Now that football season is here, Chicago Bears fans in South Florida are gathering on Sundays at Fat Lou’s in Pembroke Park to chow down on nachos, chili and Vienna beef dogs dragged through the garden. Chicago transplants can revel in gyros with tangy tzatziki sauce and Maxwell Street Polish sausages. Even the location — near Lakeshore Drive — is a reminder of the Windy City.
Owner Lou Sweilem grew up in a Jordanian-American family in the Chicago suburb of Morton Grove. After running a liquor store and sandwich shop on the city’s northwest side, he joined a cousin in Palm Beach County nine years ago. When he couldn’t find Chicago-style street food, he opened Fat Lou’s — named for a childhood nickname that belies his now-trim physique — and recently relocated it to Broward.
The motto here is “Shut up and drink your beer.” The baby back ribs are steamed, then baked, and grilled to tenderness, available in combo with grilled chicken, fries and coleslaw. If that sounds Southern, welcome to Chicago: During the Great Depression, many Southerners went north seeking work and brought their food along. During hard times, hot dogs were sold from push carts for a nickel cushioned in poppy seed buns with “salad on top” of yellow mustard, chopped onions, nuclear-green relish, tomato slices (never ketchup), pickle spears, spicy sport peppers and a dash of celery salt. Italian beefs start with top round that’s seasoned with oregano and garlic and roasted for three hours, then cooled and shaved, served wet or dry (with gravy on the bread or on the side). Platters make for indoor tailgating. Choices include fried shrimp with cocktail sauce, chicken tenders with honey mustard and chicken Parmesan with spaghetti. Specials run on Windy City Wednesdays and Second City Sundays. In October, senior citizens can get a free dog at this Chicago landmark in Miami.