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Chicago Style Hot Dog - The Best Dressed Dog in America

Updated on May 1, 2012

Chicago Style ...

Chicago, Illinois is a U.S. city like no other, especially when it comes to style -- styling food, that is. While Chicago may be well-known for its six major league sports teams, legendary gangster history, "creative" political machinery, or skyline with one of the world's tallest buildings, perhaps it is Chicago's inventiveness with food that puts this great city on the map. Afterall, Chicago-style hot dogs and Chicago-style pizza are steeped in their own rich histories.

But, to understand how the Chicago hot dog came to be, one must first understand what makes a hot dog a Chicago-style hot dog.


The Vienna Chicago Style Hot Dog - Hold the Ketchup

This "periodic table" created by Vienna for a Vienna Chicago Style hot dog lists all the necessary toppings. Notice ketchup is all by itself, as a warning to not include this condiment on a Chicago hot dog.
This "periodic table" created by Vienna for a Vienna Chicago Style hot dog lists all the necessary toppings. Notice ketchup is all by itself, as a warning to not include this condiment on a Chicago hot dog. | Source

Chicago Dog - The Toppings Matter!

A Chicago hot dog has more toppings on it than any other hot dog in the United States, giving it the honorable distinction of being the best-dressed dog in America. When making or buying a Chicago hot dog, not only is it critical that the exact toppings are used, but the order in which the toppings are placed matters, as well. Additionally, the dog itself must be all-beef and a sesame seed bun is a requirement.

Notice, that ketchup is nowhere to be found in the list of hot dog toppings below. Ketchup is shunned condiment when it comes to masterfully creating a Chicago style dog -- so much so that while some Chicago hot dog stands may be willing to provide ketchup on the side, they usually are not willing to "deface" the dog themselves. A perfectly-made Chicago hot dog will include the flavor of every ingredient in every mouth-watering bite.

Chicago Style Hot Dog Toppings (listed in the proper order for placing on hot dog):

  • mustard
  • chopped onion
  • bright green relish
  • 2 sport peppers (medium-hot pickled pepper)
  • 2 tomato wedges
  • 1 thin dill pickle spear
  • celery salt

The "Dog" itself must be:

  • all-beef; diehard Chicagoans insist on Vienna Beef Hot Dogs
  • grilled or steamed (never boiled)

And the hot dog bun must be:

  • a sesame seed bun
  • steamed


Chicago Hot Dog Lingo

Dragging it through the garden - a fully-loaded hot dog with all the toppings

Garden on a Bun or Salad on a Bun - other names for the fully-topped Chicago dog.

Depression Dog - alternate name for Chicago hot dog since it came into being during the Great Depression

New York Style Hot Dog

The New York style hot dog has considerably less toppings than its Chicago counterpart.

  • hot dog is boiled
  • toppings included mustard and steamed onions
  • the sesame seed bun is steamed (just like Chicago)


The Chicago Hot Dog's Humble Roots: The "Depression Dog"

So, how did this hot dog with more toppings than any other hot dog in America come to be? The "birth" of the Chicago hot dog occurred during The Great Depression and today is still referred to by some people as a depression dog. During the depression era, Chicago hot dog vendors skillfully combined a little ingenuity with a big helping of competitive spirit, in order to make a buck (or about 5 cents actually). Money was scarce and a hot dog in a bun provided a meal for many people. In order to attract customers, toppings were added as each vendor tried to out-do the other and sell more hot dogs. Eventually, the hot dog with basically a salad on the top became the recognizable Chicago style hot dog that it still is today.



Have Chicago Hot Dogs Shipped to Your Door

Vienna Beef hot dog kits include everything to make an authentic Chicago hot dog, including Vienna franks, authentic toppings, and sesame seed buns.
Vienna Beef hot dog kits include everything to make an authentic Chicago hot dog, including Vienna franks, authentic toppings, and sesame seed buns. | Source
Shop & Ship Portillo's Chicago hot dogs. Choose from the 10 or 50 pack complete with all the necessary dogs, toppings and buns.
Shop & Ship Portillo's Chicago hot dogs. Choose from the 10 or 50 pack complete with all the necessary dogs, toppings and buns. | Source

Hot Dog Trivia

Fun Facts about Hot Dogs:

  • More hot dogs are sold at Chicago's O'Hare airport than any other single location (2 million).
  • Dodger Stadium sells the most hot dogs out of all the major league baseball parks (1.7 million).
  • Twenty-three million hot dogs are sold in baseball parks each year.
  • Chicago is 4th city in terms of hot dog sales after Los Angeles, New York, and San Antonio.
  • The hot dog is the only street food allowed in Toronto, Canada, making it one of the best places to get a Chicago style hot dog.
  • Hot dogs are also known as wieners, franks, frankfurters, and red hots.

Far from Chicago? Buy Chicago Dogs Online!

Finding a Chicago style hot dog in Chicago is the opposite of "finding a needle in haystack." Hot dog vendors, stands, and restaurants with hot dogs on the menu, abound. The Vienna Beef sign can easily be spotted throughout the city.

