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Chicago Hot Dogs from a N.J./N.Y. Perspective

  • j
  • John Fox Jul 14, 2001 11:25 PM

I am a hot dog fanatic from N.J. I've tried almost every hot dog joint in this state and many in New York. I agree with a previous poster who said that the 2 styles (N.Y. and Chicago) are different and like comparing apples to oranges. Hot dogs are a hobby of mine, and I was picked to ride on the local newspaper's Munchmobile ( a hot dog covered van that pops in and reviews roadside food). I've never had an authentic Chicago hot dog, but the feeling in this part of the country is that too many condiments is no good. We here enjoy the taste of the hot dog with just a little bit of mustard. We like em charbroiled or cooked to a crispy finish on a griddle. There is more taste than you get from a boiled hot dog. In New York, Papaya King and Katz's make excellent hot dogs that I would put up against any dogs anywhere. They come from Marathon Enterprises in N.J. and are better than their famous Sabrett house brand. In New Jersey, Syd's makes a charbroiled, spicy all beef dog that is considered the best in the state. Made from Best Provisions in Newark, N.J.
There is one place in N.J. that serves the famous Vienna Beef hot dog. It is a hot dog truck called Uncle Frankies in Bayville, N.J. This brand is similar to Best and Sabrett in N.J. although the one I had was skinless. I would like to ask you Chicagoans a few questions. Do you really consider the dogs from Vienna Beef superior to Best's Kosher hot dogs(the ones in Chicago, not Newark)? These same franks (Best's Kosher) are sold here under the name Shofar Kosher. To me, these are better than Vienna. Maybe it is because I had the Best grilled, while the Vienna dogs were served boiled. Another question; I also heard that the hot dogs from SuperDawg ARE NOT Vienna Beef, but in fact come from Klements in Wisconsin. Is there any truth to this? Also, how do Chicago Red Hots compare to Vienna, in your opinion? I heard that Chicago Red Hots were started by someone who used to work for Vienna Beef. Have you ever heard of hot dogs from Schmalz's Provisions in Newark, N.J. I know someone who works there, and they said that their biggest market is Chicago.
And lastly, what do you think of Usinger's Franks? These are from Milwaukee and are sold in the Chicago area. They are the absolute best in my opinion. They won an all day nationwide taste test with their all beef dogs, and, as a result were commisioned by the Olympic Comitee to produce an all beef Certified Angus Frank which will be sold at the Olympic Games. These are the finest franks in my opinion. What do you Chicagoans think? Sorry for the long post, but hot dogs are my passion, and I hope to one day visit your wonderfull city and try an authentic Chicago Dog. I have heard that SuperDawg, Fluky's, Gold Coast, and Gene and Judes are among the best. Your comments welcome.

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  1. There are many postson this board about hotdogs. You should read them - this is a great resource! Anyway, I found Best's Kosher and Hebrew Nationals to be almost just as good (if not as good) as Vienna Beef. I lived in Philly for a few years and couldn't get Vienna Beef, and Hebrew Nationals filled in nicely.
    IMO, Flukey's is awful and so is Byron's. My personal favorite is the Weiner Circle on Clark near Diversey, second best, Gold Coast. And always get a char-dog instead of boiled!

    11 Replies
    1. re: sc

      Thank goodness somebody had the courage to say this (and to do it before I had to, since I've always hated being in the front lines.)

      I did Fluky's once, which was enough, and then tried Byron's a couple of times since it kept getting rave reviews. To me it was a very ordinary dog-- tasty but absolutely nothing special. I always end up back at the Wiener Circle on Clark, for a Char-dog and fries. These dogs are memorable- my out-of-towners always ask to go there when they're back in Chicago. Apart from the lovely picnic-table ambience out on the sidewalk especially late at night, much of the experience owes to the polite and courteous ladies behind the counter ;-)

      Joel

      Wiener Circle
      2622 N. Clark Street

      1. re: Joel

        I feel comfortable coming out in favor of Weiner's Circle over Flukeys and Byrons. I have also enjoyued the (irish themed?) hot dog place on Belmont at about 1200 W. -- I can't remember the name unfortunately (i want to say murphy's). They have frequently satisfied my pre-theater hot dog desires. This may earn me a rebuke but I'm also fond the char polish from Gold Coast dogs.

