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Chicago hot dogs we have had and held


Fat Guy
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I had my first Chicago hot dog in 1986, when I was a senior in high school. I participated in a debate tournament at Glenbrook North high school in Northbrook, and some of the local folks took us to a place called Little Louie's. Apparently, it's still there and has been since 1967. I ordered a "hot dog" and was amazed to see what I was served: a fat Vienna Beef dog peeking out from beneath fluorescent green relish, bright yellow mustard, big slices of tomato, an entire pickle spear, and then some, all on a poppyseed bun. I don't think I'll ever recapture the experience of that first Chicago hot dog, but every time I've been back I've made sure to have at least one Chicago hot dog, someplace, before leaving town.

I was just in Chicago for a speaking engagement (which is kind of like being on the debate team, except you get paid) and had a very full schedule, with all my meals accounted for. My last night in town, I had dinner with friends at Spoon Thai on N. Western, which if I understand Chicago geography correctly is "Uptown." It was a Bacchanal of Thai cuisine and BYO beer, and at the end I was pretty stuffed. I decided to take a little bit of a stroll to aid in digestion and contemplation. I also wanted to check out the neighborhood, such as it is. I wandered north to W. Lawrence, where there seemed to be a lot of taxis running east-west, and figured that would be a good place to turn right. As I strolled, most of the blocks were pretty quiet and deserted, but occasionally I'd pass something tempting, especially Pizza D.O.C., about which I'd seen some posts. "Huh, it's right here," I thought, but I knew I couldn't possibly eat a pizza. All in all, I walked about a mile, and then decided to start looking for a cab at the next intersection, N. Damen.

When I reached the corner of W. Lawrence and N. Damen, just as I was about to hail a cab, a glorious structure came into my field of vision.

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(Sorry about the cell-phone photos. The KRZR was my only photographic resource.)

I couldn't resist the siren song of Budacki's Drive-In. It felt like destiny -- maybe Michael Caine would be inside to alter the direction of my life. I had walked a bit. Surely there was room for a hot dog, or perhaps a sausage.

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It was great. I don't think I've ever had a bad hot dog or sausage in Chicago. It seems to me that if you go to any given run-down establishment that uses Vienna Beef, you're going to get something within a pretty narrow band of quality. Maybe there are subtle differences I can't identify with my out-of-town palate and long lags between tastings, but I like them all.

One other from the cell-phone archive, two trips ago, October 2005:

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I have to say, I think "The Wieners Circle" is one of the great restaurant names of all time. The hot dog was great too.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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I had my first Chicago hot dog in 1986, when I was a senior in high school. I participated in a debate tournament at Glenbrook North high school in Northbrook, and some of the local folks took us to a place called Little Louie's. Apparently, it's still there and has been since 1967.

I have to say, I think "The Wieners Circle" is one of the great restaurant names of all time. The hot dog was great too.

I grew up in Northbrook and Little Louie's is still an institution. I'm pretty sure every kid who's played little league across the street or played in park next to it has enjoyed little louie's on more than one occasion. Steve, I'm so glad you got to experience Little Louie's and the neon green relish. The Wiener Circle is has a lot of "personality". The service there makes an Ed Debevic's seem like 4 star treatment, and I wouldn't have it any other way. :)

You're absolutely right about the vienna beef consistency. Really the primary source of variance that you find is the quality of the bun.

The next time you find yourself in Chicago and are seeking some savory goodness, I recommend stopping at Superdawg on N. Milwaukee. It's a drive-in thats been around for 60 years now and serves one of the best all beef dogs in the city. They serve their dogs with all the traditional Chicago style trimmings, a pickled green tomato, and some killer fresh cut fries. Plus, IMO any place that has a giant hot dog in tarzan costume on its roof is worth checking out.

I have yet to try the much talked about "Hot Doug's", but I imagine I will give it a taste sometime in the near future.

gallery_27738_5257_37429.jpg

Superdawg

6363 N Milwaukee Ave

Chicago, IL

(773) 763-0660

"In a perfect world, cooks who abuse fine cutlery would be locked in a pillory and pelted with McNuggets."

- Anthony Bourdain

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The people working the counter at the Wieners Circle were perfectly nice to me, it's just that they were fighting with one another the whole time!

I wonder, is there a bun supplier that dominates the market the way Vienna Beef does? Presumably nobody is baking buns on premises, so they have to come from somewhere.

The last time I was in Chicago (the visit between the Wieners Circle visit and the Budacki's visit -- yes, I name my visits by hot dog places), I also had a really full schedule, with meals at Alinea and Moto plus a bunch of corporate events I had to attend. There was no time even to get more than a few blocks away from my hotel. However, about three blocks behind the Ritz-Carlton, on N. Rush, there was a place called Downtown Dogs. It felt wrong to get a hot dog there, because how could a hot dog near the Ritz-Carlton be legitimate, but the choice was between Downtown Dogs and not having a hot dog at all on that visit. And you know what? It was good. Really good. Even a good bun.

