Chicago-Style Hot Dogs
By Samantha Stepp
Chicago has two iconic foods: hot dogs and deep dish pizza. I was in Chicago for St. Patty’s Day this past weekend and having already tried the latter of these two foods, decided to get my very first Chicago-style hot dog.
Anyone from Illinois (or who watches the Travel Channel on a semi-regular basis) knows Chicago-style hot dogs consist of an all-beef dog, diced white onions, mustard, bright green sweet pickle relish, a dill pickle spear, tomato slices, pickled peppers, and a dash of celery salt on a poppy seed bun. Ketchup? Don’t even think about it.
Now you might be thinking, “Get a Chicago-style hot dog in Chicago? What an utterly clichéd and touristy thing to do” but hold off your judgement just for a moment, because I have a vested interest in trying this dog.
About a year ago, I put up a post on my other food blog, So Good, about all the different regional hot dog styles (American, Coney Island, New York, Chicago) and polled readers about which one they thought was the best. As for my own vote, I put down Coney Island because I assumed nothing would ever beat the winning combination of warm, aromatic chili and gooey cheese. BUT I had never tried any of the other hot dog styles and didn’t truly have anything to compare it to.
Well readers, Chicago WON. I resolved to try it, my love of gooey cheese-chili and hatred of mustard be damned.
Due to many Sunday closings, it took me and my friends several tries and many blocks of walking through shady neighborhoods to find an open hot dog place crouched in the corner of a northern Chicago suburb. Once there, we ordered at the dirty yellow counter (cash only) and had to move around a bunch of chairs and tables in the narrow dining room to find a configuration that could seat us all.
But you know what? It was SO WORTH IT. This hot dog was amazing. The beefy warmth of the hot dog was set off by the tang of the peppers and dill pickle, while the onions provided savory depth. Even the mustard struck the perfect tone in this harmony of garden flavors. The relish was dark green instead of bright green, but other than that it was perfect. Maybe even better than a Coney dog.
Now here is where I should give you the name and address of this great little hole-in-the-wall hot dog place so you can go experience it for yourself…but I failed. I didn’t get the name or address of this place. All I know is it was across from a Walgreens. And hours of searching “Walgreens Chicago” on Google maps yields lots of frustration and no hole-in-the-wall hot dog places.
In a way, I’m kind of happy I don’t remember. There’s something poetic about letting a nameless place remain nameless, so I’m going to let this treasure lay where I found it. If you’re meant to discover this hot dog place, reader, you will. But this time, try and remember the name for the rest of us.
***UPDATE: I found it! It’s Mic Duck’s Drive In, address 3401 West Belmont Avenue. So much for poetry…
Photo courtesy of The Paupered Chef.