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Hot Dog Chicago

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Totally independent of my recent diversion of going thru my old menu's, I happened to find my well worn copy of Hot Dog Chicago. Does anyone else know this book? It's a pre-Internet chowhound tour of Chicago written by two Loyola professors, "awed by Chicago and its cusine."

The book is interesting both for what's there and what's not there. Practically all the hot dog stands glorified on this board--Gene and Judes, Superdawg, Jimmy's, Byron's--were raved about then (1983). Showing how mighty its descent has been, Flukeys was rated the best hot dog stand back then.

There are several write-ups of the "tastee" school of chicago hot dog. For those only familiar with the vienna style dog, there once was another popular dog around town made by Leon's sausage company. A dog at once squishier than Vienna but more flavorful. The places selling the Leon dog all seemed to overdress their dogs with lettuce and green pepper and cucumber and tons of tomato, in addition to the usual toppings. Wally's on Austin was a good example, but this place recently closed. The orignial taste-hastee on Milwaukee is long gone. I am sure there on Leon style places left, does anyone have any advice?

The beef stands have been a little less stable as well. One of their favorites, Connie's, on North Avenue in Chicago is no more. (Zim, you'd be happy to know that Johnies was just as popular then as it is now).

There are all sorts of other intersting observations and nostalga and write-ups of classics that no one on chowhound has ever got around to covering. For instance, Billy Goat and Lindy's Chili and Riccobenes, all still great, are profiled. Then, there is Boobies, from Niles, the fast food vallahla of my youth. Hot Dog Chicago even mentions the great Boobie's "salad bar" And Dewey's, the place of my drive-by dreams, is wonderfully reviewed, making me rue even more, it's demise.

It's an interesting read at this time of chowhound teetering. I believe the authors thought at the time, that perhaps, they had a franchise as well. Sadly, this was a one shot book, and I doubt the authors gave up their teaching careers.


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  1. does the hot dog book mention (or does anyone remember) a place called Mr. Dog (Dawg?) that was in Old Town near Lincoln and Wisconsin (in the area that's now paved over near the high-rise at Armitage and Clark.) It was a spectacular joint.

    4 Replies
    1. re: Old School
      Vital Information

      No Mr. Dog in the book, sorry

      1. re: Vital Information

        How about Uncle Al's on North Halsted? Or the great Poochies in Skokie? The original Poochies' owner, after a 7-year sabbatical, has opened a "new" Poochies in Lincolnwood, on Touhy, I think (the original is still on Dempster).

        1. re: shasson
          David Hammond

          I usually shy away from negative reviews, because I figure, what the heck, one man's dreck is another's fete. But I'm adding to this thread to say that my personal opinion is that Tasty Dog in Oak Park offers the World's Stupidest Hot Dog. Here's why:

          * Slimy dog -- I don't know if it's poor quality weenie, or overcooked, or what, but it sucks. And it has no snap (no surprise).
          * Fall-apart-like-wet-cardboard-bun -- forget sesame seed, this sad sack of bread melts in your hand before it gets anywhere close to your mouth.
          * Major reason: lazily chopped veggies (specifically, tomato and cucumber in huge chunks) make it completely impossible to consume veggie and dog at same time -- basically, you have to pick the veggies off -- kind of like a salad starter -- and then eat the dog and then eat the tattered shreds of what used to be a bun. Like I said, stupid.

          And then there's the political firestorm that raged in PC OP not so long ago. I walked by one day, and there was Joni Mitchell on the boom box, and kids creating a banner, and bunch of people from my generation who protested against things that actually mattered (like naplam and secret bombings) -- and they're up in arms over the village's action to close down Tasty Dog and allow, in its place, luxury condos. Now, I'm no fan of luxury condos, but if we have to fight for something, why does it have to be a bad hot dog...no, why does it have to be the World's Stupidest Hot Dog?

          Okay, this happened a while ago. Last year. I can let it go now. Thanks for your time.

          1. re: shasson

            Hey! I used to live two clocks from Al's Hotdogs; I remember it with anguish and lust. It was on the Southeast corner of Halsted and Dickens, and Al himself used to nap on the sacks of spuds right there in the stand. I remeber a dog & fries being a buck, & an order of fries--a big sack of them--25 cents. There was a special way we had of eating them as we walked home from the bars. You'd slowly pull out the tissue-like paper that held the fries wrapped up with the dog, shaking all the while, until both were free in the paper bag, then you'd eat the dog and fries as you walked, keeping them warm in the bag. I remember wlaking down some cold January streets at night, steam coming from the bag and the hot food in my mouth, the great taste of the dog and the creamy contrast of the fries.
            It was at Al's that some friends and I formed FOD, the "Friends Of the Dog", dedicated to banishing tomatoes and ketchup from hotdogs, and advocating for the restoration of real potatoes in fries. I'm afriad we weren't very successful.
            And Al was a great guy.

      2. I think I remember seeing that book but not for a long time. Pat Bruno covers much the same ground in Chicago’s Food Favorites (1986). He too gives Fluky’s highest honors, together with Wolfy’s and Gold Coast. All the old standards are there too. One I never heard of elsewhere is Willie’s Wee-Nee Wagon (159th and Crawford). Anyone know if it still exists?