The place I've found a lot of variation is in the non-hot-dog items, especially fries. Not that I've had really good fries at any Chicago hot dog place, but there has nonetheless been a huge range of quality or lack thereof.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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I think I've been in pretty fortunate to have spent basically all of my life in one hot dog obsessed area or another (growing up in NJ, now living in Chicago). I like the Chicago-style dog a lot, even if it can be a bit overwhelming. But I will always have a special place in my heart (and arteries) for a NJ-style "ripper".

Also, I'm a huge fan of the Wieners Circle (and not just because it's basically right behind where I live). I really like that I can get a char-dog there as opposed to a dog that's either been steamed or boiled. Plus you can't beat what goes on there late at night (particularly on the weekends).

-Josh

Now blogging at http://jesteinf.wordpress.com/

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I definitely prefer grilled/griddled/charred hot dogs to steamed, but steamed seems to be the Chicago preference so I usually go with it. That said, I'm pretty sure that at the Wieners Circle I had charred.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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I know Portillo's isn't the very best out there, but it was convenient (downtown) and hit the spot...

I'm not a huge fan of Portillo's but they do serve a custom, proprietary dog that Vienna makes exclusively for them.

I do love Wiener's Circle and Superdawg -- both great spots.

If you're up in the northern burbs, I'd recommnend The Wiener and Still Champion on Dempster in Evanston, Poochie's on Dempster in Skokie or fRedhots and fries on Chestnut in Glenview.

=R=

"Hey, hey, careful man! There's a beverage here!" --The Dude, The Big Lebowski

LTHForum.com -- The definitive Chicago-based culinary chat site

ronnie_suburban 'at' yahoo.com

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I wonder, is there a bun supplier that dominates the market the way Vienna Beef does? Presumably nobody is baking buns on premises, so they have to come from somewhere.

Yes, indeed, there's a bun supplier. Most places with good dogs get theirs from Alpha Baking, which incorporated Mary Ann buns and also Rosen's Rye, both long-time Chicago institutions. The bun should never be crusty, and most have poppy seeds. They are always steamed--squishy but not soggy--in the best places. Ideally, the dog protrude slightly.

Dogs are usually Vienna, but several makers, including one in southern Wisconsin, have done a pretty good job of knocking off the formula. One, Eisenstein, even bears the name of Vienna's founders. Dogs vary in size, typically from 12 to the pound to four to the pound.

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My last night in town, I had dinner with friends at Spoon Thai on N. Western, which if I understand Chicago geography correctly is "Uptown."

Actually Spoon is in Lincoln Square. Uptown is due east, at the lake.

Budacki's would be considered to be in the Ravenswood neighborhood, although it is technically within the Lincoln Square Community Area.

Pardon my pedantry :rolleyes:

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Wiener Circle used to be the top spot for me but I have noticed that at times they pre-char the dogs so when they get a order they throw a partially cooked dog on the grill (that does not work for me). My favorite of the past few years is Muskie's on Lincoln, great burgers, dogs, brats, chicken sandwiches and the cook area is very clean. I do like the original Superdawg, the airport location is not as good. I used to love the original Byron's on ...is that Irving Park???, it has been a long time since I ate there.

Eliot Wexler aka "Molto E"

MoltoE@restaurantnoca.com

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My last night in town, I had dinner with friends at Spoon Thai on N. Western, which if I understand Chicago geography correctly is "Uptown."

Actually Spoon is in Lincoln Square. Uptown is due east, at the lake.

Budacki's would be considered to be in the Ravenswood neighborhood, although it is technically within the Lincoln Square Community Area.

Pardon my pedantry :rolleyes:

LOL, it was me who very uncertainly mentioned that I thought it was Uptown. But, the city-dweller who was with us thought it was Uptown too. :wink::biggrin:

=R=

Edited by ronnie_suburban (log)

"Hey, hey, careful man! There's a beverage here!" --The Dude, The Big Lebowski

LTHForum.com -- The definitive Chicago-based culinary chat site

ronnie_suburban 'at' yahoo.com

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My last night in town, I had dinner with friends at Spoon Thai on N. Western, which if I understand Chicago geography correctly is "Uptown."

Actually Spoon is in Lincoln Square. Uptown is due east, at the lake.

Budacki's would be considered to be in the Ravenswood neighborhood, although it is technically within the Lincoln Square Community Area.

Pardon my pedantry :rolleyes:

LOL, it was me who very uncertainly mentioned that I thought it was Uptown. But, the city-dweller who was with us thought it was Uptown too. :wink::biggrin:

=R=

OK, I confess, I also had it wrong. This is when I plead ignorance as a simple Lincoln Park resident that rarely travels north of Addison :cool:

-Josh

Now blogging at http://jesteinf.wordpress.com/

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A couple of interesting things about Budacki's: 1- all the employees were Asian, and 2- there was a young couple eating there and photographing their food furiously; they were also looking at me funny, so I have to assume they were members of the online food community. I'm still waiting for a Google Blogs Alert on the incident.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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I wonder, is there a bun supplier that dominates the market the way Vienna Beef does? Presumably nobody is baking buns on premises, so they have to come from somewhere.

