Gallery: Staff Picks: What's the Best Hot Dog in Chicago?

Hot Dog and Fries at Redhot Ranch
Hot Dog and Fries at Redhot Ranch

[Photograph: Nick Kindelsperger]

"Hands down, no hesitation, my favorite hot dog in the city can be found at Redhot Ranch, that great bastion of the Depression era dog. My go to order is everything (including peppers), extra mustard, and fries extra crispy. It tastes as good at 2am as it does at 11am (and anytime in between), and I especially like ordering the steamy bundle in the dead of winter. But now that summer is upon us, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention my favorite full-blown Chicago dog as well. That can be found at Phil's Last Stand, and for my money, it's the best version in the city right now. There's something about that cool pickle spear that means shorts season. Now if you'll excuse me, my lunch plans just got twice as complicated." Joe Roy

Redhot Ranch, 2072 N. Western Avenue, Chicago IL 60647 (map); 773-878-9898

Hot Dog with Fries at Gene & Jude's
Hot Dog with Fries at Gene & Jude's

[Photograph: Nick Kindelsperger]

"My favorite dog used to be the kind that was so covered it'd inevitably fall apart before you got your first bite in: mustard, relish, onions, tomato slices, long pickle, celery salt, and sport peppers. That was, until I tried Gene & Jude's hot dog for the first time. I have NEVER had a hot dog that good. Just before I bit into it, I thought, it's just a hot dog, who cares? But after that first bite, I cared. Oh, I cared. If I'd had a ring in my pocket, I would have proposed to it. So now, I'd have to pick the Depression Dog, with a simple dressing of mustard, onions, relish, sport peppers, and... hot french fries. I wasn't wild about the french fry idea at first (I hate them in my sandwiches), but for some reason that greasy, starchy crunch turns it into a thing of beauty." Dennis Lee

Gene's & Jude's, 2720 River Road, River Grove, IL 60171 (map); 708-452-7634; geneandjudes.com

Char Dog with Fries at Phil's Last Stand ($4.00)
Char Dog with Fries at Phil's Last Stand ($4.00)

[Photograph: Nick Kindelsperger]

"The char dog at Phil's Last Stand isn't only my favorite dog in Chicago, but the fully loaded dog also provides some serious bang for your buck at $4 (including fries). This isn't trying to be fancy or do anything new, and that's totally fine. It's simply a Vienna Beef dog topped with the classic Chicago fixin's. Maybe it's the tiny smoke-filled room the hot dog is prepared in giving it extra char, maybe it's Phil himself running around and being his gregarious self, who knows. But this char dog is a satisfying classic." Molly Durham

Phil's Last Stand, 2258 West Chicago Ave, Chicago, IL 60622 (map); 773-245-3287; philslaststand.com

Chicago Style Hot Dog, Homemade Everything at Allium ($14)
Chicago Style Hot Dog, Homemade Everything at Allium ($14)

[Photograph: Huge Galdones]

"Literally with homemade 'everything,' from the dog, the bun and the condiments, Allium's Chicago dog always hits the spot. The flavor, texture, meat-to-bread ratio and DIY toppings are always on point. If you haven't tried it yet, trust me when I say that this version takes emulsified meats to the next level." Huge Galdones

"My favorite hot dog in Chicago is Chef Hickey's totally housemade Chicago dog at Allium. It's so succulent and flavorful, keeping the classic flavor profile but using great ingredients and making your own condiments makes all the difference." Amber Gibson

Allium, 120 East Delaware Place, Chicago, IL 60611 (map); 312-799-4900; alliumchicago.com‎

Superdawg at Superdawg Drive-In ($5.50)
Superdawg at Superdawg Drive-In ($5.50)

[Photograph: Nick Kindelsperger]

"As a native of New York, I'm inclined to favor the dirty water dog, with just ketchup and nothing else. However, I'm almost always willing to give new food a try, even if it's a piled-high Chicago dog. I don't know of everything Chicago has to offer by way of hot dogs, but I do know that Superdawg is up there with the best. Though I'll never be used to having eat a hot dog with two hands, the Superdawg—piled up with mustard, onion, pickle, and pepers—stands out." Eric Singerman

Superdawg Drive-In‎, 6363 North Milwaukee Avenue, Chicago, IL 60646 (map); 773-763-0660; superdawg.com

Superdawg at Superdawg Drive-In ($5.50)
Superdawg at Superdawg Drive-In ($5.50)

[Photograph: Nick Kindelsperger]

"I've got a soft spot for the delicious kitsch of Superdawg. The venerable 65 year-old drive-in is still alive and well, and lounging in the shadows of Maurie and Flaurie (the iconic twelve foot weiners atop the stand) is a great way to spend a summer afternoon. But it's not all nostalgia—their all-beef hot dog is bigger than your standard dog and bursting with garlicky goodness. Superdawg is not quite technically a Chicago dog, but I prefer the pickled tomatoes they use, and the celery salt is not really missed. It's all nestled on a bed of crinkly Superfries; order a pineapple shake to complete the trifecta." Josh Conley

