In honor of National Hot Dog Day we’ve rounded up the 10 best hot dog vendors in the Windy City!
Chicagoans don’t need a specific day to eat a hot dog, but if there is one to celebrate one of our city’s all-time favorite snacks we’re all for it! Once upon a time a Depression-era budget meal, there are today few foods that elicit such a passionate response in the people of Chicago as the hot dog. Go-to stops for a pre-game meal or late-night sanctuaries for the buzzed and undernourished, hot dog stands are protected with unwavering loyalty in Chicagoland.
It might now be considered a classic American snack but in Chicago, the sausage capital of the United States, it’s a full meal and you’ll be met with a dogmatic disposition if you try and mess around too much with the traditional assemblage of ingredients.
The boiled all-beef frankfurter is most commonly served on a steamed poppy seed bun packed with seven ingredients that make up the ‘dragged through the garden’ dog: yellow mustard, green relish, chopped white onion, a kosher pickle spear, tomatoes, sports peppers, and a dusting of celery salt.
However they are served, most Chicago vendors will insist that any Chicago hot dog needs to be built around a crisp dog with a good snap surrounded by a melting pot of flavors inside a steamed bun, and be nowhere near any kind of ketchup.
Based on reputation, longevity, our audience’s most popular choices, and our own experiences at Secret Chicago we’ve rounded up some of the must-visit Chicago hot dog vendors. Whether you’re a season local or visiting the Windy City, here’s where to find the best hot dogs in Chicago.
Superdawg Drive-In is one of the most iconic hot dog vendors in Chicago and something of an architectural landmark with its giant anthropomorphic hot dogs on the roof and distinctive neon kitsch design. It’s also home to one of the most distinctive hot dogs in the city though those at Superdawg might tell you it’s more than a hot dog, in a realm of its own.
According to owner and operator Lisa Drucker, what you’ll get at Superdawg is thicker and heavier than the dogs you get at most places. The dogs are extra-large. So large, in fact, that while other hot dog vendors bulk-buy traditional poppy seed buns, Superdawg apparently has to have custom buns made specially to hold the Superdawg.
These dogs also come with green pickles tomatoes, bright green relish, and without celery salt. They’re also topped with housemade crinkle-cut fries. All of which is packed into a cartoon-covered box and brought to your car by uniformed servers. Both the dog and the service are phenomenal.
Where: 6363 N. Milwaukee Avenue, Chicago, IL / 333 S. Milwaukee Avenue, Wheeling, IL
Though not strictly in Chicago, many Chicagoans will tell you that Gene & Jude’s is the magnum opus of hot dogs and absolutely worth the short trip to River Grove. You’ll find the ‘depression dog’ here as opposed to a ‘dragged through the garden’ dog. The hot dogs come in a normal bun without poppy seeds, layered with mustard, brown relish, onions, and sport peppers then topped with a fistful of hand-cut in-house fries.
While you’ll be charmed by the service at Superdawg Drive-In, Gene & Jude’s is more of a brusque no-nonsense establishment. So much so that if you enter the Gene & Jude’s website you’ll be greeted with their giant capitalized slogan that reads “NO SEATS. NO KETCHUP. NO PRETENSE. NO NONSENSE. AMERICA’S #1 HOT DOG.”
Entering the unassuming North River Grove hot dog vendor you’ll find none of the other mascots, signage, nor frills of any kind that are synonymous with other Chicago hot dog joints. Gene and Jude’s offers a frank, straightforward hot dog experience that is demonstratively championed by many Chicagoans.
Where: 2720 N. River Road, River Grove, IL
3. Redhot Ranch
Another place that sells a juicy depression dog is Redhot Ranch. If you’re all about simplicity, efficiency, and affordability while wanting an exceptional hot dog experience, Redhot Ranch certainly has you covered. To be on this list despite having only opened in 2005 is a testament to the hot dog stand’s meteoric rise. Though in recent years the Redhot Ranch Burger has become a staple in Chicago, the hot dogs are equally as impressive.
A Redhot Ranch ‘depression dog’ comes served with mustard, relish, sport peppers, and onions with a side of fries and will cost you just $4.29.
Where: 2449 W Armitage Ave, Chicago, IL / 3057 N Ashland Ave, Chicago, IL / 500 W 35th St. Chicago, IL
Fat Johnnie’s off of Western between 72nd and 73rd is undoubtedly one of the city’s many iconic hot dog stands. It’s important not to judge a book by its cover here as the little shack on Western Avenue is a far cry from any flashy establishment. Nonetheless, it’s an essential visit for any Chicagoan or hot dog fan and will forever be cemented in Chicago history.
If you’re a purist you may just be offended by the popular hot dog and tamale combos known as the Mother-in-Law and the Mighty Dog but after a bite of anything from her you can bet your bottom dollar, you’ll be grateful you came. Prices range from a Red Hot at $2.50 to a Might Dog at $5, in all cases, you’ll leave questioning what kind of magic happens inside this humble little streetside shack.
Given its nature, there is nowhere to dine here but you can eat at a picnic bench in the adjacent vacant lot, wolf it down in the car, or perch anywhere you see fit like days of old.You can find the Fat Johnnie’s menu here.
