There are almost as many opinions surrounding the Chicago hot dog as there are toppings. Some vendors still cling to the purist’s prep methods––poppy seed bun, yellow mustard, celery salt––while others have modernized them with gourmet twists and vegetarian substitutions. But despite the ongoing debate, all Chicago dog lovers can agree on one simple rule: no ketchup allowed.
Avondale: Original Haute Dog
If the lines outside aren't enough to convince you of its success, consider the fact that some diners have inked themselves with Doug’s logo for a free lifetime supply of dogs. With options ranging from a classic Chicago dog to smoke antelope sausage with bacon-garlic mayonnaise, who could blame them?
Lincoln Park: Gourmet Corn Dog
To get to the meat of the mystery corn dog platter—in this case, four artisan sausages—teeth must first tear through a sweet shell made of Anson Mills polenta batter. This creative rendition is but one of many that earn their place beside a side of gourmet truffle fries.
River Grove: Post-Flight Meal
There’s probably no secret meaning to Gene & Jude’s location—right near O’Hare airport. But it may as well double as an unofficial welcome center for Chicago. This beloved decades-old hot dog stand was voted the best hot dog—not just in Chicago, but the entire Midwest—by Reader’s Digest.
Bucktown: Straight from the Source
Vienna’s franks may the standby favored by most Chicago vendors, but their journey from boardroom to bun begins here at the factory. Inside the factory’s café, cooks dish out fresh, juicy dogs and sell caseloads of franks that customers can take home and serve at their next barbeque.
River North: Family Dining
Framed Michael Jordan jerseys hang from fake bungalows lit by antique lampposts, and a hodgepodge of memorabilia make this theme-park-esque restaurant a welcome retreat from the nearby Magnificent Mile. But the main attractions are the scrumptious hot dogs, which have spawned Portillos outposts as far west as Alaska.
University Village: The Polish Sausage
The Polish sausage shares more than a similar compositional makeup with its sister sandwich, the hot dog. Both were born on Maxwell Street, where Jim’s reportedly invented the Polish. And more than 70 years later, their grill still kicks out the succulent sausages, stuffed into steaming buns and loaded with mustard and sweet grilled onions.
Museum Campus: A Bite Between Exhibits
This pushcart hot dog stand, located between the Field Museum and Shedd Aquarium, dishes out regular and vegetarian hot dogs, which re-boot museum-goers before they venture off to gaze at another exhibit or take in the stunning skyline that looms just above this waterfront locale.
Wicker Park: Craft Beer and Upscale Eats
Bangers & Lace’s ornate tin ceilings and exposed brick walls pair together as perfectly as the craft beer list and succulent sausages. A French garlic sausage sizzles at the center of the foie gras corn dog, cooked in brioche corn bread and dressed in orange marmalade and foie gras mousse.
Edgewater: A Healthy Choice
At Loving Hut’s 200 worldwide outposts, chefs stand by their mission to serve all-vegan fare made from wholesome, plant-based ingredients. The Chicago branch honors the Windy City’s staple sandwich with their Eden Dog, a vegan sausage topped with pickles, relish, onions, and mustard.
Norwood Park: Dogs at the Drive-In
The pair of Superdawg’s iconic rooftop sausage-sculptures may be Chicago’s most famous couple. And pulling up to the neon-lit carports, ordering a pure beef Superdawg from the intercom, and devouring it in your front seat with the radio blasting is the definition of a Windy City tradition.
Lincoln Park: After the Bars
Customers trade colorful barbs with the lively staff at this boisterous after-hours joint. But that’s part of the charm—along with the juicy hot dogs, of course. The lively atmosphere and late night eats have made this iconic stand a mecca for drinkers and a venue for a Tru TV reality show.
Humboldt Park: For the Purist
In its 55 years of business, Jimmy’s has steadfastly adhered to the strict principles of the Chicago-style hot dog: steamed frank, all the fixings, side of perfectly salted fries…and NO KETCHUP. Never mind the simple menu and no-frills atmosphere; these dogs deliver enormous doses of taste and tradition.
Bridgeport: During a Ballgame
A warm summer’s breeze passes as players take to the diamond, bathed in stadium lights. What’s missing from this picture? Hot dogs, for one. But there’s no shortage of the quintessential ballpark snack at the home of the White Sox, where all-beef Vienna dogs—including a two-foot-long Giant Slugger—complete the American pastime.
