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Punk hot dog Moments in Time

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A moment Martin Atkins will never forget (Sun-Times photo by Andrew A. Nelles)

Life is a collection of unique moments.
A great kiss. A real last call. The first rock concert.

For many British musicians, the moment comes with the first bite of a Vienna pure beef Chicago hot dog. This rite of passage happens at Wrigleysville Dogs, 3730 N. Clark, across the street from the iconic Metro music club. Oasis dropped in at Wrigleysville several years ago. Former Public Image Ltd. and Nine Inch Nails drummer Martin Atkins, takes his English mates to the stand.
Atkins remembers the first moment he bit into a Wrigleysville dog.....

.....Initially we told them to take the salad off," he says over a well-dressed hot dog. "The pickle, the hot peppers? A Chicago hot dog is just alien. But I was surprised how good it was."

Hundreds of local bands also beef up at Wrigleysville -- that's how it is spelled -- before a show. The up-and-coming Chicago pop-rock band the Future Laureates recently before they headlined Metro.

"After a show we have to load out, and there isn't much time to think about food," says bassist James Hyde. The 27-year-old moved from Yellow Springs, Ohio, to study physics at Loyola University. "The hot dog is much more of a cultural identity thing in Chicago."

Metro production manager Rachelle Spicer adds, "Anyone who eats when they come to Chicago wants Chicago dogs. The Brits are intrigued by that place. They see it right when they get off the bus."

Wrigleysville has been serving weenies to rock fans and Cubs fans since 1992.
Atkins, 53, has been eating there during the entire run. "This place was always 'hovering,' " says Atkins, who teaches music courses at the Madison (Wis.) Media Institute. "I was here with Pigface [the industrial rock supergroup that has included Steve Albini, Flea and Trent Reznor]; we had 16 people in here. I was here with Killing Joke. Maybe the first couple times you were delighted to come in here. As you get older you aspire to not do the hot dog and fries. Then it becomes, 'Do you have any sushi in the neighbohood?' But this is the kind of place you end up whether you wanted to or not."

Peter Sdralis opened Wrigleysville and still can be found behind the counter with his son Tom, who manages the 40-seat restaurant with his older brother, Bob. Metro owner Joe Shanahan regularly brings over an up-to-date schedule of the venue's bookings.
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Peter Sdralis (Andrew A. Nelles photo)

Another operative question is when was the moment in time Peter Sdralis realized the 8-feet-wide sign on Clark Street said "Wrigleysville" and not "Wrigleyville."

"I called it Wriglesvyille dogs when I ordered the sign," Sdralis said. "We didn't know it until we put it up." He is from a rural town south of Athens, Greece. Sdralis has a thing with the letter 's.' "I've been 52 years in the restaurants business," he says in a thick Greek accent.

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The Wrigleysville sign is a major photo op for locals and tourists. Late French photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson influenced a generation of photographers by searching for the "decisive moment."

You can screw up a decisive moment by putting ketchup on a hot dog.

"Mustard, onion, relish, tomato, onion, pickles, sport pepper," says Tom Sdralis, 30, sitting near a recent Rolling Stone magazine spread of the indie band the Walkmen visting Wrigleysville. "Bands just tell us to make it Chicago style. If they want ketchup, we'll give them a bottle."

The Sdralis family and Shanahan remember Snoop Dogg ordering a hot dogg -- er, dog -- at Wrigleysville. "The last time, he had one of my runners driving around downtown at 5 in the morning trying to find a McDonald's," says Spicer, who has been at Metro since 2000.

Wrigleysville is open from 10 a.m. until 4 a.m. six days a week, and until 5 a.m. Sundays.

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Father and son.

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Dave Hoekstra

Dave Hoekstra has been a Chicago Sun-Times staff writer since 1985. His collection of Sun-Times travel columns, "Ticket To Everywhere," was published in 2000 by Lake Claremont Press. He was lead writer for "Farm Aid: Song for America" (Rodale Press, 2005) which commemorated the 20th anniversary of the Willie Nelson inspired effort.
He won a 1987 Chicago Newspaper Guild Stick O-Type Award for Column Writing. Hoekstra wrote and co-proudced the WTTW-Channel 11 PBS special: "The Staple Singers and the Civil Rights Movement," nominated for a 2001-02 Chicago Emmy for a documentary program/cultural significance.
He lives in Chicago.

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