        The condiment issue you raise is certainly an interesting one. When I first arrived in Chicago from DC, I too was alarmed by what seemed an overload of relish, pickles tomatos(!) green peppers (!!) litttle green chilis (!!!). I had been weaned at home on the elegant, simple consummately delicious broiled Hebrew National franks (sometimes knockwurst, when feeling gluttonous) with a healthy dollop of Batampte ("means tasty") mustard, on a broiler-toasted bun.

        The stands/trucks in DC understood "everything" to mean soupy vaguely meat based chili, cheese goo, ketchup (i know...) mustard, onion, sauerkraut, and maybe something else. (I'm think of the one that daily sold me two hot dogs with everything for a dollar outside of Wilson High School at Tenley Circle, so the all-dc definition of everything may not match up with my own personal definition.) But even that was considered overload, and guaranteed to cause gastrointestinal bad karma.

        I've developed a smallish theory about the reasons behind the different regional attitudes about condiments. In chicago, it seems to me, there is less of a attitude toward hot dogs as an ultra-cheap ultra-fast food solution. You would be hard pressed to find a hot dog for 50 cents here in the middle west, or even a buck and a half, whereas my impression is that at places like Gray's Papaya in new york, the hotdog is distictly more economical than a 3.50 -4.00 char polish with everything. As a result of this economic devaluation of the hotdog, perhaps there is a sense in the east that to spend time and energy topping off a treat that's meant to be a 4 minute 32 second 50 cent dining experience would be an inappropriate allocation of resources.

        On the other hand, in chicago, where, first of all, processed meat has a definite cachet, (perhaps because of all the work that the meat industry provided in chicago's infancy), and second of all, the hot dog is viewed as mid range cheap fast food (4-5 dollars, you can really eat it standing up), it's considered all right to spend 2 or 3 minutes piling on fresh vegetables, and peculiar combinations of pickles. It adds to the glory of a meat product that is taken more seriously to begin with. This argument may be misguided: i hope I'm not casting undue aspersions on the way new yorkers/new jerseyites value their tube steaks, but it's just a theory. I'm still working out the details.

        I will note, for the record, that I am a convert to the chicago attitude towards topping chicago dogs. I always get my dog with everything here. It doesn't interfere with the delicate balance of meat to bun to mustard, but rather adds a complexity, and a dose of the unexpected to a potentially ultra-simple meal. Also, we don't get many veggies in chicago's street food world in the general scheme of things, so I'm happy to take advantage of whatever greenery I can get my hands on.

        I would love to hear more from John Fox about what factors distinguish the different brands of hot dog he talks about in the original post...bring on the details.

        By the way, there was on PBS a little while ago a documentary about hotdogs called "A Hot Dog Program" which addresses alot of these issues. They visit the vienna beef plant, explore the southern slaw dog phenomenon, gawk with horror at the three foot long hot dogs available at Vegas Buffets, and all in all do for hot dog tv what Lolis Eric Elies did for barbecue books in Smokestack Lightning. I recommend taking a look at it if you get a chance. (Link below)

        Link: http://www.wqed.org/tv/natl/hotdogs/

        1. re: Seth

          Kind of disheartening listening to the Chicago folk (although it appears transplanted Chicagoans) get in the Wiener's circle (char-grilled) camp and not behind the traditional steam/boiled Chicago method. I can't say that I'm a huge of a fan of Byron's or Fluky's, although at least they do an adequete rendition (although ridiculously overpriced in Byrons' case) of the classic Vienna Beef Chicago hot dog. As a Chicagoan who has lived in NYC for 3 years now, this is an argument near and dear to my heart, so I'm compelled to throw in my .o2.

