Florence Berman was the first carhop at Superdawg, the famed 70-year-old drive-in she founded with her high school sweetheart, business partner and husband Maurie Berman.
Mrs. Berman, who ate a Superdawg at least once a week, died at home Wednesday of heart trouble at 92, according to her son-in-law Don Drucker.
She helped develop the pure beef star of the restaurant’s menu, trademarked as “Not a wiener — not a frankfurter — not a red hot — but our exclusive . . . Superdawg.”
The drive-in at Devon and Milwaukee has appeared in the 1980s TV show “Crime Story,” the movie “Sixteen Candles” and the Netflix drama “Sense8.” A second location, in Wheeling, opened in 2010.
Maurie and Flaurie — the 12-feet-tall hot dog figures with light-up eyes that bestride Superdawg’s roof — were named for her and her husband, who was her prom date at Von Steuben High School. The couple founded the drive-in on the Northwest Side in 1948 after Maurie Berman, a veteran of the Battle of the Bulge, came home from World War II.
It was supposed to be a temporary thing — a way to pay the bills while Maurie Berman was studying for the CPA exam. After graduating from Northwestern University, Mrs. Berman had planned to continue working as a substitute teacher in the Chicago Public Schools. But their food and kitschy eatery became a hit. Today, the restaurant is run by the family’s third generation.
“For 70 years, Flaurie worked alongside and supported her husband and best friend, Maurie Berman, as they built a business and a family,” the restaurant announced on Facebook. “When you visit and see the winking Superdawgs greeting you from our roof, remember that it was never just Maurie. It has always been Maurie and Flaurie. It was an honor to be able to share her with Chicago.”
Superdawg is included in the book “1,000 Places to See Before You Die” — in there with the likes of the Eiffel Tower and the Great Wall of China.
At night, the neon-lit restaurant glows with a retro charm of an era of cruising and hot rods. Superdawg still has carhops, so customers can eat without leaving their sweet rides by pulling up to speakers and barking out their orders.
The menu and slogans are zingy as a squirt of mustard. The specialty is served in a box declaring: “Your Superdawg lounges inside, contentedly cushioned in Superfries and comfortably attired” in a variety of personalized condiments. Its trademark: a pickled green tomato.
Growing up in a two-flat at Lawrence and Kimball in Albany Park, she was Florence Miska of the Miska Liquors family, operators of beverage stores and taverns.
Her son-in-law said she was known for the wise advice she gave many of Superdawg’s young employees.
“She was our first carhop, so therefore she became a true mentor of many of our carhops,” he said. “Many of them looked very closely to her for mentoring, for advice, for opinions, for help — not just things about Superdawg but about life.”
Her death brought an outpouring of condolences and memories on social media, including from Rich Koz, known as TV’s creepy Svengoolie.
“I’ve known Superdawg since I was a kid — it was always such a fun sight to see the giant ‘Maurie and Flaurie’ dogs on the roof, with the blinking-light eyes,” Koz told the Sun-Times. “When the Museum of Broadcast Communications did an event honoring me, food was provided by — Superdawg. Both Maurie and Flaurie were there at the event and were both very kind and friendly. What a wonderful success story — Chicago legends — sad that Flaurie has passed.”
Maurie Berman died in 2015. Mrs. Berman is survived by daughter Lisa Drucker and sons Myles and Scott Berman, seven grandchildren and a great-grandchild. Both Superdawg locations will be closed from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday. A funeral service is planned at 1 p.m. Friday at Temple Beth Israel in Skokie.
Superdawg has been serving hot dogs at Devon and Milwaukee since 1948. | Sun-Times files