Sometimes a hot dog is more than just a fast food, and the stands from which they are served in Chicago are more than simply corporate feeding places. Created by European immigrants in the Nineteenth Century and elaborated by succeeding generations, the subject of many jokes including the name itself, the hot dog represents a social and cultural history of America. Nowhere are these themes better seen than in Chicago’s hot dog stands and in the wonderful vernacular art decorating them. Stands define urban, ethnic neighborhoods, a mosaic of small communities that together compose the portrait of the city. These small places are the realms of small entrepreneurs who live seemingly untouched by the culture of modern corporate business. The art upon them embody these older, homier themes—retreat into memory, abundance, the imagined world of carnevale, and many others. To Chicagoans, hot dog stands, local eateries in general, reify the life of their hometown.

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