A local Chicago chain, Portillo's, sells Chicago beef dogs and now has two locations in California and one in Indiana, as well.

Luckily for those that do not live near Chicago, it is easy to order a Chicago hot dog kit from Portillo's or Vienna Beef, and have them delivered in time for gift-giving, barbecues, tailgating, Super Bowl parties, or for no reason other than to enjoy the unique flavors of a Chicago dog.


Best Chicago Hot Dogs

show route and directions
A markerGene & Jude's -
2720 River Rd, River Grove, IL 60171, USA
get directions

Not located within Chicago city limits, but everyone raves about Gene and Jude's dogs.

B markerHot Doug's -
3324 N California Ave, Chicago, IL 60618, USA
get directions

There's always a line, but worth the wait.

C markerPortillo's -
100 W Ontario St, Chicago, IL 60654, USA
get directions

Lots of locations in Chicagoland and 2 locations in California and 1 in Indiana.

D markerSuperdawg -
6363 N Milwaukee Ave, Chicago, IL 60646, USA
get directions

Two giant hot dogs on the roof - Maurie & Flaurie. Opened in 1948.

E markerWiener's Circle -
2622 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60614, USA
get directions

Get your hot dog with an attitude. Some say this place is over-rated.

F markerWrigleyville Dogs -
3737 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60613, USA
get directions

$2 a dog - Price can't be beat for a Chicago dog.

G markerWolfy's -
2734 W Peterson Ave, Chicago, IL 60659, USA
get directions

H markerJimmy's Red Hots -
4000 W Grand Ave, Chicago, IL 60651, USA
get directions

"No Ketchup" sign in the window!

I markerByron's Hot Dog Haus -
1017 W Irving Park Rd, Chicago, IL 60613, USA
get directions

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Chicago Dog Comments: Love 'em? Hate 'em? Never had one, but want one?

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    • Wesman Todd Shaw profile image

      Wesman Todd Shaw 5 years ago from Kaufman, Texas

      I really liked reading this. It's well after noon - and I'm totally aware now that I've not eaten today.

      I've a question: What is a "sport pepper?"

      Also - I agree that ketchup is totally wrong for hot dogs - I'm a mustard man for dogs.

    • Cousin Fudd profile image

      RobertElias Ballard 5 years ago from From the Blue Ridge Mountains of Western North Carolina

      I agree with Wes, mustard for me with lots of onions and chili and a tad of slaw.

    • ktrapp profile image
      Author

      Kristin Trapp 5 years ago from Illinois

      WTS - Kids seem to like ketchup on hot dogs, but it just isn't an acceptable grown-up taste - at least in Chicago. Jimmy's Red Hots in Chicago even has a "no ketchup" sign in the window. As for me, I hate ketchup on everything.

      To answer your question a sport pepper is a pickled pepper that is about 1 1/2 inches long. It is considered medium-hot and they're mainly used for hot dogs and sandwiches.

    • ktrapp profile image
      Author

      Kristin Trapp 5 years ago from Illinois

      I have never had slaw on a dog Cousin Fudd. Do you mean cole slaw? The city that sells the 3rd most hot dogs in the U.S. is San Antonio which totally baffles me. (When I think of San Antonio I think of the Alamo not hot dogs.) I wonder if they put slaw on their dogs too - maybe a southern sort of thing. But, I have no idea.

    • truthfornow profile image

      truthfornow 5 years ago from New Orleans, LA

      I have never seen sesame seed hotdog buns before. We have hotdog carts in New Orleans called Lucky Dogs for the tourists. You got to be drunk to eat one.

    • ktrapp profile image
      Author

      Kristin Trapp 5 years ago from Illinois

      I never thought of sesame seed buns as a rarity truthfornow. I'm sure Lucky Dogs will appreciate the plug - drunk because they're terrible???

    • truthfornow profile image

      truthfornow 5 years ago from New Orleans, LA

      I have never had one ~ too scared to eat from the streets. They are on Bourbon street, so i assume everyone is drunk. Some people swear they are great.

    • ktrapp profile image
      Author

      Kristin Trapp 5 years ago from Illinois

      HaHa. I assumed they were horrible - just scary to eat from a cart. I tend to agree. I've never been to New Orleans, but would love to some day.

    • Cloverleaf profile image

      Cloverleaf 5 years ago from Calgary, AB, Canada

      What, no ketchup? I don't know if I could do it. But all the other toppings do taste great too. Mmm, might need to get a snack now, you've awakened my tastebuds...

      Great hub, ktrapp! Voting up!

    • ktrapp profile image
      Author

      Kristin Trapp 5 years ago from Illinois

      You got if Cloverleaf - NO ketchup - at least not on a Chicago dog.

    • stephhicks68 profile image

      Stephanie Hicks 5 years ago from Bend, Oregon

      Love this! First time I visited Chicago, my brother-in-law took us to a hot dog joint (looking at your map, I cannot remember which place it was!) Delicious hot dogs! Rated up - Steph

    • Brenda Holstine profile image

      Brenda Holstine 5 years ago from Denton, Texas

      Mmmmmm....I love Chicago dogs

    • ktrapp profile image
      Author

      Kristin Trapp 5 years ago from Illinois

      If your brother-in-law is from Chicago, I'm sure he took you to one of the better hot dog joints. Next time you'll have to have Chicago style pizza if you haven't already.

