NORWOOD PARK — Maurie Berman, who founded Superdawg drive-in with his wife Flaurie in 1948 and transformed it into a Northwest Side icon, died early Sunday morning from heart problems, his son Scott Berman said. He was 89.
Maurie Berman — whose muscle-bound, leopard-skin-sarong-clad hot dog alter-ego has loomed over the intersection of Milwaukee, Nagle and Devon avenues for decades — will be remembered as someone who transformed a hot dog stand into a community institution that brought joy to generations of Chicago hot dog lovers, Scott Berman said.
"He would be proudest of operating Superdawg right up to the end," Scott Berman said. "He didn't have hobbies. He loved his family, and he loved Superdawg."
As in life, Maurie's alter ego is perched on the roof of Superdawg at 6363 N. Milwaukee Ave. next to Flaurie, transformed into a blue-skirted hot dog wearing a yellow bow, winking at her childhood sweetheart. The couple married in 1947, and founded Superdawg a year later on May 8, 1948.
"They had a wonderful marriage," Scott Berman said of his parents, beginning to cry.
Heather Cherone says Berman was famous on the NW-side:
Maurie Berman had been in declining health for the last several months, Scott Berman said, but he celebrated Mother's Day with his family last week before he began to slip away.
"He loved meeting the people who came to Superdawg," Scott Berman said of his father. "He loved making people happy."
Regarded by many encased meat aficionados as the best Chicago hot dogs in the city, Superdawg sparked a craze for its pure beef frank in a poppy-seed bun topped with mustard, piccalilli, a dill pickle, chopped Spanish onions and a "memorable" hot pepper — but no ketchup — decades before Chicagoans began waiting in line for hours for Hot Doug's.
"He loved it from the very first day," Scott Berman said. "Superdawg wasn't just a restaurant. It brought joy to people."
Superdawg was born when Maurie Berman returned to Chicago after fighting in World War II and taking part in the Battle of the Bulge. Maurie, a certified public accountant, and Flaurie, a teacher in the Chicago Public Schools, wanted a business they could run in the summer.
Before long, Superdawg and its vaunted drive-in style took off — preceding both McDonald's and Burger King in capitalizing on drivers' love of getting a quick bite to eat without leaving the comfort of their cars, Scott Berman said.
Maurie Berman designed the booth that took orders — often manned by Flaurie — to look like an airport control tower, capturing the imagination of many at the start of the avaiation and space ages, Scott Berman said.
But unlike McDonald's, which grew to be an international behemoth serving billions from thousands of locations, Superdawg opened only one other location, in Wheeling in 2010.
Superdawg also never stopped wearing its "pure beef" heart on its sleeve, greeting customers enthusiastically with "Hiya! Thanks for stopping," and thanking customers on every cardboard box of Superfries and Superdawgs for the chance to serve them.
Maurie Berman is survived by his wife, Flaurie; sons, Scott and Myles; daughter, Lisa; grandchildren, Alyssa, Laura, Max, Steffie and Ross and great-granddaughter, Talia.
Both Superdawg locations will be closed Tuesday in Maurie Berman's memory.
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