          First, let me say that there is nothing nuanced or particular about the New York hot dog. The fact that the dog is thrown on a griddle says volumes about the tastiness of the specimen. Unlike the Vienna beef dog, which acquires a snap and retains its juicyness while being steamed or boiled; in NYC, places like Grey's and Papaya King rely on the griddle to do their work. To make matters worse, one is lucky to get a hot dog that has actually been well cooked from the griddle. Even at Katz's, if you don't ask for a crispy one, you will most likely receive an underdone, and less pleasing wiener. This kind of a request is absolutly necessary at Grey's/Papaya King. Don't get me wrong, I love the taste of things fried on a griddle, but it is simply a different, and less pure, way to cook a hot dog. It should also be said, and this contributes mightily to the lack of nuance, that the typical New Yorker loads their hot dog up with Mustard, Saurkraut, the Onion mixture, and in some unfortunate cases, katsup. The saurkraut, especially, cancels out most of the flavor of the dog, unlike the Chicago condiments, which while more numerous, are more subtle and complimentary. In my humble opinion, if one wants saurkraut as a condiment, they need a hearier sausage, like a Polish or Brautwurst, something that was figured out in Chicago a long time ago (thanks Milwaukee).

          Anyway, without getting on the NYC version too much, because I do eat, and enjoy them occasionally, I should explain what I like about the Chicago version. First, I really believe Vienna Beef is a better product. Comparison between a Vienna Beef dog and one you would find at Grey's or Papaya is pointless. Vienna beef dogs are more flavorful, bigger, have more natural snap, and stand up to their condiments more competantly. A standard Chicago dog, with pickle slice, mustard, onions, relish, tomato, and sport peppers, simply tastes fresher, crispier, and is definitely heartier than a NYC dog. With the recent increase in price at Grey's (to $.75) and the cost at Papaya's standing at $1, there isn't even a major price difference between the places I go in Chicago and NYC (Katz's, while better, is very expensive--$3+ for a dog--kind of like gold coast dogs, a place I refuse to go on principle [name, prices, etc...])

          Finally, places that I like for hot dogs in Chicago include just about any neighborhood place that have no seating and a vienna beef sign. I used to hit a place named Patio a lot because it was near my high school--I don't know the address, but it's on Taylor St., between Loomis and Ashland. They have a two hot dogs and order of fries for $1.99 special that is the best offer going (vastly superior to Grey's "Recession Speacial" here in NYC--more on that later). I also like Red Hot Mama's on Armitage (Sedgewick??), the place on Armitage across from LPHS (Burling St.??), and the name is also escaping me, but the famous place in Beverly around 103rd and Western Ave. Demon Dogs is alright, same goes for Fluky's and Byron's (expen$ive). I think the Wiener's Circle is alright, but I usually prefer the burgers there, since they do actually have a grill. I don't find the service as charming as I once did, although if I'm drunk and it's 4 in the morning I can tolerate it. This place, however, is not an example of a Chicago hot dog. Also worth mentioning is Jim's on Maxwell and Halstead, where you can get a hot dog off of the griddle, with saurkraut, that is better than the versions here (and last time I checked $1.10, with fries) although I would really recommend a Polish Sausage or Pork Chop sandwich for a visit there.

          Let me close by saying that I also laugh out loud when I hear New Yorkers muse about the synergy between overly-sweet fruit juices and drinks and hot dogs. This has to be one of the most poplular misunderstandings accepted as gospel by an otherwise reasonably astute populace. This, not volume of hot dogs sold, is how Grey's and Papaya King manage to pay their rent and still charge what they do for hot dogs--sell "juice" for $2.95 a cup. Eeccchhh! Everyone knows that a pop, yes, a pop, goes just fine with a hot dog.

          1. re: Andy O'Neill

            Wow. These are some great posts. Thank you all.

