WASHINGTON--With all the Chicagoans in the Obama White House, you'd think someone would know off the bat who to call to steam up some Chicago-style hot dogs for the White House annual congressional picnic on Tuesday. Instead, the White House phoned the offices of Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) for assistance and as a result Mike Payne, the owner of Byron's Hot Dogs in Chicago was recruited to help.
Payne sells Vienna hot dogs from two locations on the North Side, 1017 W. Irving Park near Wrigley Field and 1701 W. Lawrence. On June 6, Payne had to close the Byron's in west suburban Forest Park.
Payne, with his wife, Ann, worked alongside of White House chief chef Cristeta Comerford in the White House kitchen on Tuesday, from 7 a.m. to close to 10 p.m. for the event, which featured food from various regions of the U.S. The steamed Chicago Vienna Hot Dog represented the Midwest.
The official White House call to Payne came from Ebs Burnough, a deputy White House Social Secretary. Since outside supplies cannot be brought in, Payne sent Comerford a shopping list in order to make an authentic Chicago hot dog with all the traditional fixings. Comerford found an East Coast Vienna Hot Dog distributor; other items included yellow mustard (the greatest of mustards), shredded lettuce, diced onions sliced cucumbers, green peppers and tomatoes. Plus peppers, celery salt and dill pickles. The only ingredient Comerford could not find was the specific day glow green relish featured at Byron's; she found something close, though.
Chicago-style hot dogs are steamed; Payne showed Comerford how to steam them in the White House kitchen, where he worked for the day prepping.
"Everybody there was really really nice," Payne said, "Like they were treating us like a guest."
Payne, who opened the first Byron's in 1975, also met President Obama and First Lady Michelle in the White House.
Said Payne, "a little bit of home cooking came all the way to the White House"
The president and Mrs. Obama and her mom, Marian Robinson, did send in a "to go" order for four hot dogs. Payne prepared them extra special and sent them up to the Obama residence.
On a silver platter.