Yes, indeed, there's a bun supplier. Most places with good dogs get theirs from Alpha Baking, which incorporated Mary Ann buns and also Rosen's Rye, both long-time Chicago institutions. The bun should never be crusty, and most have poppy seeds. They are always steamed--squishy but not soggy--in the best places. Ideally, the dog protrude slightly.

Dogs are usually Vienna, but several makers, including one in southern Wisconsin, have done a pretty good job of knocking off the formula. One, Eisenstein, even bears the name of Vienna's founders. Dogs vary in size, typically from 12 to the pound to four to the pound.

Not sure but I believe you mean Eisenberg. Red Hot Chicago is also gaining market share (albeit slowly) and I believe that company was started by people who once were part of Vienna. But Vienna still rules this town and seeing that blue and yellow Vienna sign in the window at a shop provides a certain level of comfort and creates a certain expectation. Being served a Vienna dog on a non-Mary Ann bun would be instantly noticeable to most Chicagoans. Even as the condiments vary from shop to shop and neighborhood to neighborhood, those buns seem as constant as the Vienna dogs themselves.

=R=

"Hey, hey, careful man! There's a beverage here!" --The Dude, The Big Lebowski

LTHForum.com -- The definitive Chicago-based culinary chat site

ronnie_suburban 'at' yahoo.com

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The next time you find yourself in Chicago and are seeking some savory goodness, I recommend stopping at Superdawg on N. Milwaukee. It's a drive-in thats been around for 60 years now and serves one of the best all beef dogs in the city. They serve their dogs with all the traditional Chicago style trimmings, a pickled green tomato, and some killer fresh cut fries. Plus, IMO any place that has a giant hot dog in tarzan costume on its roof is worth checking out.

gallery_27738_5257_37429.jpg

Superdawg

6363 N Milwaukee Ave

Chicago, IL

(773) 763-0660

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thank you for helping me decide where to take my wife for dinner tonight

Sandy Levine
The Oakland Art Novelty Company

sandy@TheOaklandFerndale.com www.TheOaklandFerndale.com

www.facebook.com/ArtNoveltyCompany twitter: @theoakland

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Until THE Mayor Daley (not Richie) put them out of business, the best dogs were from the roving hot dog carts around the city. For a $1, you got two dogs and the fixings. Brings back memories of working in the LOOP. City Council passed an ordinance requiring all food sellers have running water, no more carts!

I'm surprised no one mentions the Vienna Factory Restaurant. A good dog and you get to purchase the big 1/4# Vienna dogs!-Dick

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City Council passed an ordinance requiring all food sellers have running water, no more carts!

I still see carts in some areas. Most are homemade and run by Mexicans. They sell ices, corn and other snacks but no real food.

Living hard will take its toll...
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The people working the counter at the Wieners Circle were perfectly nice to me, it's just that they were fighting with one another the whole time!

I wonder, is there a bun supplier that dominates the market the way Vienna Beef does? Presumably nobody is baking buns on premises, so they have to come from somewhere.

The last time I was in Chicago (the visit between the Wieners Circle visit and the Budacki's visit -- yes, I name my visits by hot dog places), I also had a really full schedule, with meals at Alinea and Moto plus a bunch of corporate events I had to attend. There was no time even to get more than a few blocks away from my hotel. However, about three blocks behind the Ritz-Carlton, on N. Rush, there was a place called Downtown Dogs. It felt wrong to get a hot dog there, because how could a hot dog near the Ritz-Carlton be legitimate, but the choice was between Downtown Dogs and not having a hot dog at all on that visit. And you know what? It was good. Really good. Even a good bun.

The place I've found a lot of variation is in the non-hot-dog items, especially fries. Not that I've had really good fries at any Chicago hot dog place, but there has nonetheless been a huge range of quality or lack thereof.

Rosen Bakeries, a local bakery, supplies most Chicago area dog joints with their buns, as well as selling a mighty fine rye to the delis in town. They offer a wide range of products to the consumer market as well.

Edited by mark922 (log)
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  • 2 weeks later...
Until THE Mayor Daley (not Richie) put them out of business, the best dogs were from the roving hot dog carts around the city. For a $1, you got two dogs and the fixings. Brings back memories of working in the LOOP. City Council passed an ordinance requiring all food sellers have running water, no more carts!

I'm surprised no one mentions the Vienna Factory Restaurant. A good dog and you get to purchase the big 1/4# Vienna dogs!-Dick

My Uncle had a Hot Dog Truck that he too around UIC. Too bad they aren't around anymore.

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