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Chicago Style Hot Dog In Boston

  • s

I'm a BU student originally from the Chicago area. Back home, I feel like there are hot dog places on every corner and everyone has their favorite. I've found my favorite deli, thai place, burger, dimsum, north end pasta etc but I'm still desperately searching for even a decent dog in Boston. If one more person tells me Spikes is "awesome" I may get violent. I know hoping for an authentic Chicago Style hot dog (poppyseed bun, boiled vienna dog, celery salt, blissfully unnatural relish, and so on) may be overly optimistic but I'm hoping someone can at least suggest a decent place where a good hot dog costs less than five dollars. I'm not looking for gourmet, hot dogs are one of those things that shouldnt get gussied up. I'd settle for the location of a hot dog cart. Also, I dont have a car, so it needs to be T accesible.
Hot dogs are maybe the one thing from home I really miss, I can't even find the right things to buy. Help!

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  1. g

    There was a similar request recently on the New England board. The responses weren't promising but may be worth a try if you feel like driving.

    Link: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

    1. I just saw that conversation on the NE board, too. The one that sounded the best was in Fairfield, CT. (The link is below)

      Sorry, I think the last 10 hotdogs that I've gotten in the boston area were at either Fenway or Home Depot...but hot dogs, even when they're bad, they're pretty good.

      There's a couple of Coney Island type places in Worcester, but I doubt that helps.

      My advice would be to find someone with a car who'll drive you to Fairfield, CT to get a hotdog. Then marry them.

      Link: http://www.superduperweenie.com/

      1. The one thing I will say that a proper Boston dog should be in a proper New England style hot dog roll, which should be buttered and grill-toasted on the outsides. Kelly's does at least that much very right.

        If memory serves, the old-style Boston dogs involved putting relish and onions on the bun first, before topping with a dog, et cet. But I think that way of doing things has died out.

        2 Replies
        1. re: Karl S

          PS: Getting a proper Chicago dog outside of Chicago requires the presence of a sufficient number of able and willing Chicagoans to create demand and a resolution to it.

          The cognate for Bostonians would be trying to get a proper lobster roll outside of eastern New England. There are places where ex-patriots (as it were) manage to get things together, but they are few and far between.

          I do salute the proud hot dog heritage of Chicago from afar, though. I think Chicago is one of the best chow towns around. I think Boston has come a long way, though in the process some of its own precious chow traditions have faded or been distorted.

          1. re: Karl S

            Why do I think of a chili dog when I think Boston dog? Maybe it's the baked beans thing?

          2. Speed's (a truck in Newmarket Square, generally operating only in warm, fair weather) does not only the best hot dog I've ever had in Boston, but the best hot dog I've had anywhere, and I've had some doozies, notably in Chicago. But the town isn't without other worthwhile dogs:

            * The Butcher Shop in the South End. Not always on the menu, but a weiner of the Fenway Frank size, grayish rather than pink for lack of artificial coloring, and very, very tasty. The only place I know that makes its own on the premises. A very fancy place for a dog, I must admit. It's served with cornichons, not relish, which I guess you should expect for your $13.

            * Appleton Bakery-Cafe, also in the South End. A grilled Pearl hot dog served with carmelized onions and/or other fancy fixings on an excellent, homemade roll. Dogs served Mondays only, I believe.

            * Jacob Wirth, near the Theater District -- I prefer the grilled smoked bratwurst and weisswurst plate here (with German potato salad and two kinds of cabbage), but they do a good grilled foot-long dog here with baked beans and fries for $5.

            * Cafe Polonia, on Dot Ave in Southie -- not a true hot dog, but a superb grilled kielbasa on a good sub roll with carmelized onions and kraut for $6. Open for lunch and dinner.

            * Jasper White's Summer Shack, Alewife -- they do a grilled jumbo Pearl hot dog here, too, but more notable is their homemade corn dog. It's the only really excellent corn dog I've ever had.

            * Spike's Junkyard Dogs, Allston -- only by reputation; I have not tried their dogs.