        I believe Leon’s sausage is still around in the stores but now that you mention it I can’t remember seeing a stand advertising Leon’s. Is this style like Fat Johnnie’s on Western? I’m really not sure. They now use a Best dog which is kind of soft and they garnish with cucumber instead of pickle (otherwise pretty much the usual fixings, not overdone). The cucumber is interesting; I think they sprinkle the slices with celery salt and let them sit a while. I kind of like their chili dogs, the mushiness doesn’t detract at all.

        Connie’s is mentioned in his beef chapter. I remember going there maybe 10 years ago and being only mildly impressed. Portions were small too. Bruno especially liked Mr Beef, Al’s, and Buona.

        Another beef stand mentioned by Bruno is Boston’s. I rather like this place though I’d never say it was among the best (top 10 maybe). Probably the best looking beef stand around, it’s a great old triangular building where Grand and Chicago split. Nice old neon signs. They renovated the interior in the last 10 years so it doesn’t have quite the same atmosphere. Good pepper’n’egg on Friday.

        Strangely, Billy Goat is not mentioned by Bruno. I have mixed feelings about the place myself, right down to the cheeseburgers. I’ve been there many times but somehow never felt completely comfortable. It’s clearly a classic place and great fun to take visitors to (they often get a little worried after a walking a couple blocks on Lower Wacker).

        Lindy’s, mentioned by Bruno, is another place I have mixed feelings about. My big problem with them is I just don’t like their chili very much. But that picture of Mayor Daley’s head floating over the Chicago skyline like a benevolent moon is worth a visit to the barroom for sure. Maybe it’s time to haul out the old chili reviews again.

        Ricobene’s is yet another one I have mixed feelings about. Pat Bruno liked it. I think it was much better before they expanded and put in tables. The breaded steak is pretty good but inferior to La Milanese’s. I guess just about everything they have is pretty good but there are always better places for any given item. But it’s one of the few places to get a sloppy joe these days, isn’t it?

        Link: http://chowhound.safeshopper.com/21/c...

        1 Reply
        1. re: Rene G


          As a frequent business traveler to Chicago, I have only two hard and fast rules when it comes to the Billy Goat:

          1. You should never for any reason outside of medical emergency be there before 11pm
          2. Your blood alcohol level should be at least .15

          If you can manage those two steps, you should never be uncomfortable in there again.....

        2. g

          How about "Ziggy's, the Pump Room," on the north side of Clark between Fullerton and Wrightwood? RIP 1994 or thereabouts. Dogs were unexceptional, but I did like the old guy who ran the place, and of course the name.

          2 Replies
          1. re: GoldenRuleJones

            sorry, I meant EAST side of Clark for Ziggy's . . .

            1. re: GoldenRuleJones


            2. Leon's is still around. Their hot dogs really aren't in the running these days for that traditional great dog taste. Now they specialize in gourmet products and cater more to ritzy establishments and markets.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Rick

                Poochies! The best ever. I checked out their new place in Lincolnwood and it was like going back in time. Delicious.

                As for Leon's, they never made a great hotdog. It doesn't surprise me that nobody remembers them let alone sells them at the great hotdog stands. I think I had one once at a Cubs game years ago. It wasn't what people expect for a real hotdog, if that makes sense.

              2. Does anyone remember Terry's Hot Dogs in the tin shack on Touhy in West Rogers Park?. They knocked it down and built a brick stand and then there was no Terry's. How about Paul's Umbrella? The cheese slice was the best. And you got a piece of Red HotDog Gum. Those were the days!

                6 Replies
                1. re: Miles

                  Absolutely I remember Terry’s hot dogs. My friends and I used to eat there at least once a week during our years when attending Rogers School. Great food, always crowded, and they could really get those dogs in your hands in a hurry. I recall how during days when the weather was cold, gray and rainy how the windows in the tin hut would get all fogged up because of the steam coming from the food prep area. Terry was always in a good mood, treated us kids with respect. At least once a week we’d also go to Louie’s Hot Dogs which was about 50 yards away from Terry’s. Louie’s was on California just north of Touhy. My mom would give me $.50 for lunch, hot dog, fries and a coke were $.37 and the change let you go to Linkers/Fines on the way back to school so you could by all types of candy, Sputniks, Records, Pixie Stix etc. And for some adventure you could tease Jonas the barber 2 doors down from Terry’s.

                  1. re: Miles

                    I remember Terry's, too. We used to go there for lunch (walked from Rogers Elementary) all the time. Scarfed down hot dogs with piles of French fries drowning in ketchup, then bought Watchamacallit bars and Charleston Chews at Cal-Touhy Drugs. Sometimes stopped in the Chandlers to buy stickers. Damn, that was a million years ago.

                    1. re: NSBeranek

                      A million years ago way down South at maybe East 83d Street, Carl's beneath the tracks, piled the fries onto the paper with the hot dogs or Polish.

                      1. re: BoneAppetite

                        Yup! Carl's on 83rd & Jeffery was my childhood red hot! I left Chicago just before I turned 11 but I'll never forget Carl's Red Hots! This was when hot dogs were dyed red. The bun would turn pink.

