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[Photograph: Nick Kindelsperger]

The Dog Joint likes to play with fire. Located a block west of Lincoln Park in the neighborhood of the same name, just about everything here touches the gas grill, lending each item a distinct smoky flavor. Of course, this isn't the only stand to go this flame-licked route, as places like Gold Coast Dogs and Phil's Last Stand have mastered the charred menu. But with the grill comes great responsibility. Sure, that charred flavor can be nice, but if cooked carelessly it can also be overwhelming with distinct notes of charcoal. Plus, it's much easier to overcook meat when temperatures are that high. So where does The Dog Joint fall?

Well, you might as well go for the Char'd Polish ($4.00). Indeed, this is one well charred sausage, complete with intense black marks from the grill. But even with the heavy hand, the Polish's aggressive seasoning makes sure its presence is known. I wish the sautéed onions were sweeter, but the hit of mustard is right on. Though less satisfying than a place like Jim's Original, this is a totally solid option if you are nearby.

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The same is true about the thin fries ($2.50). Well seasoned and crispy, these are definitely worth adding to your meal. Just note that serving size is enormous.

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I'm mostly conflicted about the ultimate turkey burger ($6.00). Believe it or not, turkey burgers are immensely popular in Chicago, probably because they are seen as a healthy burger alternative. Sadly, I've yet to try one that ever really satisfied. This one is the same. Without the fat of beef, the turkey patty dries out, and the excessive grilled flavor mostly overwhelms the mild meat.

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Look at that, I've found another stand serving raw cucumbers on its fully loaded hot dog ($2.50). This addition to the already crowded gang of toppings can work, especially if the cucumbers are thin enough to stay out of the way. They mostly play nicely here, but the hot dog fails to hold up its end of the bargain. Oddly, this is the only item I encountered that never touched the grill, though it's the one that could have used it the most. The Dog Joint uses a skinless Red Hot Chicago dog, so without the snap of the casing or flavor from the grill, the vegetables end up carrying most of the load, while the sausage gets lost in the mix.

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I wish it gave a little more care to each of its dishes, but as one of the closest hot dog stands to Lincoln Park, The Dog Joint makes for a convenient stop when you're in desperate need of a quick meal.

The Dog Joint

350 West Armitage Avenue, Chicago, IL 60614 (map)
773-687-9573
dogjointchicago.com

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