BRIDGEPORT — Sitting next to his daughter under a red-and-yellow, Vienna Beef-themed table umbrella, Nick Spitalli chowed down on an age-old neighborhood cure for winter's cabin fever.
Cheese fries and a cup of vanilla ice cream from Morrie O’Malley’s.
The famed hot dog stand at 3501 S. Union Ave. opened for its 28th season Monday, welcoming hungry, stir-crazy folks like Spitalli from all over the neighborhood to enjoy a bite under the sun.
For many, hitting the counter at O'Malley's after a long winter is like a rite of spring.
“We’ve been waiting,” said the 57-year-old Bridgeport native. He has been making the trip to O'Malley's on its first day of business for years.
As luck would have it, the skies were mostly blue and the temperature hovered near 60 degrees.
“This is perfect,” said Jinger O’Malley, the stand's owner — and often the first smiling face you’ll see on O’Malley’s opening day.
Home to your typical, unpretentious hot dog — and, if you're interested, one of Bridgeport's meatiest sandwiches — O'Malley's closes for the winter in November and opens the first Monday of March every year.
Around 10:30 a.m., the day’s first visitor walked in — but he only asked for water. The next guy was serious. He ordered up a couple of burgers, a polish sausage and some fries.
The greasy order meant the birds would soon be chirping at the lunch spot down the block from U.S. Cellular Field.
Come warm weather in Bridgeport, Morrie O’Malley’s is a place to break the cabin fever.
“People want to get out,” O’Malley said.
Even after 2 p.m. Monday, there was a line at the door waiting to order. One man sat at the window eating a hot dog. On the patio, patrons packed every table.
Parked on a green-painted section of stadium seats from Old Comiskey Park, Bob O’Malley, Jinger's husband, talked to a buddy and fantasized about a championship White Sox season.
“Thinking about another World Series,” O’Malley said, wearing sunglasses — and a gray Sox hoodie.
Last year, Spitalli walked to O’Malley’s for a bite with his 18-year-old daughter, Gianna.
It was 22 degrees outside.
That didn't stop the family from ordering their favorite treats on the menu. "I had ice cream," Gianna Spitalli said.
O’Malley’s is more than just a hot dog stand. It’s a place where families bond over quick grub.
When his children were small, Spitalli took them to O’Malley’s for dinner — which turned out to be ice cream.
On the way home, Spitalli had one direction for his sugar-filled kids: “'Don’t tell your mother you got ice cream for dinner.'"
Gianna smiled, perhaps knowing the ending of her father's tale.
“First thing when they get home,” Spitalli said. “‘WE GOT ICE CREAM FOR DINNER!’”
Though the adventure to Morrie O’Malley’s did not stay a secret long, Nick Spitalli forever remained a cool dad.
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