We have discovered Chicago in North Arkansas at a restaurant called Anthonee's. The unassuming little spot sits across the road from a bait shop, two miles east of Gaston's White River Resort and the dam on Bull Shoals Lake. It advertises itself as a place where Chicago dogs, Italian beef, pierogis and gyros can be found. Out front sits a large, carved wooden hot dog.
Inside we encountered Dino Giannini at the counter, in front of four white wipe boards' worth of Chicago and Italian favorites, from pastas (gnocchi, fettuccini Alfredo, spinach penne, portabella ravioli) to pizza (10" extra thin crust with a variety of toppings) to a dog selection (Polish sausage, bratwurst and Italian sausages) to a list of burgers. There was even a special selection of Polish items such as golabki (stuffed cabbage), kielbasa and kapusta (Polish sausage with sweet and sour kraut) and stuffed eggplant.
While we were trying to make up our minds for dinner, we noticed that everyone around us had a particular accent. As it turns out, every customer and all the staff members we encountered that night were from Chicago or one of its suburbs.
Our dining companion chose a couple of Chicago standards. His Chicago Hot Dog ($3.75) was an outstanding deal — a Vienna Beef hot dog on a poppy seed bun served up with a goodly amount of French fries. The wiener was roasted instead of boiled; each topping, from the smatter of mustard to the perfect slice of dill pickle, from the sport peppers to the celery salt to the bluish green relish, was just as if you'd ordered it in the Windy City.
We also sampled the gyro ($6.50), and were delighted. The meat was full of flavor and absent the telling notes of the commercial cones produced by Athenian and Kronos like almost every other Arkansas establishment that sells gyros. We asked Dino to reveal his source, but his lips were sealed.
Our favorite item of the evening was, without exception, the pierogis ($8). Six slightly irregular hand-made dumplings were delivered with sides of applesauce and sour cream. We were fascinated with the amazing flavor of the pockets stuffed with kraut — they were buttery and hearty and made us fall in love with the idea of consuming cabbage on a regular basis. The potato and cheese pierogis in our split order were equally satisfying, especially with a dollop of the sour cream.
Of course, we were obligated to try the cannoli, too, and split a large one for $2.50 (small ones run $1.50). The traditional powdered sugar-sweetened almost frosting-like cream was piped into a freshly-fried tube of rolled dough, topped with even more powdered sugar. The freshness of the cannoli won us over; it's rare for us to encounter one that's quite that crisp.
JUST LIKE THE WINDY CITY: Anthonee's Kitchen serves up authentic Chicago-style hot dogs.