Ever since I've started Lunch in the Loop, I've been moaning about not being able to find a good hot dog stand downtown. Most are imitators and flops, restaurants that seem like caricatures of real hot dog stands. But one day, as I moseyed down the street, looking for a new spot, I came across Devil Dawgs on State Street, and inside the deep and dark crevasses of my broken and black (hungry) heart, I felt hope.
'hot dog' on Serious Eats
Since Chuck's is on Michigan Avenue, tourist central, I thought a $14 hot dog was going to be a fancy interpretation, especially with that price. Turns out I was wrong. This footlong Vienna Beef hot dog is the real deal.
What's nice about O'Connor's sausages is that nothing is too out there; he calls his food "blue collar gourmet food," which pretty much sums up an approach of quality with lack of pretension.
Despite its name, the restaurant quickly strays from its central conceit: there's nothing particularly fair-ish about sliders, Chicago dogs, and root beer floats. That's hardly a slight: State Fair is at its best when putting its own spin on the dishes rather than adhering slavishly to a concept.
I'm excited to report that the wonderful Little Village staple Delicias Mexicanas has opened a second location. Now it's easier to find hot dogs con tocino—that is, hot dogs wrapped in bacon.
As excited as I was for the dogs and shrimp, even more intriguing was the promise of West Coast style burgers, a la In-N-Out. If there's anything Serious Eater gets more excited about than INO, it's news to me.
Like all great cities should, Chicago has a collection of dishes that were invented within its borders and that you can't get anywhere else. I decided to create this list to help keep track of them all.
A number of years ago at a point I can't exactly recall, as the hot dog's tenure as New York's default street food unofficially ended, I had what would be my last hot dog for years. It wasn't intentional, and it wasn't out of malice. They just tasted irrelevant. That is, they did until I moved to Chicago, where I spent four years relishing every one I could find. Now that I'm back in New York, the hot dogs are what I miss most.
It was clear from the moment I moved here that Chicago cared about its hot dogs more than any other place I'd ever been. And after five years of searching, here are my ten favorite Chicago-style hot dogs.
In Chicago, our most prominent permanent restaurant showdown takes place on South Union Avenue, where two Polish sausage joints, Jim's Original and Express Grill, stand shoulder to shoulder. For people driving north on 90/94 into the city, this pairing is the last thing you see before you arrive downtown. Ever since I moved to the city, I've wondered which one was better. I decided to order every item on both menu and find out.
Here's the thing: Most people think that the Chicago dog has an inflexible formula, one set down from on high, which mandates a certain seven toppings that must be included or the whole deal is off. But the reality I've encountered over the many years I've been searching for the best hot dog in Chicago is far more varied and interesting. Here's the guide to make sense of it all.
The first thing you see when you walk into Phil's Last Stand on Chicago Avenue is Phil, or as he likes to refer to himself online, Fat Phil. Like Doug Sohn (Hot Doug's) and Eddie Lakin (Edzo's) before him, Phil always stands guard, taking every order, and making as many jokes as possible. While that obviously ensures a fun and freewheeling vibe, it's main advantage is quality control. Nothing gets by Phil without his approval. That turns out to be a very good thing.
U.B. Dogs opened over the summer, and it's one of the new school hot dog stands that still does things the old way. And damn, does it try hard. Besides the hot dog, polish, and the bread, just about everything is made in house, right down to the condiments.