By Ray Balogh
SYRACUSE — They’re not joking anymore.
Pat’s Chicago Dogs held a ribbon-cutting ceremony Saturday, Sept. 5, to celebrate its new ownership.
The event kicked off a two-day open house Saturday and Sunday, including a merchandise tent where patrons can purchase hoodies, tank tops, T-shirts and hats.
From 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday, local two-person band Basket Case will provide music on the patio.
Chad and Sheila Berkeypile and Sheila’s daughter, Demi Weldy, took over the iconic establishment, which started in a former donut shop in 1994, in July 2020 and scheduled the grand opening for this weekend.
“We wanted to get everything painted and fixed up and ready for Labor Day,” said Weldy, who has worked at Pat’s Chicago Dogs since her senior year at Wawasee High School in 2012. “It was my first job and I just never left,” she said.
Buying the place “was a running joke” but then former owner Chad Peterson, who took over the business from the original owners in 2003, got the opportunity to move to Alabama to be with his family.
“Chad came up to me and said he wanted to sell to someone who knew the place and loved it as much as he did,” Weldy said.
“It was perfect timing, but I couldn’t do it by myself, so I needed my parents.”
They kept the menu the same, adding only fried Oreos to the dessert items and offering — only through Monday “or as long as supplies last” — Hillbilly hot dogs topped with chili sauce and coleslaw.
The signature Chicago dog recipe is followed without deviation: a Vienna all-beef hot dog in a poppy seed bun topped — in order — with mustard, relish, freshly-chopped onions, fresh tomato wedges, kosher pickles and a sprinkle of celery salt.
One taboo condiment: ketchup. “Ketchup is a sin in Chicago,” said Weldy.
“Everything is fresh and made to order,” said Weldy. “That is why we say it is a little longer wait time for food, but it is worth it.”
Another item permanently carved into the menu is “Chad’s famous chili,” which Pat’s will “break out when the weather drops a little bit.” The chili will be offered every day and will complement a rotating menu of other soups, such as broccoli cheddar and white chicken chili.
Throughout the establishment’s history, some new items were added, such as locally famous sandwiches like the Peterson burger, the Tom Thornburg, Mad Max, Bill Dixon and Suzy-Q.
Rounding out the menu Philly sandwiches, salads and baskets, burgers, melts, tenderloins, fish, vegetarian burgers, fries, onion rings, breaded mushrooms and cauliflower, kid’s meals, ice cream and frozen cheesecake on a stick.
Sheila is planning a “community vote” to create a sandwich in honor of Wawasee High School boys basketball head coach Jon Everingham. “People come in with their own recipes,” she said. “I want to see what the community has to offer.” The contest will be open until spring, “when I would like to implement it for our seasonal visitors.”
“We are just excited to be a community staple,” said Weldy, who noted summer lake residents “comment on how they came here as a kid and nothing has changed. They love the nostalgia.”
Renea Salyer, executive director of the Syracuse-Wawasee Chamber of Commerce, participated in the ribbon cutting.
“I think it is great to have new ownership keeping a lot of things the same,” she said.
“The new patio is a big improvement, an outside space that is very inviting. I come here sometimes to have my lunch.
“It is invaluable to keep the business in our community.”
Pat’s Chicago Dogs is located at 601 S. Huntington St., Syracuse. For more information, call (574) 457-5586.