The Chicago Hot Dog

chicago style hot dog

This topic is so important, it took both of the UPchicago founders to write it. Pathetic, you might think. But lets just say the Chicago dog is one thing we both needed to weigh in on. So, thanks Jackie for laying the foundation for this all important post, and allowing me to finish it.

The Chicago Hot Dog began its emergence into popularity during the Great Depression, when this tasty meal also was incredibly cheap at just 5 cents a dog. Street cart vendors wowed Chicagoans with this filling meal, and before we knew it, we were hooked.

But what’s that you say? You like your hot-dog with just ketchup? Oh, young one, you have so much to learn…

Typical Chicago-style hot-dogs start with an all-beef dog; we recommend Vienna Beef. The dogs are steamed or boiled, though sometimes they are grilled, in which case they are referred to as “char-dogs.” We Chicagoans will even go as far to specify that it be served on a poppy-seed bun. That’s right, none of those plain old white bread buns for us! But what truly makes a hot-dog from Chicago is what goes on it.

The traditional toppings on a Chicago-style hot-dog are as follows: yellow mustard, raw chopped onion, sweet pickle relish (dyed a sometimes frightening shade of neon green), a dill pickle spear, tomato slices, sport peppers (whole medium-hot green peppers), and celery salt. If you order a Chicago dog at any respectable hot-dog joint, this is what you are going to get.

As you can imagine, eating a hot-dog in Chicago is no longer a casual experience. Precision and careful attention become necessary to make sure you get a nice ratio of ingredients, without dropping anything off the other end. It can be quite a task, but we Chicagoans are known for our love of these tasty treats. In fact, there are more hot-dog restaurants and stands in the city than McDonald’s, Burger Kings, and Wendy’s combined.

Of course, you won’t really be shunned for ordering your hot-dog with just ketchup. That is, unless you’re at Weiner’s Circle. But that’s another story for another day. In the meantime, at least try a Chicago dog and form your own opinion. And if it’s negative we’ll pay ya back for it. Just kidding.

Now where can you find these perfect dogs? Our personal favorites include Weiner’s Circle (just be careful what you order after midnight), Murphy’s, Byron’s, Fluky’s, or Wolfy’s. Portillos is a good option is you’re in the suburbs and don’t have access to the city’s top spots. Hot Dougs deserves a mention, but don’t go there if you are looking for the real authentic experience.

Interested in making your own Chicago Dog? Check out, which provides information on where to get the ingredients and how to assemble the dog itself. Hats off guys, you’ve got a pretty good site, even if you do live in Wisconsin.

Tessa McLean

About Tessa McLean

There is just something about that feeling when you have been away — maybe for a weekend, a month, 6 months — and you’re driving into Chicago and that first glimpse of the city skyline appears. It just always makes me smile.


  • KMH
    June 4, 2010 | Permalink | Reply

    Drag my hotdogs through the garden!!!!

    The reason why chicago hotdogs are so good is because they have real casing. This casing is what give the hotdog that great bite/snap when bitting into it.

    Favorite Spots:
    Devil Dogs
    Super Dog
    Hot Dougs

  • Barbara Abrans
    June 5, 2010 | Permalink | Reply

    Welcome back to Chicago!

    My favorite hot dog is Weiner Circle. The fries are also wonderful and greasy. But for out-of-towners, Hot Dougs is the most interesting place to go.

  • Abby
    June 5, 2010 | Permalink | Reply

    you forgot SuperDawg’s! The hotdog is served in a little box with your fries, and its a drive in, where the waiters still bring it out to your car. Really cute!

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