            * Tex Barry's Coney Island (the downtown Taunton, MA locale is the only surviving one, I believe) -- I must have eaten a couple hundred of these growing up in Southeastern MA: a non-descript dog on a Wonder Bread roll, with French's yellow mustard and chopped yellow onions. The secret sauce was what made it: a really fine ground-beef chili sauce with a hint of cinnamon on top, with an optional squeeze of melted Cheez Whiz. (Probably better in my memory than in actuality today.)

            * This is probably horrible to mention to a Chicagoan, but I had a decent ersatz Chicago-style dog when there was an A&W outlet in the food court of the Burlington Mall some years back (I doubt it's still there). Just good enough to make me miss the originals from when I lived in Chicago many years ago. In fairness, it did have the yellow mustard, bizarrely-bright-green sweet relish, chopped onions, kosher dill spear, sliced tomatoes, sport peppers, celery salt, and poppy-seed bun.

            7 Replies
            1. re: MC Slim JB

              I have a question regarding Speed's dogs. I know he serves Pearls, but I don't know where you can purchase them. Does any one know?


              1. re: kate@50

                Shaws and larger Stop & Shops carry them. So does Costco. It's gotten harder, however, to find the regular size, as only the large size is commonly available in the past couple of years.

                1. re: Karl S

                  Thanks I'll take a look next time I'm food shopping.

                2. re: kate@50

                  THey have the large ones at Johnnies Foodmaster.

                3. re: MC Slim JB

                  Great list, would like to add just one more. Code 10, also in the South End, on Washington Street, serves a variety of dogs,including Pearl. There are assorted toppings and I always find the staff really friendly. I also really enjoy their paninis.

                  As for Speeds, yeah, you probably need to wait till it warms up, I'm thinking late April to May, and then he'll be out in full force. Not exactly convenient to public transportation, but certainly do-able, and definitely worth the trip. Without a doubt the best hot dog I've ever had. I dream about these dogs.

                  1. re: MC Slim JB

                    Just a note about the tex barry chile dog review. The chile is not made from "finely" ground beef, the texture is actually a result of the cooking process. I have found this out while trying to recreate the recipe. I sucessfully figured out the flavour but had a difficult time with the texture and after many failed attempts I finally achieved the true Tex Barry Chile sauce in both taste and texture. Tex Barry's is by far the best chiledog in North America.

                    1. re: paulda

                      Would love the recipe, if you can share!

                  2. e
                    Ernie Diamond


                    It's not the real deal, to be sure but the "Junkyard Dog" at Spike's on Brighton ave is a fair substitute. Don't get your hopes up, you will not find an exact Chicago-style dog but it is very good, very cheap and very satisfying.

                    1. Sorry, Boston is not a hot dog city like some others. I've been searching myself for 59 years. Here are some options. The best though not a Chicago dog would be Speed Dog, a hot dog truck in Newmarket Square. Not easy to get to via the T and he is only there Tuesday through Friday for lunch in good weather. A great half pound dog steamed then grilled, split and covered with several home made sauces. It can't be beat but its $6. There is Code 10 on Washington St, in the South End but I think that they have dropped a couple of notches lately. The Sausage Guy in Government Center was pretty good but they recently closed which supports my theory that Boston is not for the dogs. If you do find yourself with a car head to Natick to Casey's Diner, a small classic diner with great small steamed dogs, or to Worcester to George's Coney Island.

                      Sorry if this is repetitious but it's from an earlier post.

                      1. l

                        I realize that you are in Boston, but the closest traditional Chicago dog(including a Vienna Beef dog and poppyseed roll)that I have had is in South Berwick,ME at Hot Dog Heaven, on 440 Main St. he actually imports the dogs from Chicago. I am not, nor ever have been a Chicago native, but I have visited Superdawg, so i am familiar with the concept.(S. Berwick is at least 1 1/2 hrs. north of Boston)

                        1. Left one off my list (though I haven't been in a couple of years): Elliot's Famous Hot Dogs in Lowell. A dingy dive of a diner, but worthy dogs.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: MC Slim JB

                            I can affirmatively say that this place has worthy dogs - it is located on Elliot St. I believe - I think the name is something different.

                            1. re: MC Slim JB

                              Bring back the old joe o nemo's 25 cent's each.