            First of all, let me confirm that yes, I am a transplant. And yes, it seems I have strayed from the path of tradition in preferring to order my char polish w/ everything (which is even occasionally boiled, grilled then deepfried). But let me further add that I am inspired by your posting to begin an exhaustive investigation of the boiled/steamed variety of hotdog. For the next month, whenever i visit a hot dog stand, I will eat only boiled red hots with everything. After such time I will re-consider my ordering policy, and report back.

            John Fox, your encyclopedic knowledge of the different brands of hot dog is inspiring. Sadly I cannot comment on most of the brands you mention, because I have not eaten them. But I will try to. Oh yes, I will try.

            1. re: Andy O'Neill

              I find it interesting how big hot dogs are in Chicago. In "A Hot Dog Program" the narrator stated that there are more hot dog joints than McDonald's, Burger King, and Wendy's combined. I would say that this makes Chicago the hot dog capitol of the world, and me all the more frustrated that there are no authentic Chicago dogs out here, and it will be awhile before I ever get out to Chicago.

              Andy, I enjoyed your post also. I just don't understand how you or anyone can enyoy a boiled hot dog better than one that is cooked on a griddle, or better yet, charbroiled. In Jersey, they always come well done on the griddle, and at Papaya King, I've also gotten them well done. I agree that they would be lousy any less than well done. For the dogs I cook at home,I've boiled, griddled, charbroiled, and deep fried them. To me, boiled is the least desirable. Again taste is subjective, and I suppose that if you grew up eating something a certain way, you get used to it. In the case of people who move to Chicago, perhaps they have eaten so many boiled dogs that they have aquired a taste for them. Whatever. But I would think that in boiling, you lose a lot of flavor. The dogs sold here in streetcarts are bland from sitting in water all day. Being cooked on a griddle or charcoal grill will retain the juices and flavors as long as you don't split the skin.

              As for condiments, I myself, just use a little mustard in order to taste the dog. I agree with you that sauerkraut and onions don't belong on hot dogs and never use them. I disagree about Chicago condiments being subtle and complimentary. Aren't sports peppers spicy? Or at least tangy?

              The one time I had a Vienna Beef hot dog, it was from a street cart in N.J. and was boiled and skinless. I had it with mustard. While not my favorite way to have a dog, I made the trip to try the Vienna Beef brand. It was good, but tasted almost identical to the Best brand we have here. I'd love to try it charbroiled with the natural casing. It is a good all beef dog, and I know it is big in Chi., but I've had better. Around here, Sabrett is the brand with the huge reputation, (it is sold all over the country as the N.Y. style dog along with Nathan's) but most hot dog lover's prefer Best. In fact, a friend of mine who owns a pushcart switched from Sabretts to Best after discovering that Sabrett's leaves more gunk behind in the water (fillers)

              I've found that you can't always get the finest hot dogs in the supermarkets. Around here, they charge for putting your products in the supermarkets. As a result, they go to the hot dog joints, butcher shops, mom and pop stores; and in the case of Scmalz's, they sell more of them in Chicago than in Jersey where they are made. This is a quality German style frank with no fillers and less of a water content than other dogs.

              I was mistaken when I said that SuperDawg gets their franks from Klements in Wisconsin. I don't know where they get them from (it could be Klements) but that they are not Vienna Beef. It is Fluky's that gets them from Klements. See the article on Chicago's dogs that I referenced in one of my previous posts. It is an informative article on Chicago Dogs and reviews places that I have not heard of on this forum. For my money, the best all beef hot dog comes from Usinger's. They will ship them to you. They are probably available in Chicago anyway. I'd love to someday try an authentic Chicago dog. Have any of you Chicagoans who moved away ordered them from Vienna Beef? The ones that come with the buns and condiments? If you have, are they close to authentic?

