Marginalia, Graduate Blog

Chicago Style Hot Dogs

Dan Mollison

This is how Chicagoans do hot dogs.

This is how Chicagoans do hot dogs.

One thing you see almost everywhere you walk in Chicago are hot dog joints, where you can grab some dogs, some fries, and often a milkshake too.  There’s no way around it: Chicagoans love hot dogs, and we’re very particular about how they’re fixed up.

Most everywhere in Chicago that sells hot dogs will sell them “Chicago Style,” which entails adding a pile of juicy condiments on top of the dog.  A typical Chicago Style hot dog includes the hot dog, a poppyseed bun, mustard, relish, chopped onion, tomato, a pickle spear, sport peppers, and celery salt all piled on top.  It’s truly a hot dog experience you’ll only find in Chicago.

So where are the best places in Chicago to find a good Chicago Style hot dog?  This is a subject of heated debate, but one clear fan favorite is Portillo’s, a hot dog restaurant chain that always seems busy and thriving.  From my experience (which goes back a long way: my parents started taking me to Portillo’s when I was a small child), Portillo’s is the best, and as a bonus, nearly everything else that Portillo’s sells (ranging from burgers to salads to pasta) is also quite excellent: it’s the highest-quality fast food place I’ve ever known.

Gene's and Jude's: a legendary restaurant where you can get an authentic Chicago hot dog.

Gene's and Jude's: a legendary restaurant where you can get an authentic Chicago hot dog.

Another option people rage about is Gene’s and Jude’s in River Grove.  It’s a little outside of the city, but these folks are purists: they sell Chicago Style hot dogs, fries, soda, and little else.  A word of caution if you’re ever visiting here: do not ask for ketchup with your hot dog.  According to tradition, ketchup belongs nowhere near a Chicago Style hot dog, and if you ask for ketchup at Gene’s and Jude’s, they will publicly rebuff you.  They don’t even carry it in the restaurant: a nearby McDonald’s within walking distance started charging for ketchup packets, due to the flow of Gene’s and Jude’s customers who kept asking for ketchup.

The Chicago Style hot dog is not only a classic taste of summer here: it’s the kind of treat you can only find in Chicago.

Chicago Style Hot Dogs

One thing you see almost everywhere you walk in Chicago are hot dog joints, where you can grab some dogs, some fries, and often a milkshake too.  There’s no way …

Film & Video - Creative Producing MFA Dan Mollison, dmollison@gmail.com
600 S. Michigan Ave. Chicago, IL 60605

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