Sabrett. Give them a try; Hebrew National, in particular, is widely distributed.
"Best's Kosher were good,'' agreed Bruce Kraig, the food historian and hot dog expert. "I would say that Best were close to Hebrew National, their rival, in quality and better in larger diameters than thinner."
Co-author of the upcoming "Man Bites Dog: Hot Dog Culture in America" (AltaMira Press, $40), Kraig said the best kosher dogs in Chicago now are made by Romanian Kosher Sausage. You might want to call them at 773-761-4141 to see if you can order some dogs and get them delivered.
Best's was founded in 1886 by a German immigrant named Isaac Oscherwitz, whose family relocated to Chicago in the 1920s. The business was sold to Sara Lee in 1993.
Do you have a question about food or drink? Email Bill Daley at: email@example.com. Snail mail inquiries should be sent to: Bill Daley, Chicago Tribune, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago 60611. Twitter @billdaley.