Corn Dog at America’s Dog ($2.49)
The corn dog here is listed as a side dish, though it came up on my receipt as a “Des Moines dog.” And this is exactly what you imagine when you think “corn dog”—a straightforward hot dog coated with batter and fried until slightly crispy on the outside. Dip in mustard (or ketchup), and call it a day. Sometimes you just want something simple.
The Dave Pound at Hot Doug's ($1.50)
Hot Doug's sources their corn dogs from Vienna, but you'd think they dipped them right there. This corn dog is as basic as it gets—it's a a hot dog wrapped in batter and deep fried. The dog is beefy and there's just the right amount of sweetness from the corn to balance it out. It's the simplest option on the Hot Doug's menu, since it needs no extra toppings, but it was a staff favorite in our tasting last summer.
Italian, Bratwurst, and Vienna Sausage Corn Dogs at Roots Handmade Pizza ($4 each)
In the interest of being thorough, I tried all three of the sausages that you can get “corndogged” at Roots Handmade Pizza. The three sausages are grilled and then encased in a corn dog batter that’s made with bacon fat. I spoke with Scott Weiner of The Fifty/50 Management Group, who said that the hot dog comes from Vienna and the other two sausages come from the Columbus Meat Market. The batter is soft, and while the Italian and bratwurst are a bit heavy for the sticks, the meat is nicely spiced. The Vienna is the best corn dog rendition, since the lighter sausage makes it ideal for the rich corn batter.
Corn Dogs at Old Town Social ($9)
Old Town Social offers trios of housemade hot dogs that you can get Chicago-style, Coney-style, or as corn dogs. Chef Jared Van Camp makes the dogs by breaking down a pig in house and mixing the pork with beef. Then he cures the meat, grinds and emulsifies it, and stuffs it into all-natural sheep casing. Then the dogs are smoked and grilled. The corn dogs have a light, thin coating that adds a hint of sweetness, and they’re served with housemade grainy mustard.
The Mystery Corn Dawg Platter at Franks ‘n Dawgs ($7.95)
Of all the corn dogs on my list, I was most excited to try the mystery platter of sausages, partly because I love doing blind tastings (though they’re usually of booze, not sausage), and partly because Franks ‘n Dawgs coats their corn dogs in Anson Mills polenta batter, and I’m a fan of Anson Mills.
The platter came with four half sausages and the mystery offerings change with each order, so you never quite know what you’ll get. I took a couple bites of each sausage, and then the staff indulged me as I tried to guess what was on my plate. I got the bacon sausage and the Polish sausage right, but missed the Texas hot link. The fourth sausage was a garlicky Thuringer sausage, which is not currently on the menu. My favorite was the smoky bacon sausage, which was lightened up with the airy polenta batter. The dogs come served with beer mustard, whole grain mustard, cornichons, and pickled carrots, which also help offset the heaviness of the sausages.
Rabbit Corn Dog at Hearty ($9)
Hearty sources their rabbit sausages from Chateau Royal, which they get through Fortune Fish. The slightly sweet sausage is enrobed in honey mustard corn batter and served atop apple cabbage slaw and with a sticky seasonal ale syrup. In sacrilegious fashion, I cut the corn dog off the stick so I could top each piece with the slaw, which made the whole bite crunchy, sweet, and tangy.
Kobe Corn Dogs at David Burke's Primehouse ($8)
The five cocktail-wiener size corn dogs taste like they’re battered in tempura, they’re so light and airy. Served with a sweetened ketchup and whole grain mustard, the hot dogs themselves were mild and beefy, while the batter was ethereal—this is the only order of corn dogs I put away entirely by myself.
Dippin' Dog Deluxe at Wiener and Still Champion ($6)
When I started researching corn dogs, I learned that Wiener and Still Champion in Evanston celebrates National Corn Dog Day each March with half price corn dogs. I decided to skip the straight corn dog, which comes with a dipping sauce like curry ketchup or chimichurri, in favor of the Dippin' Dog Deluxe, which consists of two corn dogs topped with chili and cheese. This dish is not for the faint of heart—or stomach. Wiener and Still Champion uses all-beef hot dogs and dips and fries them to order, and the corn dogs are excellent renditions. There’s sweetness from the batter that plays nicely with the beefy hot dogs. The house-made chili and Merkt’s cheddar take things to a truly gluttonous—and tasty—level.
Corn Dog at Bangers & Lace ($3)
The corn dog uses a brioche batter to provide a soft coating for the frankfurter, which is very mild and served with mustard. This is an acceptable rendition, but compared to the foie gras corn dog the restaurant also serves, there’s no contest.
Foie Gras Corn Dog at Bangers and Lace ($13)
Though the Foie Gras Corn Dog just made an appearance in Deep Fried Chicago, there was no way to leave this dish out of a corn dog feature. This elaborate corn dog wraps foie with French garlic sausage then brioche corn bread, so when you bite into it, liquefied foie spills out everywhere. It’s amazing. It’s even more delicious when you add sweetness from the brown butter caramel or fig preserves that are provided as dipping sauces.