Belly Dog at Belly Shack ($9.00)
Whenever I take friends to Belly Shack, I give this long spiel about how everything is good, and then they inevitably look at the menu and order the Belly Dog. How can I blame them? Where else can you find a creation quite like this? It all starts with an all-beef hot dog, which is topped with tart pickled green papaya, spicy kimchi salsa, and, most surprisingly, crunchy egg noodles. Tossed on a toasted and split pita, the Belly Dog makes for one of the most satisfying hot dog options in the whole city.
Mini Housemade Chili Hot Dog at Old Town Social ($9 for three)
When you order the mini housemade hot dogs at Old Town Social (which should be required), you must make a choice: do you get three of the same kind, or do you try a Chicago dog, chili dog, and corn dog? While the latter lets you taste all of the impressive selections, my clear favorite is the chili dog. The crispy and smoky housemade hot dog is slathered with a spicy and sweet chili, and then stuffed into a pillowy little bun. A sprinkle of chopped onion and a squeeze of mustard finish off this incredible offering.
Chili Cheese Dog at Bangers & Lace ($6.00)
"The Chili Cheese Dog tastes even prettier than it looks. Housed in the same bun as the Po' Boy, the uncured hot dog, sausage chili (with actual rounds of cured sausage!), sour cream drizzle, and vibrantly pickled red onions work together to create the best non-traditional chili cheese dog I've ever tasted." Read more here >>
Bacon Wrapped Dog at The Haute & the Dog ($5.00)
Wrapping bacon around hot dogs always sounds like the greatest idea ever until the first bite. How could that combo fail? But the bacon is usually either flabby or too brittle. If you want to see it done right, head to The Haute & the Dog, where the bacon is always crispy and the sausage is juicy. The shop knows not to cover up this achievement, topping it with only some grilled onions and peppers.
Brunch Hot Dog at Pl-Zen ($10)
"The brunch hot dog is a jalapeño smoked beef sausage wrapped in duck bacon, stuffed inside a pretzel roll, and topped with crispy poblano rings and a poached egg. Oh and it's served with giardiniera and polenta-crusted potatoes. I'm assuming that in some drunken stupor, someone in the kitchen created this dish on a dare, and despite sounding like Michelle Obama's worst nightmare, it's actually a fantastic dish. It's an aggressive, unruly hodgepodge, but it's a harmonious hodgepodge nonetheless." Read more here >>
Sonoran Hot Dog at Big Star ($7)
Unlike the manageable little tacos, the Sonoran hot dog at Big Star is a big ol' mess. A hefty all-beef hot dog is wrapped in bacon and stuffed into a fluffy bollillo roll that is quite literally the size of your head. Pinto beans and onions are added, along with a deluge of lime mayo, mustard, and hot sauce. There is no polite way to handle this. My advice is to grab a stack of napkins and dig in with abandon.
Milt Dog at Milt's Barbecue for the Perplexed ($12.00)
"The Milt Dog ($12) has savory components that you won't find in a basic Chicago-style hot dog. The kosher Romanian Char Dog is grilled and served on top of their brisket chili, which is basically large chunks of savory and tender brisket pieces marinated in spices. It gets a bit messy, so you may need a fork to pick up the extra juicy bits that you can't let to go to waste. They top it off with crispy fried onions and pickled jalapenos to add some crunch and heat." Read more here >>
French Poodle at Chicago Dog House ($2.99)
"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."Read more here >>