Chicago's Dog House
816 West Fullerton Avenue, Chicago, IL 60614 (map); 773-248-3647; chicagosdog.com
The Short Order: Sausage stand near DePaul with creative tendencies.
Want Fries with That? No fries, but fantastic freshly fried chips, called "frips."
Seats? Two tables and a small counter.
Considering Chicago's Dog House's location across the street from DePaul in Lincoln Park, there's no question that it's a college joint. If you had any doubts, the Blue Demon hot dog (which just happens to be university's mascot) only seals the deal. In that way, it's much like Devil Dawgs, a nearby stand that also has a Blue Demon dog on its menu. The real question is whether Chicago's Dog House is a good stand, like Devil Dawgs, or just an anonymous fast food joint mainly for poor undergrads.
Any worries disappear immediately upon trying the best thing here: the frips. There are no fries on the menu, instead the side of choice are freshly fried potato chips that are extra thin, crispy, and fantastic. Why more places don't do this is beyond me, but these are essential. Now to the sausages.
At first glance, Chicago's Dog House's menu looks an awful lot like the many Hot Doug's clones that have started popping up around town with "exotic" and "gourmet" sausages topped with unusual condiments. Of course, the mere presence something like buffalo sausage doesn't make you Hot Doug's; you have to care about the basics, too.
Luckily Chicago's Dog House manages to serve a good Chicago style hot dog ($2.50). Though a skinless Red Hot Chicago dog is used, it's grilled, giving it a smoky flavor and a snappy bite. The rest of the condiments, save the poppy seed bun, are all accounted for. Not the best hot dog I've had—Devil Dawg's surely bests it—but still solid.
What can be learned from this? Chicago's Dog House has a way with topping hot dogs, and there is a whole section of the menu to choose from. I highly recommend the French Poodle ($2.99), which adds spicy Grey Poupon, tart pear slices, and creamy brie, for a carefully arranged bite that never gets overwhelming.
Less successful is the buffalo ($6.50), which is in the "Gourmet Sausages" section. The buffalo itself is good, but the mole poured on top gets lost under a blanket of cheese, and there is nothing spicy to offset the heaviness.
But stick with the hot dogs, and as many of those frips as you can manage, and you'll be in good hands. With a large student population, Chicago's Dog House could coast. But it's genuinely serving some good options.