CHESTERTON — Anybody can make a hot dog, but few do it well enough to get enshrined in the hall of fame.
The Original George's Gyros Spot in Chesterton was added to the Vienna Beef Hot Dog Hall of Fame on Wednesday. The Chesterton restaurant joins exclusive company, including The Wiener's Circle and the vaunted Hot Doug's, both in Chicago.
The 123-year-old Vienna Beef company uses its hall of fame to promote local, independent hot dog stands that have hung in there as chain restaurants have become more prevalent.
Louis and Anastasia Pallas took over the hot dog stand at 325 N. Calumet Road 20 years ago, and grew it into a bustling restaurant with an extensive hot dog selection. It's now run by their son, Paul Pallas, who oversaw a major expansion in 2006.
"Ten years later, with business doing quite well, they decided to tear down 'the little yellow barn' called The Original George's Gyros Spot and build a place four times the size," Vienna Beef Senior Vice President Bob Schwartz said.
"The new location has a dining room that seats more than 100 customers," Schwartz said. "The expansion is credited to the fact that since the very beginning, George’s has created a great high-quality reputation. They have been serving three generations of customers, many of whom have become friends as well as patrons."
Chicago-based Vienna Beef has inducted about 100 hot dog restaurants into its hall of fame, mostly in the Chicago area, to shine a light on the type of unique local restaurants that give communities or neighborhoods a better sense of place and individuality.
Previous Northwest Indiana inductees include George's Gyros Spot No. 2 in Hobart, Arnie's in Whiting, Depot Dogs in Portage, Madvek's Doghouse in Hammond, Chicago Style Polish in Gary and Top Dog in Michigan City.
Vienna Beef, which is closely associated with the Chicago dog and other regional favorites, prefers to honor restaurants that are active in the community. The Pallas family hosts pancake breakfasts for charities, sponsors YMCA and theater events and supports youth baseball.
Hot dogs make up about 25 percent of the business at The Original George's Gyros Spot, which is open year-round but entering its busy season because of all the traffic headed to the nearby beaches at the Indiana Dunes, owner Paul Pallas said.
"It's an amazing honor," he said. "Vienna Beef is the Cadillac of hot dogs."