    • ktrapp profile image
      Author

      Kristin Trapp 5 years ago from Illinois

      I was in your neck of the woods a few months ago Brenda (if you're still in Denton). I am guessing you can't get a Chicago dog there, but it is only about a 15 hour drive to Chicago :)

    • hazelwood4 profile image

      hazelwood4 5 years ago from Owensboro, Kentucky

      This is an awesome Hub. I love how you added the recipes for hot dogs, and how you gave the history behind one of America's favorite food. Great stuff!

    • ktrapp profile image
      Author

      Kristin Trapp 5 years ago from Illinois

      Thanks. I'm glad you liked all the hot dog information Hazelwood34.

    • stephaniedas profile image

      Stephanie Das 5 years ago from Miami, US

      Wow! I had no idea there was so much to hot dogs! This is awesome, Chicago style hot dogs are definitely my favorite...but I gotta say, when it comes to pizza, New York style is the best. Another fun hub, voted up and awesome.

    • ktrapp profile image
      Author

      Kristin Trapp 5 years ago from Illinois

      Amazing isn't it. The thing about the pizza is I don't even think NY and Chicago are comparable. I grew up near the border of NY and so I've had a lot of NY Italian pizza in my lifetime. It's like a different food than the hearty, bulky Chicago style. I love NY pizza and when it's done well it's hard to beat.

    • profile image

      SusieQ42 5 years ago

      They sound yummy! I love a good kraut dog with mustard. I don't buy them very often because of nutrients, but a beef dog would be fine. Thanks for the great info.

    • randomcreative profile image

      Rose Clearfield 5 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

      I had no idea that you could order hot dog kits! I know plenty of people who still debate what constitutes a "real" Chicago hot dog although your ingredient list is certainly the standard.

    • ktrapp profile image
      Author

      Kristin Trapp 5 years ago from Illinois

      It's a crazy world, isn't it randomcreative? Who would have ever thought you could order a Chicago hot dog kit? Both the Portillo's and Vienna Beef kits have the same toppings, so it is definitely the standard as you say.

    • thougtforce profile image

      Christina Lornemark 5 years ago from Sweden

      Great information! Now I know what a Chicago hot dog is and it would be interesting to taste one. The toppings seem tasty so I guess it will taste good. I must admit that I eat hot dog with both mustard and ketchup! Thanks for the interesting hub!

      Tina

    • ktrapp profile image
      Author

      Kristin Trapp 5 years ago from Illinois

      Mustard and Ketchup??? Usually people choose one or the other, thougtforce.

    • thougtforce profile image

      Christina Lornemark 5 years ago from Sweden

      Why choose when you can get both, and it is really tasty:))) But if I ever get the opportunity to eat a real Chigago Hot dog I promise I will exclude the ketchup to get the real taste!

      Tina

    • ktrapp profile image
      Author

      Kristin Trapp 5 years ago from Illinois

      Sounds like a deal Tina.

    • Victoria Lynn profile image

      Victoria Lynn 5 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      Yummy! But I'm going to go with Cloverleaf and bemoan the "no ketchup" rule, and sneak some out on the side. I can see why ketchup isn't put ON it, but I'll dip about anything in ketchup on the side. I do that with any kind of burger, too. haha. This does look good. I have a bunch of beef dogs in the freezer I need to be using up. I have you lots of votes on this hub and am going to bookmark the recipe. Thanks, ktrapp!

    • ktrapp profile image
      Author

      Kristin Trapp 5 years ago from Illinois

      Victoria Lynn, I'm sure if you dip a Chicago dog in ketchup at home that will be ok. Just don't do it in public if you ever come to Chicago :) But I have to say, I pretty much hate ketchup. If I ever dip fries in anything at all, I use mustard.

    • Victoria Lynn profile image

      Victoria Lynn 5 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      Hate ketchup? That's a sacrilege! haha. Okay, I promise, I promise. If I go to Chicago, I won't dip my Chicago dog in ketchup in public. :-)

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 5 years ago from Wales

      Another to bookmark and here's to many more to share on here.

      Take care

      Eiddwen.

    • Sally's Trove profile image

      Sherri 5 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania

      I love these regional variations on hot dogs (pizza, too), and your Hub reminds me of the Coney Island hot dogs I grew up with as a kid. A bit of chili meat sauce, topped with sauerkraut and fresh onions, and never ketchup although lots of mustard. Thanks for a great trip down memory lane, and when I get to Chicago, I know where to go for a stellar dog!

    • ktrapp profile image
      Author

      Kristin Trapp 5 years ago from Illinois

      Thanks Sally. I love the stories behind the variations in foods. It's always interesting how different regions of the U.S. make the same foods differently, as well as the varying names of similar food.

    • profile image

      TXTraveler 5 years ago

      love those dogs

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