photo credit: Emily Schindler
Dog Day Afternoon
Going to Dog Day Afternoon is a lot like stopping by your neighbor’s place for a bite, if your neighbor had a Ms. Pacman machine, a sick vintage record collection, and enough wit to name a hot dog joint after a classic heist movie that was shot in the neighborhood. This Windsor Terrace spot makes excellent Chicago-style Italian sandwiches (a hot dog is a sandwich, fight us), and you should eat here ASAP.
Despite the menu’s Midwestern accent, this is a VBR (Very Brooklyn Restaurant). Yeah, they make a Chicago dog, a Chicago-style Italian beef sandwich, and a Chicago-style Italian sausage sandwich loaded with giardiniera—but when the weather's nice, the guy grilling the sausage will be doing so on the sidewalk, wearing a Roll N Roaster T-shirt. He’ll dress the sandwich on a folding table perched over a few crates of $2 records, and more than a few of those records will be Rat Pack alumnus. Customers, neighborhood folks, staff (who knows, really; the lines here are blurry) will lounge on lawn chairs scattered along the sidewalk between the storefront and the street.
We love it when so-called junk food is taken seriously, and that’s exactly what happens behind the counter at Dog Day Afternoon. The cheese sauce that crowns several dishes has the texture of liquid crayon with an ideal balance of salt and cream, which is how we like our cheese sauce. Proper topping ratios are carefully maintained so that nothing overwhelms, and the Chicago dog is so textbook perfect you can cross-check it against the official Vienna Beef diagram by the register.
It might feel easy to write this place off as just a really good hot dog spot with a cute space. It is that, but what truly makes Dog Day Afternoon special is the way it's become a fixture in the community. Even if it’s your first time here, the staff will make you feel like this has been your spot for years. After a visit or two, you might find yourself exclusively seeing movies at the Nitehawk down the block so you have an excuse to grab a hot dog after. The restaurant worms its way into your heart. It makes you want to be a regular.
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This Vienna Beef hot dog comes in a poppy seed bun with Ecto-Cooler colored relish, cute little sport peppers, pickles, tomatoes, and a sprinkle of celery salt. Even the proper Chicagoans we’ve taken here say this is as close to the real thing as you can get out east.
Chili Cheese Dog
Some chili cheese dogs dissolve into a soggy, inedible mess the moment you look at them, but not this one. Through some kind of alchemy, Dog Day's version manages to maintain impeccable form from the first bite to the last. We especially love the depth of flavor the chili imparts and the plasticine texture of the cheese.
One of our sleeper favorites on the menu, we’d come here just to get the Frito pie. It’s a study in textures; The Fritos somehow maintain a satisfying crunch despite being buried under layers of expertly applied meat sauce and cheese. It’s the best Frito pie we’ve had.
If you want an Italian beef made by chefs with a bit of a pedigree, you can get that here. The giardiniera packs some serious heat, and the sesame-seeded bun has the perfect balance of squish and chew. You’ll want to order your sandwich thoroughly dipped.
If you were planning to share this with someone, change your plans. The orange whip is both impossibly light and decadently creamy, with the perfect hit of citrus tang. You’ll be scraping your straw against the bottom of the cup before you know it, desperately trying to scrounge up one last sip.
A charred, split sausage positively smothered in grainy mustard, onions, and sport peppers. If you want your dog to bite back, get this one.
Chili Cheese Fries
The only thing we don’t love. The chili and cheese are excellent, but better applied on the hot dog and Frito pie. The fries, alas, are a bit limp.