                        1. re: Kate is always hungry

                          Thanks for the improved memory. I remember mostly wondering how could anyone eat all those fries at one time.

                          1. re: BoneAppetite

                            Ahh, I can still remember the slightly soggy, red hot-perfumed fries and the inside of the poppyseed bun tinted a watercolor pink!

                  2. I hope somebody sees this reply/comment, posted three months after the rest of the thread, and far, far down from the top of the Chowhound site. I am in central Florida, and got curious recently about what a Chicago-style hot dog was, anyway. Never had one!! Well, the Vienna website gave me a clue, and bychance, I drove by a hot dog stand today that had Chicago-style Vienna hotdogs. Probably the first poppyseed hot dog bun I ever ate. Well, it had everything it was supposed to have on it (no fries or potato slices, tho.), and it was pretty good. Before I recommend it to all my friends (including the Florida Chowhounds looking for a good hot dog), I gotta know from you Chicago Chowhounds- what really separates a GREAT chicago hot dog from so-so. If the ingredients are about the same, how can this newcomer judge greatness? I read all your recommendations and reviews about resturants and stands of the past, but nobody really talked about the food itself, except one poster who thinks soggy hot dog buns are "stupid." Well, I guess they are...If you catch my drift, and if anybody catches this post, help me learn the subtle and not-so-subtle points of your hot dog tastes! Thanks!

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: ric
                      Vital Information

                      Well, if you use hot posts, no old post is ever too far away. Still, you might want to re-post a new query for a more general audience.

                      Anyway, your question is a good question. If you ever read my post on the decline of the chicago hot dog, you will see that at least I have some ideas of what HAS HAPPENED to good chicago dogs. So, what makes a dog great:

                      There are only three criteria to deal with, and two are easy. First the easy ones. The bun plays an important part. A stale, hard, soggy or cold bun will ruin whatever is inside of it, but as long as the place keeps the buns fresh by using the steam of the hot dog water, they will be good enough. Note, some argue that the bun must be poppy-seeded, but the state of the bun is much more important than its garniture. Then, the condiments. Again, it really does not take much to keep your condiments fresh. Dish them out with a generous hand and we will be happy. So, it is not hard to get two-thirds of the real thing.

                      But most people like their hot dogs hot, and that is where the problems arise. Of the various ways to get the hot dog to tempature, the one most "classic" way in Chicago is the water bath. If a natural casing sausage is used, a proper steaming will leave that skin taut. The snap or pop that hot dog eaters crave. The slow boil can work great to produce a sausage with a clean flavor that marries well with the full range of Chicago condiments, but it is also fraught with danger. The danger is that too long in the bath with produce a putrid, soggy, washed-up frank.

                      The real skill for a hot dog stand is to have its hot dogs in the right state of simmer at the time of purchase. One great hot dog stand, Weiner Circle, solves this problem by cooking their hot dogs to order. Fine, if you have some patience. Otherwise, it is a crapshoot. You have to know that the establishment is moving their inventory fast enough to keep their dogs in good state. Which is why I have always noted that a busy hot dog place is a good hot dog state.


                      1. re: Vital Information

                        Wow- don't ya love it when chowhounds can help each other out? All my questions answered in one foul swoop.
                        And you hit on my one disappointment with my first Chicago hot dog- the dog, even "natural casing" though it was, didn't have the uncompromising "snap" I was really looking forward to. Your post takes the mystery out of that one. Since it is the only source for miles around in this little off-the-beaten path of west central Florida, though, I will probably stop by tomorrow on my way to afternoon shift. If they'll sell me a jar of that bright green relish, I have a lead on Vienna brand "sausages" and I might be able to do a decent Chicago in my backyard by summer.

                        1. re: ric

                          Well, Chicago friends, this central Floridian is really taking the plunge into Chicago hotdog culture. In one week, I have had my first three Chicago Hotdogs.
                          The Pudgies' hotdog stand between Floral City and Inverness, FL may be worth a trip if you are passing nearby on a Florida vacation, but otherwise, here's my reaction as a brand new lover of your 'dogs: Try # 2 at this hotdog stand was more outstanding than the first, because my taste buds picked up on more celery salt flavor- what a neat accent!!
                          Try # 3 was at a convenience store in another Florida county, and I found out what a wretched experience searching for a great hot dog can be. Sign said "Chicago hot dog" and the brand was Vienna, but what I got was an uncooked, raw, unedible hot dog with an ice-cold pickle that made the hot dog itself go from luke-warm to grossly cold. After one bite, I got a refund. I can't wait to get back to Pudgie's stand and get a great Chicago hotdog. That's the scoop in Florida.

                          1. re: ric

                            Yes, Pudgies does do a pretty good Chicago hot dog. I have also been reading, with some disappointment, that many Chicagoans don't enjoy the garden-style "authentic Chicago hot dog" that the rest of the country has down as the Chicago stereotype. Just learning that Gene and Judes in Chicago is old-school and minimal on the condiments. This will make my life in Florida easier the next time Pudgies is closed or I am trying to find neon-green relish for my home grilling recipe.