Hot Diggity Dogs
947 West Wellington Avenue, Chicago, IL 60657 (map); 773-472-5446
The Short Order: Remarkably consistent stand that nails the basics.
Want Fries with That?Extra crispy and golden, these are great.
Seats? There are a few tables, but counter by the window is where to stand.
At first glance, Hot Diggity Dogs looks like the kind of place that has been open for 40 years or so. The menu doesn't help. The stand, located underneath the Wellington Brown Line station, specializes almost exclusively on the trinity of hot dogs, Italian beefs, and burgers. But, in fact, it has only been open for little over a year, making it one of a number of places that have popped up in the wake of Hot Doug's immense success. Though not as inventive as that dearly beloved stand, Hot Diggity Dogs makes up for it by absolutely nailing the basics.
That's especially true of the Italian beef ($5.25). Though counted as one of Chicago's iconic sandwiches, the Italian beef doesn't get much love around town, with most places holding the beef in the gravy for hours on end, resulting in dry and stringy meat. But here the thinly sliced roast beef isn't introduced to the gravy until after the order is placed, resulting in shards that still pack an impressive beefy punch. With a fresh Turano roll and crunchy giardiniera, only the thin gravy keeps this from being a serious contender for one of the best beefs in town.
Finally, a stand with a legitimately great burger. The cheeseburger ($4.25) starts with fresh, not frozen, meat, which makes all the difference. The patty gets a heavy char from the grill, and yet still remains juicy—an impressive feat for such a skinny patty. Honestly, each bite brings flashes of Burger King, or at least the memory I have the chain from my childhood (it's been years since I've been.) You know, but without all the fake smoke flavor. While the burgers I've sampled recently at stands have ranged from merely adequate to abysmal, this is one I'd actually want to eat again.
I talk a lot about snap when dealing with Chicago's hot dogs, mostly because it proves that the stand uses natural casing hot dogs. But I'm having a hard time remembering one quite as genuinely snappy as this one. The Vienna Beef hot dog ($5, including fries and a drink) is plump and bursting with juices. I do wish they'd go all in on the Chicago-style toppings—I particularly missed the poppy seed bun and celery salt—but those are minor faults on a truly top notch dog.
Hell, even the fries are freshly cut, extra crispy, and creamy on the insides. They could have used a little more salt, but that's easy enough to correct.
As you can tell, I'm feeling sort of giddy about this all. What I love about stands is the focus. The best have condensed menus, so that they can put effort into the few items they do serve. That means that most excel at one or maybe two things. Occasionally, I'll find a stand that can do three. But to find one that can deliver on four items is kind of astonishing.