"Do you sell hot dogs?" was the first question I asked RP Billiards bartender Scotty James.
That's like asking Coca-Cola if they make soft drinks.
He gave me a menu that lists 14 different hot dog selections, including the "Don Corleone," "Frenchy Coma," "Captain Ahab" and "Dog Fiji."
The menu features other food, but "Chicago Style Hot Dogs" take up one page.
James introduced me to kitchen manager Brad Kennedy, the man behind the hot dog. Last May, he began serving hot dogs on the Highland Strip. He wanted something different; all the other bars, he said, were serving the same thing: "Pizza, burgers and hot wings."
Kennedy's love of hot dogs dates to when he was 3 or 4 years old. He used to watch the Cubs and Washington Redskins games on TV with his grandfather, who is from Chicago. His grandfather would say, "We're gonna watch the game. Here's a hot dog."
Kennedy wanted to serve the all-beef hot dog at RP Billiards. "When you bite into it, it snaps, and all the juice gushes into your mouth."
He couldn't afford the quarter-pound Vienna-brand hot dogs, so he went with Nathan's. He was allowed to buy only one case. The dogs were gone in one day.
Depending on what hot dog you order, you get an array of toppings: barbecue, bacon and different types of cheese. The "Dog Fiji" includes sauerkraut, roasted red pepper cream cheese, pear and smoked gouda.
I tried the "Frenchy Como," one of Kennedy's favorites. It's a bacon-wrapped hot dog topped with remoulade and shredded cheddar jack cheese. "You take the hot dog, wrap it in bacon and deep fry it."
The hot dog, which comes with a batch of steak fries, sells for $5.75. I took a bite. The deep frying made the hot dog crunchy. That first crunch released all this amazing flavor. It was the ultimate hot dog. Heaven.
I let Daniel Cottam, who was at the bar, try it. "It tastes like a ballpark frank," he said. "You can't make this at home."
Kennedy already serves two other hot dogs that aren't on the menu and plans to add 16 more. Of course, if you don't want all that cheese and deep frying and bacon, you can order the "Plain Jane" -- a hot dog in a bun and nothing else. "That's for people who aren't too adventurous," Kennedy said.
RP Billiards is at 525 S. Highland; 452-6203.
-- Michael Donahue: 529-2797; firstname.lastname@example.org