Where: 7242 S Western Ave, Chicago IL
Carry on up W Grand Ave for a good while into Humbolt Park and you’ll come across Jimmy’s Red Hots. A fixture on the West Side for over 65 years, the family-owned and operated hot dog stand lays claim to being the longest-standing hot dog stand in the city of Chicago. It has been selling tasty Vienna Beef hot dogs on steamed buns accompanied by a handful of fresh-cut greasy fries since 1954.
There are few places you’ll find more of a quintessential Chicago experience than Jimmy’s in Humbolt Park when it comes to hot dogs.
Where: 4000 W Grand Ave, Chicago, IL
Formerly Phil’s Last Stand, this beloved Ukrainian Village hot dog stand is another reliable joint for all manner of snacks and has become a sanctuary for Ukrainian Village residents at all hours of the day. The impressively tasty Chicago hot dog here is “always charred and never steamed” but served Chicago style with mustard, relish, onions, tomatoes, sport peppers and celery salt.
Fatso’s Last Stand is another place that is billed as having one of the best burgers in the city as well as one of the best hot dogs. Oh, and it has world-class shakes too, but we’re here for the hot dogs and we promise you won’t be let down by a Char Dog With Fries that costs only5.00
Where: 2258 W Chicago Ave, Chicago, IL / 1982 N. Clybourn Ave, Chicago, IL
Serving up Chicago-style hot dogs on the North Side since ’67, Wolfy’s is another place you’ll find perfectly charred dogs and ’60s-era frills. The Wolfy’s impaled hot dog on a sparkling fork sign is an unmissable part of the fabric of Peterson Avenue and encapsulates all it means to be a prestigious Chicago hot dog joint: heritage, history, and reliability.
Everything about an experience at Wolfy’s is a delight. The establishment is always clean, the staff is extra friendly, and of course, the hot dog is exceptional. While a hot dog here will cost you only 2.99 we recommend the Jumbo Dog at $4.99 for the real deal.
Where: 2734 W. Peterson Ave, Chicago, IL
Somewhere that has served the Obamas must be doing something right, right? Close to Wrigley Field, Byron’s is another no-frills hot dog stand that sells one of the best and most authentic Chicago-style hot dogs in the city. Order everything on your hot dog and you’ll be feasting on a sublime ‘dragged through the garden’ dog that sticks to the plan with the traditional assemblage of ingredients.
A Byron’s hot dog costs $4.42 while a Jumbo Dog will set you back a little extra at $5.75.
Where: 1017 W. Irving Park, Chicago, IL / 1701 W. Lawrence Avenue, Chicago, IL
Henry’s Drive-In is another that requires a little trip to the suburbs located out in Cicero but again, it is absolutely worth the effort. A landmark on Route 66 at W. Ogden Avenue, Henry’s Drive-In has been serving adored hot dogs in Cicero since the ’50s. The “It’s a meal in itself” slogan is no lie. It sums up what you get here – a reliable hot dog with no shortcomings that never fails to leave you satisfied.You can find the Henry’s Drive-In menu here.
Where: 6031 W Ogden Ave, Cicero, IL
We can’t ignore a hot dog stand of such legendary status. For any hot dog enthusiast, Wieners Circle is somewhat of a rite of passage – a quintessential Chicago experience that’s both blissful and barbaric.
There must be very few hot dog stands around the world with the same fame as Wieners Circle, let alone any to have had its own reality TV show. The Lincoln Park stand and its beloved Chicago-style hot dogs have become a staple of the Windy City since opening in 1983, but it’s the tongue-in-cheek barrage of abuse that has gone a long way in boosting the stand’s infamy.
Rumor has it one of the proprietors in the early 1990s called a drunk customer an “asshole” to get his attention which then set about a culture of late-night abuse between customers and staff. With the stand remaining open into the early hours, drunk customers have long gathered for some late-night food and a slice of the action. These days Wieners Circles’ own Instagram page reads “serving up high-quality street food with a side of insults”.
Recently Wieners Circle has turned its parking lot into an 800-square-foot patio and added a bar serving alcohol as well as a basketball net and other exciting additions.
The hot dogs here are also charred and served “all dressed up” with the Chicago seven toppings of mustard, relish, tomato, white onion, pickle, sport peppers, and celery salt.
Where: 2622 N Clark St, Chicago, IL
Honorary mention: Portillo’s
With its history, efficiency, and popularity we can’t not include Chicago’s most famous fast-casual restaurant on this list. After opening in 1963 as a small hot dog stand, Portillo’s has since flourished into a Midwestern treasure of national recognition.
Locals and tourists alike now flock to locations in River North and the South Loop to taste the all-beef Vienna hot dogs at Portillo’s that have helped shoot the Chicago-style hot dog to fame. At Portillo’s you’ll find a ‘dragged through the garden dog’ and a whole load of pictures of celebrities who have come to sample it.
Where: Multiple locations (Check out all Portillo locations here).
Where: 2622 N Clark Street, Chicago, IL