It’s the age-old question every Chicagoan asks: Should you ever put ketchup on a hot dog?
If you ask Bobby Morelli, the Sausage King of Bronzeville, you’d be surprised by his answer.
“If you want ketchup, I say go for it,” he says. “Ketchup and mustard are a great combo.”
Morelli, the co-founder and hot dog chief at The Hot Dog Box, is all about changing the way Chicagoans eat their beloved hot dogs, serving up elevated versions of the classic Chicago staple.
A father-daughter operation
Morelli’s co-founder is none other than his nine-year-old daughter, Brooklyn. In the midst of the pandemic last August, the two opened The Hot Dog Box inside Boxville Chicago (330 E. 51st St., Chicago) a container marketplace in Bronzeville that uses modified shipping containers for commerce in place of traditional brick and mortar spaces.
Morelli painted his 400-square foot container fire engine red and the two began acquiring a loyal customer base. The whole operation is a family affair. Morelli makes the hot dogs, his wife makes the sauces, and Brooklyn greets guests, takes orders and washes dishes when she isn’t busy being a third grader. A portion of Brooklyn’s tips go into her college account.
“I love including Brooklyn on this journey,” says Morelli. “This is her training grounds. She’s learning the importance of good work ethic and customer service. It feels good to give her an opportunity to learn about entrepreneurship on this level, seeing it from the ground up.”
“It’s A Great Day for a Great Hot Dog”
The Hot Dog Box is famous for its Filet Mignon Steak Dogs. Current menu varieties include
The Pickle Minion Double Filet Mignon Steak Dog (handcrafted with sweet pickles and spicy truffle peanut butter sauce) and The Bronzeville Bourbon Double Filet Mignon Steak Dog
(outfitted with a cabbage and carrots medley and smokey crumbled bacon).
Rotating weekly specials have included everything from The Compass (a shrimp and steak dog topped with spinach and a creamy chipotle honey sauce) to the Wild Alaskan Salmon Dog (finished with jerk sauce, a Hawaiian pineapple mustard and a cabbage medley).
The Hot Dog Box also offers turkey and vegan options of their creations.
If customers still have room, The Hot Dog Box offers dessert options such as their signature Shortbread Cookie Fries and Bailey’s Brownies, created by Morelli’s five-year-old daughter, Bailey.
Taking the outside concept in
Because cold temperatures forced the closure of The Hot Dog Box through the winter, Morelli plans to open a dine-in experience in Portage Park (4040 N. Milwaukee Avenue) in August.
In addition to bringing back some rotating favorites permanently, customers can look for new items, including a Pizza Dog and a Chicken and Waffles Dog.
Supporting Black-owned businesses
Morelli says he has been grateful for the outpouring of support from the Chicagoland community.
“It is important to support Black-owned businesses not just now, but all of the time,” he says. “Everyone has been hit by this last year, but I can honestly say that there is a disparity in resources for black businesses. Once we start to support black owned businesses, the communities will thrive.”
The Hot Dog Box also sells handcrafted mustards on their website, including Maple Bourbon BBQ, Cranberry Honey Kick and Chipotle Garlic.
Follow The Hot Dog Box on Instagram for more details on specials and updates on the new location.
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