Standing Room Only: Chubby Wieners
4662 North Western Avenue, Chicago, IL 60625 (map); 773-769-1394; chubbywieners.com
The Short Order: "Chubby" hot dogs are the draw here.
Want Fries with That? Absolutely. Fantastic hand-cut version.
Seats? A few booths up front, but not many.
I'm not sure of the exact reason, but somewhere in the 20th century Chicago hot dog stand owners started to get silly. Perhaps as a way to fight for customers, names like Wiener and Still Champion and Mustard's Last Stand started popping up. Eventually, it got to the point where some, like Felony Franks and its misdemeanor wiener, might have taken it too far. But of all the ridiculous names, with exception of maybe this one, Chubby Wieners in Lincoln Square probably tops them all. (And here's where Dennis would stick a mildly inappropriate joke.)
Interestingly, Chubby Wieners's name has not one but two plausibly sounding reasons to exist. As the restaurant's Facebook page explains, the stand's name came from the owner's late uncle, who was nicknamed Chub. But that's not all.
The Famous Chubby Dog ($4.99) also features an extra thick hot dog, which one could accurately describe as chubby. Luckily, that plump sausage comes from Vienna Beef and sports a snappy natural casing. I'm rarely after a quarter pound hot dog (I usually prefer the minimalist ones), but I can see this hitting the spot now and then.
That said, if you already find a fully loaded Chicago dog and its many toppings a pain to eat, then you'll probably think this one is close to torture. The quarter pound dog dwarfs the bun, leaving little room for the toppings to find space. Though it looks nice and peaceful resting in the basket, one bite disrupted the precarious balance, sending the pickle and tomato off the side, as the bun collapsed.
It's kind of surprising that the same dog wrapped in bacon and deep fried doesn't work as well, though there are certainly other issues going on with the Señor Gordo ($5.99). Sure, there are sliced jalapeños on top, but the lack of a sauce means that the elements never come together. You are just left with overly crisp bacon covering a dry hot dog, with some spicy raw chiles on top. These kind of crazy combinations aren't as simple as Hot Doug's makes them seem, and I'd just stick to the classics here.
No matter which side of the chubby divide you stand on, the fresh cut fries (free with a combo) have universal appeal. Crispy and well salted, these should be used as textbook examples for how stands should treat their spuds.
Thanks to those fries and the genuinely delicious, if gargantuan, hot dog, Chubby Wieners deserves to be known as more than just a stand with a funny name.