NORWOOD PARK — Joe and Sandi Colello bought their three-flat on Devon Avenue in 1988 for three reasons: location, location and Superdawg.
The Humboldt Park natives liked that their Norwood Park residence was just south of the spacious Caldwell Woods forest preserve and loved that it was literally next door to the iconic hot dog — er, Superdawg — stand.
"It's out our back door. You can't beat it; it's awesome," said Joe Colello, 65. "The smell just draws you to it; it's like a magnet."
For the last 26 years, they've shared an alley with Superdawg, 6363 N. Milwaukee Ave. It's been their yellow-brick road of sorts to the restaurant as Joe and Sandi — who will be married 44 years on Sept. 5 — eat there three or four times a week ... every single week.
"They're probably our No. 1 customers," said Scott Berman, an Albany Park native whose parents, Maurie and Flaurie, founded Superdawg on May 8, 1948. "And they have a fondness for our food but also for us. They've become part of our family."
Every Tuesday night since 2006, Joe and Sandi escort an 18-inch Dino's pizza to Superdawg for the employees. Joe started the tradition because he wanted to provide another food option for the folks who worked into the late-night hours.
"Plus, we really all enjoy one another's company," Joe Colello said. "It's amazing."
Joe, a Gordon Tech graduate, said it's also kind of remarkable he never gets tired of eating Superdawgs. He almost always orders the 'dawg with the works: mustard, onion, pickles, relish, hot peppers and green tomatoes.
Sandi, a Madonna High School alum, will mix things up — usually buying the Superdawg with everything on it. But on rare days, she'll order a plain Superdawg.
"It depends on your mood," she said. "Some days you just want something basic."
One of the Colellos' frequents guests is their 5-year-old granddaughter, Robyn, who frequently wants a strawberry Supershake and a plain Superdawg that she'll dip in ketchup.
"She can't help it, she's young," Sandi said.
Sandi first started going to Superdawg when she was a child. She had several relatives buried at St. Adalbert Catholic Cemetery about a half-mile northwest in Niles on a then two-lane Milwaukee Avenue, so many Sundays consisted of a ride to the cemetery with a stop at Superdawg on the way.
Berman said his parents originally selected the site for Superdawg because it was on the edge of the city limits and people could use their post-World War II automobile purchases to get there easily. For Superdawg's first 15 years, overflow cars would park on a prairie that would become the eventual site of the Colellos' home. In 1963, Milwaukee Avenue was widened, homes were built, and an alley was constructed between Superdawg and the residences.
"We found ourselves in the middle of the city," said Berman, a Roosevelt High School and University of Chicago Law School graduate who splits his time running the restaurant and serving as a real estate attorney.
The Colellos don't mind the endless stream of traffic cutting through the alley. Joe said he never hears people "honking horns, screaming or anything like that." Sandi said it was cool in the summer to see all the "hot rods, Cadillacs and Mercedes" pass through.
"We even saw a Rolls Royce once," she said. "And I can't tell you how many brides and wedding parties will take their pictures there. Tour buses will even come.
"We're not the kind of people who want to live on a dead-end street. From every window of our place, things are going on."
Joe and Sandi appreciate that, if a customer litters, a Superdawg employee will immediately come to pick it up. They also said having Superdawg as a neighbor keeps things safe as there's usually someone working with the lights on.
Fifteen years ago, Joe had a heart attack and weighed 222 pounds. And even with his steady Superdawg diet, he's down to 150 pounds and said he's never felt better. Sandi also had used Superdawg to navigate through health issues. Sandi has had two knee surgeries and another on her back, and when she's rehabbing, she'll ask in her sweetest, softest voice: "Please, can I have a Supermalt?"
Sandi is a retired hairdresser, while Joe has been an emergency responder with the Illinois Tollway for the last 18 years.
He plans to help assist stranded highway drivers who need a tire change or some gas for the next two years and then throw a nice retirement party.
"And there's a good chance it will be at Superdawg," he said.
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