In other parts of the country, a hot dog is just a quick, cheap meal you serve to kids or glom down at the ballpark. In Chicago, a hot dog is a lifelong tradition and there's only one way to eat it - our way. There are whole debates over the best hot dog stand and over the right way to serve one. There's the traditional Chicago hot dog (steamed bun, fresh tomatoes, diced onion, relish, pick spear, sports peppers, and mustard). There are also variations on the traditional dog and specialty dogs, depending on the stand. One thing is universal in Chicago - we all know that no one eats a hot dog with ketchup. Seriously. What's wrong with those people?
While there are a ton of restaurants around the city that serve them, the best place to get the tasty delicacies we're talking about is at an authentic Chicago hot dog stand. These places are local landmarks and everyone has their favorite. The discerning Chicago dog lover knows that some of these places might not look like much, and you might have to eat on your feet, but they take their hot dogs very seriously.
5 Great Chicago Hot Dog Stands
Jimmy's Red Hots. Jimmy's has been a west side staple since the 1950's, serving up what they call the best Depression style hot dog. They're very serious about the no ketchup rule at Jimmy's and there isn't a drop of the stuff in the establishment. Their Chicago style traditional dog is made with Vienna beef and served with fresh cut fries. If you're wondering exactly how good it is, it's been featured on the Travel Channel as well as a number of "Best of" lists, but maybe the testament to go by is the locals who swear by the place. It's an old fashioned hot dog stand with no technology and none of the latest fads, so make sure you bring cash because that's the only way they take payment.
Superdawg Drive-In. Superdawg has been a popular location in Norwood Park on Chicago's north side since it opened in 1948. The original owners were Maurie and Flaurie Berman and their family still runs the place today. You'll also notice the hot dog mascots on the rooftop, which were named after the original owners. Superdawg is a traditional drive-in with carhops. The place has been featured on multiple television shows and it's a regular stop for hot dog connoisseurs. What's different about their dogs? Superdawg features crinkle cut fries, a bit of a kick to their dog, and pickled green tomatoes rather than the garden variety red most places serve.
Henry's Hot Dogs. As the sign says, Henry's hot dogs are "a meal in itself". Henry's is located in Cicero, just west of Chicago, on Route 66 (Ogden Ave). The place is straight out of the heyday of Route 66; established in the 50's and probably not renovated much since. But their hot dogs are outstanding as the packed lunchtime parking lot can attest. They're served with fries inside and wrapped around the hotdog and the traditional Chicago style condiments.
Gene & Jude's. Gene & Jude's is a local favorite and it was named the Best Hot Dog in the US in Every Day with Rachael Ray. It's located in River Grove and the focus here is all on the food. There are no seats, no gimmicks, and of course, no ketchup. But the dogs and fries are among the best Chicago has to offer.
Weiner Circle. Weiner Circle is probably one of the most well-known hot dog stands in the area and, whatever else you have to say, they do serve a really great charred hot dog. This place is probably best known as a tourist attraction because the staff and customers are known for being rude and boisterous after a late night of drinking and you should probably do some research before asking for a chocolate shake.
Chicago takes a lot of our food seriously but with hot dogs, there's really no place in the world that compares. The 5 places we included in this list are fantastic, but narrowing down to five leaves out a lot of great places. Chicago is dotted with awesome hot dog stands in almost every neighborhood. And Chicagoans know there's nothing better than finding a little, neighborhood stand with great food.