Chicago Hot Dogs

Chicago Hot Dog

Vendor after vendor I visited along the shores of Lake Michigan left me with no doubt as to what constitutes an original Chicago hot dog. I will not be accused of riffing on this one. The essentials are a Chicago red hot dog (simmer the hot dogs with a beet if you can’t find these at your local store), a poppy seed bun (not easy to find), authentic neon-green relish (also not easy to find), and celery salt. And never, ever, use ketchup.–Lucinda Scala Quinn

LC A You Original Note

Okay, so this is how they do their dogs in the Windy City. Or so we’re told by this author. We’ve actually had a little contention brewing, with Chicagoans telling us that it must be sport peppers and not pepperoncini on their dogs, which is actually something we’d heard before. So use whichever you please. What we really want to know is how YOU do YOUR dogs. Tell us all about your original dog in a comment below. C’mon, ‘fess up. Crushed potato chips? Shaved truffles? Grape jelly? Oh boy, we can’t wait to hear.

Chicago Hot Dog

  • Quick Glance
  • (1)
  • 10 M
  • 20 M
  • Makes 4 dogs
5/5 - 1 reviews
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Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C).

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Brush the outside of the buns with the butter and sprinkle with the poppy seeds. Place them on a baking sheet, cut-side down, and toast in the oven for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, simmer the hot dogs in the pot of water until heated through, about 8 minutes.

Place a hot dog in each bun. Place a pickle spear on 1 side of each hot dog and 2 tomato wedges on the other side. Squirt or drizzle the mustard in a zigzag pattern over the hot dogs. Spoon a dollop of relish onto each one, and scatter some white onion over each one. Place a pepperoncini on top of each hot dog, sprinkle with celery salt, and serve.

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Recipe Testers Reviews

I’ve always been curious about the dragged-through-the-garden Chicago-style hot dog. I’m a die-hard ketchup fan (I know I risk my life saying that), but I loved this version. Though this is more a set of assembly instructions than a recipe, the result is still delicious. Tangy, a little sweet, crunchy, some heat…what more could a summer meal want.

This was my first Chicago-style hot dog and I really enjoyed it, so it won’t be my last. Here in North Carolina, if you ask for a hot dog all the way, you get slaw, chili, mustard, and onions. I’m not much for eating chili on mine, and have mine without chili even when I make it at home. I couldn’t convince hubby to try the Chicago dog, but my son and I enjoyed ours. I don’t care that much for sweet pickle relish, but it worked with all the other ingredients and I liked the way the buns were toasted with the butter and poppy seeds. I used Nathan’s all-beef hot dogs.

This recipe makes for a decent hot dog. The choice of all beef is always a winner in my book and the toppings were fine, even if I’m not a fan of the bilious green relish. I liked the way the tomatoes and onions were put into the sides of the bun. We also preferred heating them in water as opposed to cooking them on the grill; hot dogs are always juicier that way. I didn’t have to make the poppy seed buns since they were available at my local grocery store. I did forget to look for pepperoncini at the store so I used Peppadew peppers instead. The sprinkling of the celery salt was a nice addition to the overall taste, as was the pickle spear. All in all, everyone enjoyed the Chicago Hot Dog.

The only problem I noted was that it was a little difficult to eat—very messy. I might suggest that a top-opening bun would make this easier. Most buns available are open on the side and this makes the toasting and filling a more hands-on project.


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  1. There are two famous hot dogs in Chicago. Gene & Jude’s (voted the best hot dog in the US in one survey and the top ten in another) and Portillo’s. They both use the top end Vienna Beef Dog (there is more than one grade) and they stand up to steaming. You probably can get them anywhere if you have a friend in the restaurant business because Sysco distributes them. Sara Lee is not the original bun as it has no poppy seeds and can’t hold up to a few minutes of steaming. Lots of Chicago Dogs omit the poppy seeds, but a good quality bun is essential. Sysco also carries Alpha Baking Company’s hot dog buns with or without the poppy seeds. The pickles are usually fresh refrigerator pickles, closer to the cucumber side of life than a dill. S. Rosen’s Bakery in Chicago supplies 90% of the hot dog buns in Chicago and yes the poppy seed ones. If you want a Chicago Dog you want Vienna Beef and the right bun. Anything else is not a Chicago Dog.

  2. She’s ba-ack! I just wanted to say that Rainbo brand makes a “gourmet seeded coney” that’s extra large, wide enough to hold more stuff but not as wide as a sub/hoagie roll. As I understand it, the brand originated in Chicago, so that may be the authentic bun.

