A story from my interview with Thomas “TL” Lewis, the owner of Baby Al’s Chicago Dogs in Lilburn, Georgia.
“There was a guy who owed us a quarter for a video game. So my brother and I tried to get our quarter from him and accidentally ended up busting this window at Terry’s. We took off running, but our house was directly behind Terry’s. So we were sitting on the back porch. And Terry come up and he’s like one of the old tough guys who we considered a millionaire. We had heard all kind of horror stories about him, so you didn’t mess with him.
He came back there and said, “Which one of you going to pay for my window?” And I’m 11 and my brother’s 10. So we don’t know who’s going to pay for it. He said, “If you don’t tell me who did it, I’m going to tell your grandmother.” And we would rather him kill us! He’s not telling granny! And I’m the older brother so I said, “I’m going to pay. How much is it?” And he said, “What do you mean? How much do ya got? Naw, you’re going to come here every day after school.” And I said, “every day?” And he said, “You got somewhere else to be?” And I said, “Naw, I got no where else to be.”
So I went there every day after school. I worked there from when I was 11 to when I was 24 and opened my own restaurant. At that point he had become a second father to me and my brothers. And he told me everything I needed to know like “Don’t take no wooden nickels.” One day I said to him, “Terry I have a question to ask you. At what point did I pay off the window?” He said, “What window?” And I said, “That window that we broke!” He said, “Oooh. Yeah. The insurance paid for the window.” And I said, “Then why did you have me in here every day?!” And he said, “To keep me from killing you kids.” ”
Wonder what other food comes from the Windy City? Read more of the stories behind the Chicago-style food at Baby Al’s.
Try a Recipe
An easy and quick recipe straight from Chicago! Get the recipe for the Chicago Dog here.