The Chicago hot dog is probably our most famous signature food, so of course they are ubiquitous all throughout the city. The basic Chicago hot dog starts with a steamed, all beef frank topped with mustard, onion, relish, and pickle, all nestled into a steamed poppyseed bun. Many hot dog joints also add tomatoes, celery salt and/or sport peppers, or even lettuce and cucumber. And remember -- a Chicago-style hot dog NEVER comes with ketchup! Here are my personal favorites to sample a Chicago hot dog.
(Can't make it to Chicago? Try my Chicago hot dog recipe
© Prescott Carlson
Murphy's takes their hot dogs on a "walk thru the garden", adding tomatoes and cucumbers on top of the usual "everything" fixin's, which is why some dub their dogs a "Chicago salad". Try the gut busting char-broiled foot long for a real treat. Hand cut fries make for a nice side.
- Address: 1211 W. Belmont
- Neighborhood: Lakeview
- Phone: 773-935-2882
- Hours: Monday 11 a.m. - 4 p.m., Tuesday - Friday 11 a.m. - 8:30 p.m., Saturday 11 a.m. - 8 p.m., Sunday 11 a.m. - 5 p.m.
© Prescott Carlson
Even if Superdawg didn't offer up a great hot dog, it's worth a visit for the original 40s-style drive in service (the restaurant opened in 1948) complete with "electronic carhops" and the "Tarzan and Jane" hot dog icons on the roof. All of Superdawg's hot dogs come with a pickled green tomato, and they are very strict about the "no ketchup" rule -- you want ketchup, you gotta put it on yourself.
- Address: 6363 N. Milwaukee Ave.
- Neighborhood: Norwood Park
- Phone: 773-736-0660
- Hours: Sunday - Thursday: 11 a.m. - 1 a.m.; Friday - Saturday: 11 a.m. - 2 a.m.
The Wieners Circle
© Prescott Carlson
Don't let the crass behavior of the staff fool you, underneath the gruff exterior they are timid sweethearts. OK, probably not, but that's why people go here as it's certainly not for the just OK food. The drunken late night crowd is there for the spectacle of being called every vulgar name in the book by the workers, and returning ugly insults in kind. Don't order the "chocolate milkshake", you've been warned. Don't believe me? Check out a This American Life
video about it (bad language alert). If a Mardi Gras crowd crammed into a tiny shack sounds great, this is the place for you.
- Address: 2622 N. Clark St.
- Neighborhood: Lincoln Park
- Phone: 773-477-7444
- Hours: Sunday - Thursday: 11 a.m. - 4 a.m.; Friday - Saturday: 11 a.m. - 5 a.m.
While owner Doug Sohn serves up a tasty, traditional Chicago-style hot dog, the crowd lines up for the "king of encased meats" specialty sausages like the "Salma Hayek" (a "mighty hot" andouille sausage) and a weekly game sausage. The duck fat fries served on Friday and Saturdays are also a huge hit. Expect a 30-45 minute wait at peak lunch hours.
- Address: 3324 N. California Ave.
- Neighborhood: Avondale
- Phone: 773-279-9550
- Hours: Monday - Saturday: 10:30 a.m. - 4 p.m.; closed Sundays and most holidays.
You won't get the mom and pop vibe here -- Portillo's is pure assembly line and a food making machine. But what you lack in ambiance is more than made up for with quality and consistency. I've eaten at Portillo's across the Chicago area for over 20 years and the food is just as good every single time. Not a small feat being a mini-chain -- and since the flagship Portillo's location in tourist central introduces tons of out-of-towners to the Chicago hot dog for the first time, that's a very good thing.
- Address: 100 W. Ontario
- Neighborhood: River North
- Phone: 312-587-8910
- Hours: Monday - Thursday: 10:30 a.m. - 11:00 p.m.; Friday - Saturday: 10:30 - 12:00 a.m.; Sunday: 11:00 a.m.-11:00 p.m.; Closed Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas.
Gene & Jude's
Gene & Jude's is an institution in the suburb of River Grove about 10 minutes from Chicago city limits, and a convenient stop for a well-planned drive to/from O'Hare airport. Around since the 1950s, this dive serves up tasty and cheap hot dogs alongside piping hot skin-on fries. And if you're with a companion who doesn't like hot dogs, they're out of luck unless they are in the mood for a tamale since that's the only other thing Gene & Jude's serves.
- Address: 2720 River Road
- Town: River Grove
- Phone: 708-452-7634
- Hours: Monday - Thursday: 10:30 a.m. - 1:00 a.m.; Friday - Saturday: 10:30 - 2:00 a.m.; Sunday: 10:30 a.m.-1:00 p.m.