    It was owned by SaraLee but was sold to Grupo Bimbo in 2010 (got this info from wikipedia), a company in Mexico that owns a lot of former US brands. I don’t know where Rainbo breads are available, other than here in California, but if they have them in your area, go for what appears to be the real deal for your Chicago-style dog. ;)

    Rainbo Gourmet Seeded Hot Dog Buns

  3. Ah. The Big Agency Hot Dog. Those were the days. Heh.

    Imagine a regular size hot dog bun with one of those skinny footlongs in it, then all the toppings you wanted at one low price! Many a time I succumbed to the lure of hot dog, chili, cheese, onions, peppers and sauerkraut. Oh, man is that a flavor bomb. Fortunately, my stomach didn’t have problems with that combo. Still love it, but too much trouble to assemble everything, i.e., make chili most of the time. But, when there is leftover chili and available sauerkraut, the rest is a piece of cake…so to speak. ;)

  4. I like Nathan’s hotdogs–I prefer to put mine under the broiler, not to char, but don’t like them boiled. Thick yellow mustard & saurkraut–yum. I’m a California native, and I also like a good chili dog, with onions & cheese.

  5. For those of you in the Seattle area, I was able to procure ALL the ingredients for authentic Chicago dogs from Central Market in Shoreline. Contact the hot deli department and they’ll hook ya up :)

  6. Thanks for the great Chicago Dog tutorial! I have a question, what IS the best brand of dog for your Chicago Dog. Way out here in the west, we associate Vienna Beef with Chicago? Is that the “go to” or is that a mass brain washing marketing ploy? (she said with a slightly sheepish grin) Seriously, what brand do you recommend?

    1. Oh dear. This could get tricky, naming a favorite hot dog brand. Love to hear a variety of responses with why you like your brand, folks, so Sandy can make an informed decision….

      1. California Girl, here. I was raised on Ball Park meat franks. Don’t like the beef. Scorn the turkey. However, I also like Caspar’s when I want a milder, less salty dog. I wouldn’t want to pile them with stuff, though, their flavor would be totally obllterated. Ball Park can handle it, and “they plump when you cook ’em.” They do! ;)

      1. Alas, the carts were outlawed many years ago. I remember Tony’s Pump Room, but the best hotdog ever was out of a cart at Wrigley Field aka Cub’s Park. O’Hare has a mock cart and serves the Chicago hotdog. AA terminal and perhaps United.

        1. Ah. Many thanks for clarifying, Karen. Clearly I’m dating myself when I say I tucked into hot dogs from carts in Chicago as a kid while I was walking down the sidewalk, taking in all the buildings and businesspeople, while there visiting with my dad. Sad that other kids won’t have that same memory….

  7. People from Chicago seem to enjoy their salad with a frank inside it…wait, that’s a hot dog?…You got me…Boiled is fine as long as the dog is in its natural casing…kraut and mustard are all that’s needed.

  8. Google for sources for the sport pickles, relish etc which are not available in my area of Southern California.

  9. Chicago dogs are wonderful, even if boiled (the addition of celery salt — however that first happened — was inspired). LC readers should also google “Hot Doug’s”, and definitely make a pilgrimage if they’re ever in Chicago. “Franks ‘n Dawgs” is another place worth a visit.

    Chicago is definitely one of the best food cities in the US.

    On the other hand (and speaking strictly as a New Yorker), no matter what Chicagoans may tell about their pizza, don’t expect it to bear the slightest resemblance, however vague, to actual pizza. I suspect I’ve just ignited an inter-city flame war — but if hot dogs are sizzling on it, I can live with that.

  10. My favorite – a bit fussy but oh so worth it. Use a good Maine Made Red Dog – Jordan’s or Rice’s are the best – great snap when you bite them. Cook your favorite way do not cut into the dog. Take it off heat before it splits. Cut a slit in the top. You’ll know which side is the top because it will lay that way on the plate. Do NOT cut the ends open you want a pocket. Stuff that pocket with cheese (I like to sprinkle a little garlic powder over the cheese.) and place in a medium hot fry pan add a few drops of water & quickly cover and turn off the heat. Let sit while you butter & griddle a top slit bun. Here in Maine we always use straight sided buns. once the bun is toasted open and add a mustardy relish (my favorite is homemade zucchini relish and a tiny bit of ketchup if you wish. Add the dog – Fit for a King or Queen. It actually takes longer to explain it than to do it!

  11. I’m from the Buffalo-Niagara region. We would never boil a hot dog! Always use Shlens dogs cooked on a grill until the casing gets dark and crispy. I like mine with mustard and dill pickle slices on a fresh-baked roll.

    1. Yeah, marla, I hear you on the not boiling a dog. But that’s why this is a Chicago dog and not a Buffalo-Niagra dog, I guess. But I love the sounds of yours, grilled on a still-warm roll….

        1. At Hot Doug’s, you can choose any one of five cooking methods, for any sort of encased meat, from boiled, to charcoal grilled, to deep-fried, to… I no longer remember what else.

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