Superdawg Drive-In‎, 6363 North Milwaukee Avenue, Chicago, IL 60646 (map); 773-763-0660; superdawg.com

Milt Dog at Milt's Barbecue for the Perplexed ($12)
Milt Dog at Milt's Barbecue for the Perplexed ($12)

[Photograph: Chelsea Ross]

"I've had my fair share of Chicago-style dogs, so the search for my favorite, but fairly unique hot dog was somewhat difficult. There are so many hot dog and burger joints here in Chicago, and narrowing it down to one place, let alone one specific hot dog, was a tough job. Milt's Barbecue for the Perplexed in Lakeview puts their own spin on their dogs, and the ingredients they've chosen come together harmoniously. The Milt Dog ($12) has savory components that you won't find in a basic Chicago-style hot dog. Their kosher Romanian Char Dog is grilled to perfection (so is the bun!) and lies 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. This hot dog isn't like any ordinary hot dog; my mouth was watering just by looking at it, and the next thing I knew, I had an empty plate and a full stomach." Chelsea Ross

Milt's Barbecue for the Perplexed, 3411 N Broadway St, Chicago, IL 60657 (map); 773-661-6384; miltsbbq.com

Chicago Style Hot Dog at The Vienna Beef Factory Cafe
Chicago Style Hot Dog at The Vienna Beef Factory Cafe

[Photograph: Blake Royer]

"My first job was working at Nick's Nest, an iconic hot dog joint in Holyoke, Mass. They serve a beef and pork dog in a velvety soft bun, and until recently, only offered mustard, onions, relish, and ketchup for toppings. This is my favorite hot dog in the world, and if you're ever in Western Mass. you must go, and have two dogs and a coffee frappe. So coming to Chicago, where Chicago-style hot dogs come with seven toppings, was a major change. I was terrified by the classic dog—how could you actually pick it up without dropping toppings all over you? While I haven't mastered eating the dog neatly, I have come to really love the interplay of textures and flavors on the classic, to the point where a hot dog feels naked unless it has tomatoes, onions, relish, sport peppers, a pickle, mustard, and celery salt. This is the only hot dog I'll eat in Chicago." Amy Cavanaugh

Vienna Beef Café, 2501 N Damen Avenue Chicago, IL 60647 (map); 773-435-2277; viennabeef.com/cafemenu/

Jimmy's Hot Dog at Jimmy's Red Hots
Jimmy's Hot Dog at Jimmy's Red Hots

[Photograph: Nick Kindelsperger]

"My favorite hot dogs come from bare bones stands, ones completely devoid of seats, decoration, and ketchup. Personally, I'm stuck between a love affair with Gene & Jude's and Redhot Ranch, but considering those two have already been discussed, I'll go with Jimmy's Red Hots. But this is no sympathy pick. When I started writing the Standing Room Only column back in 2009, Jimmy's was my very first stop for two reasons: It's a quintessential Chicago hot dog stand, and, more importantly, the hot dogs are really freaking great. Skinny natural casing Vienna Beef hot dogs are steamed until snappy, and tossed in a warm bun with mustard, onion, relish, and sport peppers. Each dog is topped with a fat, hand-cut fries, wrapped up in paper, and quickly dished out for you to devour while standing at the counter. —Nick Kindelsperger

Jimmy's Red Hots, 4000 W Grand Avenue, Chicago IL 60651 (at N. Pulaski Road; map); 773-384-9513; jimmysredhots.com

Hot Dog at Kim & Carlo's Hot Dog Stand
Hot Dog at Kim & Carlo's Hot Dog Stand

View from the Shedd Aquarium [Courtesy of chrisbrenschmidt/Facebook]

"I don't have any facts to back this up, but hot dogs eaten alfresco just taste better. And I can't imagine a more delightful outdoor setting for crushing a Chicago dog (or two) than the majestic stone-and-flora cradle of the Museum Campus. But to ensure you're starting with a delicious dog to begin with, do this: walk straight away from the Shedd Aquarium's main entrance. Down a few steps, you'll run into Kim & Carlos Hot Dog Stand, a small but ambitious, family-run operation where the buns are steamed, the ingredients are impeccably fresh, and where you can't go wrong with your choice of wiener, even if you choose the vegan dog. Order up, take a seat, and enjoy the views." Roger Kamholz

Kim & Carlo's Hot Dog Stand, 1400 S Lake Shore Dr, Chicago 60605 (map); Kim & Carlo's Hot Dog Stand/Facebook

Cheese Dog at Little Joe's
Cheese Dog at Little Joe's

"Beloved for its Italian beef, Little Joe’s makes a mean Chicago-style hot dog ($2.85) and an even better cheese dog ($3.25). The hook is the singular, housemade giardiniera. Lightly pickled and not terribly spicy, it’s made mostly of crunchy, paper-thin celery—the perfect stand-in for sport peppers when ordered fully loaded alongside a handful of salty crinkle-cut fries." Jennifer Olvera

Little Joe’s, 20 E Plainfield Rd .,Countryside, Illinois 60525 (map); 708-352-9696; littlejoesbeef.com