Block 37, 108 N. State St., has attractions ranging from the Moto Shop to Latinicity to Magnolia Bakery to Clark Street Sports.
And, until Dec. 20, there's the interactive Foodseum experience ( Foodseum.org ), which covers "The Hot Dog and Encased Meats of the World."
The extemely genial Kyle Joseph, the exhibit's curator, recently took Windy City Times on a tour. The exhibit covers "not only hot dogs, but encased meats from around the world such as bangers and bratwursts," he said.
Visitors are bound to learn a lot. Foodseum includes a timeline of the evolution of encased meats, including the Scottish haggis ( "It's one of those things you should try once in your lifetime," according to Joseph ) and the first frankfurter. ( Of course, Chicago plays an integral part in this history, thanks to everything from its stockyards to Upton Sinclair's seminal book The Jungle. ) There's a re-creation of a 1900s butcher shop, and people can make their own Play-Doh "products" with a meat grinder.
There's also a kiosk with various spices ( cumin, coriander, lemongrass, etc. ) that are used for encased meats around the worldand people can smell each item.
One of the most interesting parts of the exhibits involved seeing the old-school Oscar Meyer items ( and hearing the old Armour Hot Dogs theme ). Joseph also explained the origin of hot-dog bunsalthough he admitted he's heard "no good answer" regarding why buns come in packages of eight while hot dogs themselves come in packs of 10.
Joseph ( who said that Vienna Beef is where he gets his favorite hot dogs ) stressed that Foodseum is a collective effort, with everyone from officers to volunteers working on the exhibit. Among those also helping is Doug Sohn, best-known as the owner of the now-closed Hot Doug's restaurant.
Joseph added, "We want people to see what this could be," saying that it could be a permanent museum someday and that he'd like to hold future events with tastings. He also stated that the next Foodseum will involve chocolate, and will open next year.
As for his own background, Joseph said, "I kinda grew up as a mutt, so we traveled a lot. My dad got an assignment in London, so I lived there from [ages] 2 1/2 to 8; then, we moved to California. My parents didn't make a whole lot of money, but they loved to travel. So we went around Europe and stayed in bed-and-breakfastsand I tried a lot of different [foods]. I love that connection you can have with everyone.
"We then moved to Germany when I was about 12, and I lived there through high school. So I got to travel with friends, and have my own little adventuresand that love of food continued. I wanted to show my friends in the States about all the cool experiences I've had."
Admission to Foodseum is free. [Note: There are no edible items on this exhibit, but that may change with future ones.]