The “flyboys”—pilots from the old Williams Air Force Base—are long gone, and other Chicago eateries have moved into the state.
It could have meant trouble for a small shop like Higley Hot Dog, but one factor outweighed the closure of Williams Air Force Base and the arrival of other Chicago-style restaurants: Chicagoans’ loyalty to something that has the nostalgic taste of home.
Higley Hot Dog continues to be a niche restaurant and remains a Gilbert favorite on the corner of Williams Field and Higley roads.
“After the base closed [in 1993], I spent a lot of days sweeping the floor 100 times,” said Jeri Kryza, who opened doors in 1985 with her husband, Joe. “We used to have the flyboys lined up out the door. Then we started getting people from everywhere looking for that taste of Chicago.
“The thing about Chicagoans is they are always loyal. It doesn’t matter how bad the Bears or Cubbies are, they always show up. It’s one of the reasons we have been able to keep it going.”
One thing that keeps bringing Chicago transplants back is the small but authentic menu familiar to everyone with ties to that area. The Vienna beef hot dogs, the poppy seed buns and beef taste of the au jus that the Italian beef sandwiches are basted in ring true on the taste buds for anyone who has spent time in Illinois’ biggest city.
But Higley Hot Dog, which is run by Jeri’s son, Chris, and his wife, Tina, during the summer, is not just
Growing with Southeast Valley
It started with the military personnel of Williams Air Force Base in the early days, and then as the Southeast Valley kept growing, others started to discover the cheap and simple menu housed in the small, eclectic building.
“We started it thinking it was a job like any other,” Jeri said. “It was a way to make a living, but at some point, it became something everyone liked and kept coming back. I’m not driving a Mercedes or flying to Hawaii whenever I want, but it has served my family well, and everyone seems to like it.
“My favorite thing now is when the flyboys come back for a reunion or to show their family where they spent part of their life. They come in to see if I am still working and share their stories.”
Higley Hot Dog
3105 E. Williams Field Road, Gilbert
Hours: Mon.-Fri. 10:30 a.m.-5 p.m., Sat. 10:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m., Sun. 11 a.m.-3 p.m.
Note: cash-only policy