If you’re a fan of delicious, over-stuffed, messy hot dogs, then prepare to start drooling. Chicagoans love themselves a good frankfurter, which may be why the city has more hot dog joints than anywhere else in the Midwest. Naturally, Chi-town has put its own unique spin on the red hot, and it usually involves a lot of toppings. The next time you find yourself in the Windy City, be sure to try some of these local classics.

Traditional Chicago Dog

Brent Hofacker / Shutterstock

Brent Hofacker / Shutterstock

There’s considerable debate over the genesis of the Chicago-style dog, but many sources place its creation back to 1929. Today, the standard ingredients are as follows: an all-beef dog, poppy seed bun, chopped onion, relish, tomato slices, sport peppers and a pickle spear all topped with yellow mustard and a dash of celery salt. Variations exist—some chefs use caramelized onions, cucumbers, or lettuce. However, one ingredient you’ll never see is ketchup, which is seen as a faux pas by most hot dog aficionados. For a classic Chicago Dog, visit Superdawg, Hot Doug’s, or Gene & Jude’s.

Chicago-Style Char-Dog

"Nom Nom" by Tim Marshall is licensed under CC 2.0.

Nom Nom” by Tim Marshall is licensed under CC 2.0.

While a traditional Chicago Dog uses a steamed frankfurter, a “char-dog” is prepared on a charcoal grill. These dogs will be sliced in crisscross fashion and have a unique smoky flavor. The toppings generally remain the same as the classic Chicago Dog. Restaurants that specialize in Char-Dogs include Fatso’s Last Stand and Gold Coast Dogs.

The Depression Dog

Not all customers can handle the standard seven toppings of a traditional Chicago Dog. If you’re in the mood for something a little lighter, but still rich and tasty, go for a “depression dog.” This type of red hot features fewer toppings—usually only chopped onions, relish, peppers, and onion on a plain bun. They may not be called “depression dogs” on the menu, but you’ll find them at Redhot Ranch and 35th Street Red Hots.

Miniature Hot Dog

"Mmm... mini slaw dogs" by jeffreyw is licensed under CC 2.0.

Mmm… mini slaw dogs” by jeffreyw is licensed under CC 2.0.

Mom always told you that food tastes better in smaller bites. Well, if you’re still partial to that point of view, try a miniature hot dog. As the name implies, these red hots feature a shorter dog and a smaller bun. Old Town Social prepares a house-made mini dog on a delicious bun with mustard, tomato, pickle, and a pepper slice.

The Double Dog

"double dog" by jeffreyw is licensed under CC 2.0.

double dog” by jeffreyw is licensed under CC 2.0.

The idea behind the “double dog” is that two frankfurters equals twice as good. Famished restaurant patrons who enjoy extra meat will certainly be satisfied with this dish. Since this type of red hot involves stuffing two dogs into one bun, toppings are usually kept to a minimum. Anything more than mustard, onion, and relish could lead to a messier meal. You’ll find great double dogs at Jimmy’s Hot Dogs and Downtown Dogs.

The Cheese Dog

"Mmm... hot dog!" by jeffreyw is licensed under CC 2.0.

Mmm… hot dog!” by jeffreyw is licensed under CC 2.0.

Cheese lovers don’t have to feel left out when they visit a Chicago hot dog stand. They can always go for a “cheese dog,” a variation on the classic red hot that includes, well, a healthy topping of cheese. Most Chicago-style cheese dogs will contain the traditional seven toppings plus cheddar sauce. For a great cheese dog, sample the offerings at Portillo’s.

In addition to the aforementioned options, many Chicago chefs offer their own specialty hot dogs. These gourmet creations may contain anything from an added quail egg to smoked bacon. Yum!

Which of these Chicago hot dog joints is your favorite? Will you be hitting any on your next trip to the Windy City? Let us know in the comments!


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