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Dawg Gone Good: Chicago’s Best Hot Dogs

by Lauren Mack

posted on January 13, 2020

Photo Courtesy: iStock/Kirkikis

European immigrants may have been the ones to bring hot dogs to the US, but let’s be frank. Chicagoans take things (frank)further with their all-beef hot dogs. For starters, it is widely considered by most folks in the Windy City that squirting ketchup on a hot dog is unacceptable (so much so, many vendors don’t even have it). While there may be more hot dog restaurants in Chicago than McDonald’s, Burger King, and Wendy’s combined, we’ve narrowed it down to eight of the very best Chicago-style hot dogs. Whether you want a minimalist Depression-style hot dog (a regular-size, steamed frankfurter on a plain bun with a mound of fries), a char-dog (a wiener grilled over charcoal), or a classic Chicago-style red hot (a jumbo hot dog nestled on a poppy seed bun that has been “dragged through the garden” thanks to its colorful toppings (mustard, bright green relish, chopped white onions, tomato, a pickle spear, celery salt, and hot peppers), grab some napkins and take a bite into Chicago’s best hot dogs.

Photo Courtesy: woodtang

Established by Mervyn Dukatte and Donald Marsalle in 1954, the duo founded what was then called Donald Duk’s Red Hots, but thanks to a trademark lawsuit by Walt Disney Company, the name was shortened to Duk’s Red Hots, and the North Ashland Avenue hot dog stand has been as popular since the day it opened. Retaining much of its 1950s charm, the West Town hot dog stand’s natural-casing Vienna Beef hot dogs are garnished with mustard, relish, onion, pickles, and sport peppers.

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Polish sausages, shrimp basket, deep-fried pizza puffs, bacon cheeseburgers, crinkle fries

Photo Courtesy: beezybfit

Its giant sign proclaims its red hots are “Fit for a King,” and we couldn’t agree more. Founded by John Pawlikowski in 1972, Fat Johnnie's Famous Red Hots is little more than a shack adjacent to the founder’s family home on South Western Avenue on Chicago’s South Side. There are nearly two dozen hot dogs on offer, but our favorite is the Father-in-Law, a hot dog and a tamale on a bun with chili and cheese.

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Mother-In-Law, Super Dog, Super Sundae, Father-In-Law, Suicide Soda

Photo Courtesy: chris.freda

Devil Dawgs is a dog house you want to be in. With a trio of locations in Sheffield, South State, and Wicker Park, Devil Dawgs serves nearly two dozen variations of ‘Dawgs’ and what the staff “Double Dawg dare” you to try: “Devil Dawgs,” quarter pound spicy grilled hot dogs. We like to order our Devil Dawg battered with secret seasoning and deep fried and piled high with condiments; the options at this restaurant include mustard, spicy mustard, onion, relish, sauerkraut, sport peppers, Giardiniera (Italian pickled vegetables), lettuce, horseradish, cucumbers, grilled onions, celery salt, tomato, and pickles.

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Veggie Dawg, mango shake, Blue Demons Dawg, Boykin Dawg, BBQ bacon cheeseburger

Photo Courtesy: cleanplateclubchi

An institution on Chicago’s North Side since 1975, Byron’s Hot Dogs is named for its late founder Byron Kouris (the two shops continue to be run by original business partner Mike Payne). The signature hog dog – and our favorite – is the Dogzilla, a half-pound all-beef hot dog that can be customized with mustard, relish, onion, lettuce, cucumber, green pepper, tomato slices, pickle spear, sport peppers, celery salt, bacon, cheese, and, yes, ketchup (really).

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Bratwurst combo meal, fries with buffalo sauce, hot dogs, burgers, onion straws

Photo Courtesy: madshelen

A trip to The Wiener’s Circle on Clark Street isn’t for a faint of heart or the uptight. Expect some of the best all-beef char-dogs served with a side of profanity at this restaurant-as-theater. The Lincoln Park’s staff has been hurling legendary insults for more than 35 years, putting this hot dog joint on the must-do list of locals and intrepid visitors alike. Open until 4:00 a.m., the hot dog stand’s entertaining insult-fest is ratcheted up on weekends when the hot spot gets packed with rowdy revelers from nearby bars who seek to drunkenly banter with the surly staff. Act like a regular and start by placing your order with a side of attitude. Then, get ready for comedic comebacks and shocking shenanigans that would make your mom blush.

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Chocolate shake, Vienna Red Hot, Char burger, Cheese fries

Photo Courtesy: vincentcross

The 1940s drive-in on North Milwaukee Avenue (at Devon and Nagle in Gladstone Park) is easy to spot thanks to its two neon frankfurters mascots – one who flexes his muscles and the other who shows her appreciation with winks. Founded by husband and wife Maurie and Florence “Flaurie” Berman in 1948, Superdawg has retained much of its kitsch and charm – customers park, place their orders over speakers, and, moments later, carhops emerge car-side with trays of orders that can be eaten on the spot or taken to go. We can’t get enough of the classic Superdawg, a juicy pure beef hot dog nestled on a poppy seed bun topped with golden mustard, tangy piccalilli, kosher dill pickle, chopped Spanish onions, and a single hot pepper that is served with crinkle-cut Superfries. We wash ours down with Black Kows, a foamy root beer with chunks of vanilla ice cream "cubes" floating in it. A second Superdawg location is on South Milwaukee Avenue in Wheeling.

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Superdawg, Whoopercheesie (cheese burger), Whoopskidawg (Polish-style sausage)

Photo Courtesy: geneandjudeschicago

This River Grove hot dog stand has no seats and no ketchup (and “no pretense” and “no nonsense” as its website proclaims), which is fine because you don’t need any of this at Gene & Jude’s. The recipe for the no-frills Depression-style Vienna Beef red hots is the same as when Gene and Jude’s opened in 1946. The steamed hot dogs are topped with mustard, relish, chopped onion, sport peppers, and a heaping portion of freshly-cut and fried French fries before being wrapped in butcher paper.

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Hot dog, wrapped tamale, fries (no ketchup available)

Photo Courtesy: eatloveplay

Chicago char-dogs (hot dogs roasted over charcoal) are the snack item to order at Fatso’s Last Stand, a late-night joint in Chicago’s Ukrainian Village. Never steamed, always charred, the hog dogs are piled high with condiments, including mustard, relish, onions, tomatoes, celery salt, and sport peppers along with a generous pile of French fries.

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Ooey gooey burger, fries, veggie hot dog, mac and cheese, milkshakes

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