              1. re: Andy O'Neill

                I've thoroughly enjoyed this thread, but there's one thing that needs correcting: Jim's Original at Halsted and Maxwell Streets in Chicago doesn't serve sauerkraut with their dogs. What looks like 'kraut to the uninitiated is actually grilled onions (in fact an atypical "Chicago dog" condiment), the smell of which greets you - welcomes you, even - when you get within a block of Jim's. The only condiments Jim's has ever put on ANY of their sandwiches in the 20+ years I've been going there are mustard, grilled onions, and hot peppers, period. They'll give you a packet of ketchup for your fries, but want salt? You have to ask, and it's only recently that they've had actual pre-packaged packets. For years if you wanted salt on your fries (they don't apply any), you'd have to ask, and they'd hand you a little piece of paper with some salt wrapped up in it. Want napkins? They still don't have them! You have to save your brown paper bag to wipe your mouth.

                For all this, Jim's is still great. Open 24/7 since something like 1939, serving not only simple, excellent and very popular dogs, but also THE place for a polish sausage sandwich (straight off the grill!) in Chicago.

                Scott

                1. re: Scott

                  I just found another interesting dog site at HollyEats.com. He goes into a lot of detail a variety of spots in New Jersey, that serve among other things, something he refers to as an Italian Dog ("The Dog of His Youth"). What's the deal with Italian Hot Dogs? The rest of his site is also very entertaining.

                  Link: http://www.hollyeats.com/Jersey%20Dog...

                  1. re: Seth

                    I'm going to be eating Chicago the second week in September. On the menu are Chicago Hot Dogs and Italian Beef.

                    Lazy cur that I am, rather than force me to cull all the names of places out of the various Chowhound Strings, I'm wondering if someone has a list, with editorial comments.

                    Also back when I lived in Chicago in the late '60's and early '70's a lawyer friend took me to a deli that was know for their corned beef. I remember a bunch of lines leading up to slicers, kinda like at a bank. It was great, truly great corned beef. Anyone know the place and is it still around?

                    Finally, man does not necessarily live on hot dogs, Italian beef and corned beef alone. What else / where else should I head?

                    Thanks

                    Holly Moore
                    HollyEats.Com

                    Link: http://www.hollyeats.com

                    1. re: Holly Moore

                      Maybe you’re talking about Braverman’s, formerly at 1604 W Chicago Av. It was on the north side of the street just west of Ashland surrounded by discount shoe and linoleum stores. They cured their own corned beef and pastrami and it was great. I believe it closed sometime in the ‘80s and Sam Braverman retired to Las Vegas. The only thing that even comes close now is Manny’s.

                  2. re: Scott

                    I'm saddened to report that Jim's is no more. I stopped by the other day and it was closed down, boarded up, and ready for demolition. The end of an era...

                    Scott

                    1. re: Scott

                      This apparently happened a couple of weeks ago: I saw it posted on chi.eats (see link below). According to Metromix, they are moving two blocks north. I'm sorry I missed the chance to visit it in its original location, but hopefully, they'll take their Polish expertise with them.

                      Link: http://groups.google.com/groups?hl=en...

