We try Chicago's 'mother-in-law' sandwich : Wait Wait ... Don't Tell Me! Sandwich Monday: The Mother-In-Law. The Wait, Wait staff tries a Chicago mainstay: the Chicago hot dog, with a tamale replacing the hot dog.
NPR logo Sandwich Monday: The Mother-In-Law from Johnnie's

Sandwich Monday: The Mother-In-Law from Johnnie's

Today we try a legendary Chicago sandwich: the Mother-In-Law. It's basically a Chicago style hot dog, but instead of the weiner, there's a tamale. Why is it called a mother-in-law? No one seems to know.

Image of a mother-in-law sandwich
Mike Danforth/NPR

Ian: It's like a sandwich within a sandwich.

Eva: Yeah, it's a play within a play.

Mike: If this was A Midsummer Night's Dream, the tamale would be Pyramus and Thisbe.

photo of mother in laws being made
Mike Danforth/NPR

Ian: The cucumber really doesn't belong here. Who invited the cucumber?

Mike: It's the nerd hanging out with the cool kids.

Ian: The tamale just seems like a bad replacement for a hot dog. Like when they brought in the new lady to play Becky on Roseanne? Except in this case, Becky is covered in chili.

photo of exterior of sandwich shack
Mike Danforth/NPR

Eva: Why is it called a "mother-in-law"?

Peter: Maybe because it's going to stick around longer than I want it to.

Mike: No, I think unlike a real mother-in-law, this leaves after a couple hours.

photo of Fat Johnnies restaurant
Mike Danforth/NPR

Ian: This is inferior to both a Chicago hot dog, and a plain tamale. It's less than the sum of its parts.

Peter: Yeah. The tamale really gets lost in there.

Ian: Maybe it's called a "mother-in-law" because your mother-in-law is disappointed in you and it's ultimately a disappointing sandwich. To your mother-in-law, you are a hot dog without the weiner.