It looks like any other sidewalk hot-dog stand, but upon closer view you'll notice a few unique touches: the framed photographs showing landmarks like the Chicago skyline and Wrigley Field; wooden signs reading "Navy Pier," a reference to a specific location in Chicago; and the name on the top of the stand, "A Taste of Chicago."
The Chicago references reflect not just the name of the establishment, but also its mission. The owners and operators, Steve DiMario Sr. and his son, Steve Jr., have transplanted a little Chicago atmosphere as well as authentic Chicago cuisine to Idaho with their custom built, self-designed mini restaurant. To achieve this goal, the DiMarios not only take their recipes from Chicago, but also the majority of the food. The all-beef franks, Italian sausages and condiments are shipped directly from the Windy City. With these ingredients, as well as poppy seed buns produced under a confidential agreement by a local bakery, the DiMarios deliver a dog you can't get anywhere else in Idaho.
The menu isn't broad, although there are some sandwich selections to supplement the specialty. What the stand lacks in quantity it makes up for with quality, and the DiMarios happily admit their stand features the same sort of hot dogs you would only find in Chicago's O'Hare Airport (which sells more hot-dogs than anywhere else in the world).
It's so worth a trip to Meridian to check out the stand, and not just for the food. DiMario Sr. has an interesting story of how his stand ended up in Idaho via Hawaii, and he will gladly share it with you. This down-to-earth friendliness makes the experience more fulfilling than your typical hot-dog stand meal, and has helped to build repeat business. One regular customer, a Chicago native now living in Meridian, told me these hot dogs "tasted just like home" and remarked that a wrong turn off of Fairview was the only reason he found the place.
Even if you're not usually a hot-dog fan, you'll be surprised how tasty the food is. I was even quite taken with the relish, although I'm usually not a relish fan, and I was further impressed with the genuine friendliness and atmosphere provided by the owners. Instead of leaving a tip, donate to the granddaughter's field trip fund. They appreciate that more.
Get to know the food, as well as the people who provide it. I think you'll like them both.
Shannon Grisso hollers "Hot-dog!" every time he visits the Windy City.