Northwest Side’s iconic Superdawg celebrates 75th anniversary
by BRIAN NADIG
Iconic hot dog stand Superdawg near Milwaukee and Devon avenues is celebrating its 75th anniversary this week.
The popular drive-in was the brainchild of Maurie and Flaurie Berman.
“They both met at Von Steuben High School, were high school sweethearts and prom dates, and my dad was editor of the newspaper,” Scott Berman said of his parents. “My dad fought in the Battle of the Bulge, (and) they got married after World War II.”
Superdawg was meant to be temporary. Profits were being used to pay for Maurie’s accounting education at Northwestern University, as Flaurie already had graduated from there and was a teacher.
But in 1950 the couple changed course and focused full time on the hot dog business.
“They said that the business is doing wonderful, (and) I was born, … and they said we think we’ll do this instead (of teaching and accounting),” Berman said. In 1948 and 1949 the restaurant was only open in the summer months.
Berman said that his parents wanted an attractive, stylish restaurant, and much of the original design remains, including the famous 12-foot, papier-mache hot dogs on the roof that are meant to resemble his parents winking at each other.
Those rooftop hot dogs, which have 1948 newspapers inside them, would be removed for the winter. However, in the 1950s fiberglass was placed around them, allowing them to be on display year-round and serving as a permanent tribute to Superdawg’s founders, Berman said.
The kitchen is the original 12-by-20-foot restaurant that was built in 1948, Berman said. A wraparound was added when Superdawg started operating throughout the year, he said.
Originally carhops would take orders at the cars, but the restaurant eventually added an electronic ordering board and intercom system. When the restaurant first opened, drivers would flash their car’s headlights when they were done and wanted their tray removed.
“We always say, ‘your car is your dining room,’” Berman said, adding that picnic tables and limited indoor dining also are available.
Maurie and Flaurie chose the Milwaukee-Devon location because it is across from Caldwell Woods and Whalen Pool, 6200 W. Devon Ave.
After WWII, an increasing number of people were driving again and were visiting the outskirts of the city, Berman said.
The Superdawg, which Berman said is a “secret recipe,” is larger than the typical hot dog and is served in a box, with crinkle cut fries, a pickle and a pepper.
In celebration of its 75th anniversary, Alderman Samantha Nugent (39th) is presenting a new honorary “Maurie and Flaurie Berman Way” street sign that will hang next to the existing honorary “Superdawg Way” street sign.
Superdawg opened on May 9, 1948.
In 2010, a second, larger Superdawg opened in Wheeling. It can accommodate about triple the number of cars than the Chicago location.
Berman owns and operates the Superdawg restaurants along with his daughter Laura Ustick and his sister Lisa Drucker and her husband Don Drucker.
When asked if business is still strong after 75 years, Berman said, the Chicago location often fills up at night.
“Sometimes I’m out there directing traffic,” he said.