The Best Hot Dog Stands In Chicago
photo credit: Christina Slaton
How do you separate the "just fine" hot dogs of Chicago from the exceptional? Is it the snap of the casing, the char of the dog, or the absence of ketchup? To answer this crucial question, we've visited more stands and eaten more hot dogs than one normally would in a lifetime. Out of the city’s hundreds of spots for red hots, polish sausages, and classic dogs, these are the 13 best.
What To Get: Red hot (a hot dog), Mother-In-Law (tamale in hot dog bun with chili), Mighty Dog (hot dog and tamale in hot dog bun with cheese and chili).
What To Know: Fat Johnnies is a tiny trailer with a walk-up window in Marquette Park. It opened in 1972, is cash only, and looks like a strong wind might blow it over.
What To Get: Chicago-style dog, Polish sausage, fried shrimp (yes, seriously).
What To Know: 35th Street is a block away from Guaranteed Rate Field, so it's perfect to hit up before or after a Sox game. There are picnic tables out front and it's cash only.
What To Get: Polish with grilled onions and mustard, grape soda.
What To Know: This counter-service spot in University Village opened in 1939 and claims to have created the original Maxwell Street Polish.
What To Get: Polish with grilled onions and mustard.
What To Know: Located right next to Jim’s Original, this 24-hour stand also claims to have created the original Polish sausage. We won’t pick sides.
What To Get: Char dog, cheddar fries.
What To Know: Besides the infamous late-night antics (a.k.a. good-natured verbal abuse), The Wiener's Circle in Lincoln Park has good food and a giant dog-friendly back patio where they serve booze. It's open until 2am during the week and until 4am on the weekends.
What To Get: Char dog, cheese fries, chocolate cake shake.
What To Know: The original stand opened in 1963, the River North location opened in 1994, and now Portillo's is a national chain. It's a tourist-filled restaurant with indoor seating and a drive-thru, but it’s a classic.
What To Get: Red Hot with fries, Polish with fries.
What To Know: Located in Humboldt Park, opened in 1954, they really really hate ketchup (there isn’t a drop of it anywhere in the building). Cash only.
What To Get: Hot dog (Chicago-style) with fries, Depression Dog, a side of cheese sauce for the fries.
What To Know: Having opened in 2005, Redhot is one of the city’s newer stands but they brought the Depression Dog (an all-beef dog on a plain bun topped with yellow mustard, onions, and hot sport peppers) back from obscurity. There are multiple cash-only locations, but the Logan Square one is open until 4am during the week and 5am on weekends.
What To Get: Hot dog, bratwurst.
What To Know: This hot dog stand opened in 1975 and is close to Wrigley Field. It has a few outdoor tables and is a great option if you don't want to spend $9 for a dog at the game.
What To Get: Char dog, double-dog, Polish.
What To Know: Since 1967, Wolfy’s has been famous for both its sign (a giant hot dog on a fork) and its Chicago-style char dog. It also makes a great classic Chicago dog, and has seating inside.
What To Get: Hot dog with fries, double-dog with fries.
What To Know: Opened in 1946, but moved to River Grove in 1950. No ketchup and no credit cards (it's cash only).
What To Get: Superdawg, Whoopskidawg, sundae.
What To Know: This old-school drive-in (where you order into a speaker from your car) opened in 1948. The giant plastic hot dogs on top of the restaurant represent the original owners, Maurie and Flaurie Berman.
What To Get: Chicago-style dog, Tijuana street dog, apple brandy duck sausage.
What To Know: This (relatively new) Lincoln Park counter-service institution is not for Chicago dog purists, but for the trailblazers. They use meats like rattlesnake, alligator, and kangaroo, and have unconventional toppings, like pineapple or teriyaki sauce.