          2. Excellent post, Seth! I'd love to talk about the factors that distinguish the different brands of hot dogs. I apologize in advance for the long post and hope it doesn't bore the rest of you. Here in Jersey, there are 2 main types of hot dogs sold. The all beef which is similar to Vienna Beef sold in Chicago. This is typified by Best Brand from Newark, N.J. (not to be confused with Best from Chicago; which is sold here under the name Shofar). Sabrett and Nathans are also popular brands; good, but not as flavorfull as Best.
            Then there is the German style beef and pork mixture. This is less spicy than the all beef franks and contain little or no garlic. Comparing these 2 types are like comparing apples and oranges. The devotees of all beef say the beef and pork dogs are bland. Those that like the beef and pork think the all beef are too spicy and/or garlicky. I like both types and eat whatever I'm in the mood for at the particular time. Popular beef and pork brands sold here arew Grote & Weigle from Conn. Shickhaus from Ill.,and Thumann's from N.J. One brand that is sold widely in Chicago is Schmalz's; it is from N.J. Have any of you had this one? Most of the beef and pork dogs are cooked on a griddle. The all beef dogs are charbroiled or boiled. Around here, hot dog lovers don't really like the boiled dogs from the carts. In north Jersey, people like their dogs deep fried.
            I have a copy of A Hot Dog Program, and if you watch it, you'll notice Rutt's Hutt. This place uses Thumann's franks which are specially made for deep frying. I believe they use semolina and another ingredient that makes them cook better in oil. Theycan best be described as a bologna stick. As far as the dogs here being cheap; Papaya King and Gray's Papaya are exceptions. They sell so many, they can afford to charge less. Plus they are fairly small (8 to a lb). The street cart dogs are $1.00 to $1.25, but the grilled ones are $2.00 and up to $3.00 for a Syd's. A quarter pounder goes for $3.50.
            New Jersey has 2 hot dog styles that originated in this state in the 1920's. The Texas Weiner and the Italian Hot Dog. The Texas Weiner comes in 2 styles. The Hot Texas Weiner is a deep fried dog (usually Thumann's) with mustard, chopped onions and chili sauce. The Plainfield area Texas Weiner is grilled with a thicker chili sauce. Both styles originated with Greek immigrants. This one uses Grote & Weigle pork and beef franks.
            An Italian Hot Dog is a deep fried all beef hot dog (Best Brand, but skinless) served on half of a circular pizza bread (like a pita). A double gets you 2 dogs. It is topped off with potatoes, green and red peppers, and onions all fried in the same oil. This is a meal in itself.
            A good website to check out Jersey Dogs is Hollyeats.com. Click on Jersey dogs on the left. I suggested most of the places reviewed. I've gone to Charlies Famous Italian Hot Dogs so much that I got my daughter a job there. Galloping Hill Inn is down the street from me and is one of the better beef and pork dogs. Syd's is my favorite all beef dog in Jersey. One thing to remember when reading the reviews. Jimmy Buffs deep fries their dogs; the review was wrong when he said they grill them.
            For cooking at home, I like Usinger's all beef Angus franks and Schmalz's bbef and pork. Both are available in Chicago. What do you think of these brands? And is it true that SuperDawg uses Klements brand instead of Vienna? I read this in an article. The link is http://www.jsonline.com/onwisconsin/d... Thanks for your comments and feel free to contact me.

            1. Just a few more or less random comments on various posts . . .

              I grew up eating charcoal grilled hot dogs so when I first tried the Chicago boiled version I wasn't overly impressed. I've come to realize that a properly prepared natural casing Vienna can be very good indeed. I still get a char dog every now and then but I think I appreciate the classic Chicago boiled more and more.

              It is certainly true that the condiments can be overdone but I think the standard Chicago toppings are brilliant. A smear of mustard, just a little fluorescent green relish, some chopped raw onion, a thin spear of dill pickle, two half-rounds of tomato, three sport peppers, and a dash of celery salt. And, of course, a steamed poppy seed bun (usually from Rosen's). A sense of restraint and balance is essential. I really don't like the overloaded versions that some places are known for. I particularly dislike lettuce and cucumber on my hot dogs (too watery and they dilute the flavor). I'm sure to some that's the best part. To each his own.

              Murphy's (1211 W Belmont) is quite a good place. I've only had the regular dogs there and they are good. "Everything" includes lettuce and cucumber as well as the usual. A little pricey at $2.60 for a basic dog, though. It seems there are a couple Murphy's in Japan. The wall display about the Japanese shops makes interesting reading.

              I believe the place across from Lincoln Park High School is Doggie Diner (723 W Armitage). This is yet another place that quietly puts out a superior dog.

              The Patio, at 1503 W Taylor, has been in business since 1946 so they must be doing something right. In the same area is Lu-Lu's (1000 S Leavitt). They also have a 2 dog + fries special that might be cheaper than The Patio's. I don't remember being all that impressed with Lu-Lu's.

              I don't have a clue about the place on Western in Beverly. Can anyone help out?

              The historic Jim's Hot Dogs on the corner of Halsted & Maxwell is still with us but probably not for long (at least in its present form). Nearly all the buildings on Maxwell have been razed and the demolition of Halsted is well underway. I believe they will be building a new home for Jim's. I could be wrong but I don't remember ever seeing sauerkraut at Jim's; maybe you're thinking of the grilled onions?