Wrigleyville Dogs: After a Cubs Game
If Wrigleyville Dogs were any closer to Wrigley Field, it might be in danger of being destroyed by foul balls. But the architectural risks are a benefit for baseball fans; the proximity and fast service means that pre-and post-Cubs game masses can celebrate Ws with hot dogs and fries.
Bucktown: Fresh Cut Fries
Redhot Ranch hand-cuts their spuds and cooks them to order, meaning every batch arrives perfectly crisp. In fact, these fries complement the juicy dogs so well that cooks cut straight to the chase: every hot dog is served with a crispy layer of fries laid atop the juicy frank.
Evanston: Creative Twists and Classic Standbys
“In a city blessed with so many Vienna Beef hot dog stands,” raves the Chicago Reader, “Wiener and Still Champion stands out.” All-beef franks hand-dipped in fresh cornmeal batter and served with Argentine herb and garlic aioli are a worthy reward for this journey to the ‘burbs.
Lakeview: Wash it Down with a Beer
Scrumptious hot dogs and decadent chili cheese dogs served until 4 a.m. on weekends…what could be better? How about an attached bar, where daily drink specials, pitchers of beer, and cocktails provide some liquid accompaniment for late-night snacks.
Irving Park: Open All Night
When all else is closed, and the rumbling of your stomach is loud enough to trigger the alarms of the shuttered restaurants, Susie’s neon lights beckon through the darkness. The 24-hour bastion offers hot dogs and their famous fresh cut fries, drenched in cheese and served in an edible tortilla bowl.
Ravenswood: Loaded with Vegetables
Byron’s chefs subscribe to the through-the-garden preparation method, which means that a heaping salad of veggies such as lettuce, cucumbers, and bell peppers tower above the usual fixings. Perhaps this caught veggie-advocate Michelle Obama’s eye—Byron’s was picked to represent the Midwest at the White House’s congressional picnic.
Lincoln Park: Veggie Delight
Vegetarian diners can substitute a veggie dog for its meaty brethren in any of the menu’s gourmet dogs, which earned a profile on the Food Network. Enjoy the accouterments of the classic Chicago-style dog—sans the meat—or feel the snap of a veggie French poodle frank, smothered in brie cheese, Grey Poupon, and pear.
Skokie: The Char Dog
In 43 years of dog slinging, Poochie’s has mastered the char dog. Different than the standard dog, char dogs are cooked over an open flame— and this Skokie eatery perfected the give-and-take between the crispy, fire-kissed textures of the dog and the soft elasticity of a steamed poppy seed bun.
Lakeview: Outdoor Dining
Murphy’s walls are lined with hot dog memorabilia— including menus and artifacts from Murphy’s sister Japanese restaurant—but the cozy outdoor patio provides a nice breeze to complement the plump, juicy hot dogs when Chicago’s temperatures take a springtime turn.
Bridgeview: Straw-Busting Milkshakes
Come to this 35-year-old institution for a Best’s Kosher all-beef hot dog, cooked to plump perfection and stockpiled with fixings. But stay for a chocolate, peanut butter, or butterscotch triple rich milkshake, a straw-busting beverage made from ice cream and finished off with a whipped cream dollop.
The Loop: Signature Dogs from Dozens of Cities
Leave it to Chicagoans to devote a cross-country road trip to hot dogs. America’s Dog’s owners set out to sample signature dogs from every city, and the results yielded 18 civic renditions of the sandwich. Memphis’ dog has pulled pork and BBQ sauce, while Cincinnati’s dons a mustard stripe and a blanket of chili.
Lakeview: Exotic Meats
Chefs take creative license with encased meats at this Lakeview spot. Snap into an alligator sausage and revel in the spicy mayo and pepper jack toppings, or feast on a duck sausage sautéed in wine and catapulted to decadence by foie gras.
Ken Hechtman envisioned a classic 1950s diner that catered to Chicago’s kosher community. After 35 years, those adhering to dietary laws can still saddle into a cushy booth, slip a quarter into the jukebox, and feast on CRC-kosher-certified hot dogs and steak fries amidst checkerboard floors and vintage Coca-Cola signs.