              The original Gold Coast Dogs (corner of State & Hubbard) closed earlier this year. There's another on Wabash between Lake & Randolph and a few little ones in train stations, hospital cafeterias, etc.

              I knew that Superdawg does not use Vienna products but always believed they made their own (they have a little factory or warehouse or something across from Chicago Food Corp., the great Korean grocery store on Kimball). I certainly didn't know about Klement's but that sounds completely plausible.

              Superdawg is a fantastic place. Even if the hot dogs weren't good (they are) it would still be worth a visit. It's a classic drive in with car service. The giant hot dogs (Maurie and Flaurie, after the owners) on the roof are themselves worth the trip. And the hot dogs come in a little blue box that reads: Your Superdawg lounges inside contentedly cushioned in superfries and comfortably attired in mustard, relish, onion, pickle, hot peppers. Superdawg is unusual in that they garnish with a wedge of green pickled tomato, something I've not come across before.

              Fluky's, which began business on Maxwell Street in 1929, also doesn't use Vienna products; they have their own brand. I'm not sure why so many posters dislike their dogs. They were never at the top of my list but they seem to be a solid, classic Chicago dog. For me, the thing that really sets Fluky's apart is their hot dog shaped bubble gum.

              I'm not a huge fan of Byron's--they get too carried away with the toppings (I really don't think lettuce, cucumbers, or bell peppers belong on a hot dog). If you pare down the toppings, I think it's a solid place, not the best but well above average. If you're interested in different Chicago styles, Byron's would be an essential stop just to get an understanding of the baroque variations. And the stand looks absolutely perfect, everything you'd expect including its location almost under the L.

              Couldn't agree more about Usinger's. Just about everything they make is good. For a supermarket hot dog they're phenomenal.

              A lot of the brands you mention being sold in Chicago don't ring a bell. I rarely buy hot dogs at the supermarket, however, so I simply may not have noticed them. And those hot dog stands that don't sell Vienna often don't draw attention to the fact.

              There are still quite a number of small shops in Chicago, many in the Polish neighborhoods, that make their own sausages. One great place (not Polish) is Paulina Market. Might be the best hot dog I've had.

              For better or for worse, Vienna is the definitive Chicago hot dog. I would never claim it is the best sausage I've had but that's the way they taste here and it probably won't change for a long time. It's a very old company that's been making hot dogs for well over a hundred years (they started on Maxwell Street). I believe they make a very large variety of hot dogs (natural casing or skinless, many sizes, different spices) most of which are not generally available. The usual supermarket version is skinless which is vastly inferior to the natural casing one. Many of the better hot dog stands use the six- or eight-to-the-pound sausages which are not as easily overwhelmed by the condiments. Obviously, tastes vary but before passing judgement on Vienna be sure you have tried the natural casing version, properly prepared.

              I've always wanted to know what is the story behind that bright green relish that's always used on Chicago hot dogs. I never came across that stuff anywhere else (does anyone know if it's used in other parts of the country?). From what I can gather, the general array of Chicago condiments became more or less standard by the 1930s. The fluorescent green relish probably didn't appear until the 1950s however. Any comments or documentation on this would be very welcome. Currently there are several suppliers of the stuff. One of the major ones is--no surprise--Vienna, under their Chipico label. Apparently the stuff is made in Michigan by the Kalamazoo Relish Company. I've heard they make two varieties: a bright green version for Chicago and an otherwise identical one for elsewhere.

              1. I live in California but I visit our New York (205 E. 42nd St) Office and our 1500 La Salle St (Chicago) office at least 6 times a year. I always liked the New York style better until my last two trips. I enjoy the Chicago style much more today. It all starts with the celery salt , the sport peppers and the poppy seed bun. This is topped with a pickle wedge, a cucumber wedge and several slices of tomatoes. It's a whole meal!!!!