                            2. t
                              The SummerVillian

                              To paraphrase Mr. Natural (Zap comix c. 1967)
                              NO NO Foont! A Speeds or Butchershop Dog does not a Chicago Dawg
                              make!) Our Forlorn woman (rts?) Stacy is seeking the
                              Transendent Chicago Dog Experience
                              Were not talking Pearl or Hebrew National
                              not beer steamed rhode island weeners. (yuk)
                              No. Stacy is seeking the Neon Green of rellish
                              the longditudinal slice of dill pickle, the tomato slice
                              & onion
                              the sprinkle of cellery salt
                              the sport pepper (unknown outside of Cook County and Greater Metropolitan Mundiline)
                              and most essential of all the poppy - white - bun that collapses into paste the moment the Vienna dog hits your palate,
                              As one with a strong dislike for most things Chicagoan E x e c p t These wonderful dogs it is useless to try to explain the convergence of these weird (sometimes awful) ingredents into the Quintessential Chicago experience. One I would not forgo for dinner with Sr. Trotter himself (though ive done both in the same day)
                              YES, VIRGINIA, I mean Stacy THERE REALLY IS A VIENNA DOG!
                              and while Lighthouse boy may be onto something in Berwick in warmer months, I can guarantee satisfaction only a mere hour west of town - the pike
                              to 495 N. to Rt 20 west and thense to the all year custard stand known
                              as BEEZER"S in Northboro Mass. It is all the above, no more & no less
                              PS. Do try Speeds this spring for a beautifully executed giant beef dog overload- you may find a new favorite, but it will NOT taste like home.
                              Can I get an Amen?

                              The Villian

                              7 Replies
                              1. re: The SummerVillian

                                That post was awesome in many, many ways! Amen!

                                1. re: MC Slim JB

                                  oh dear - my dogged youth flashes before me!
                                  there were few culinary advantages to growing up in Cleveland, but one was certainly the presence of both NY and Chicago style hotdogs. So I became a connoisseur (connaisseuse?) at an early age. Northboro os a bit of a trek for me, but maybe some spring day I'll make the run for old time's sake...

                                  gotta love this board!

                                  headline: Hound Finds Dogs
                                  (apologies to the moderators)

                                  1. re: peregrine

                                    I've been to Beezers a couple of times. It's a good product if you're really craving a Chicago Dog, but don't expect the Wiener Circle. And it's not even close to the same league as my personal favorite Chicago dog place: Red Hot Lovers in Ann Arbor, MI.

                                    1. re: Blumie

                                      I think I gained 20 lbs at Red Hot Lovers the semester I took my hardest econ course at UMich. :) Total comfort food.

                                      I love their grilled bratwurst with honey mustard, and waffle fries.

                                2. re: The SummerVillian

                                  hey Villian, thanks for the amusing and informative post. still sad theres not a spot-on stand down the block, but I have a lot of promising options now. Thanks everyone! Now i just have to work on making more friends with cars.

                                  1. re: StacyTheGreat
                                    Stephen Owades

                                    I've been around here long enough to remember a valiant attempt at bringing true Chicago hot dogs to Cambridge--a small place called "Chicago Frank's" that was on Eliot Street near Harvard Square. They got all their raw materials from Vienna Beef in Chicago, and made a real, authentic Chicago hot dog. I believe they had another location in the Revere Beach area. But I guess there wasn't enough business to keep them going, and I haven't encountered anything that would qualify as the real thing in this region for decades now.

                                    I do make it a habit to look around in airports as I travel. Along with the expected (Chicago O'Hare), I've found Vienna Beef hot dog stands in places like Las Vegas and Cincinnati, making a pretty plausible Chicago hot dog. Too bad we don't have any in the Boston area.

                                    It's worth visiting Speed's truck in Newmarket Square when he's back in operation (Wednesday through Saturday afternoons in good weather). Although Speed's doesn't make a Chicago hot dog, it's quite good in its own right.

                                    1. re: Stephen Owades

                                      I remember Chicago Franks, too. It was around 1986 or so. Unfotunately it didn't last too long.

                                3. Oh, to be at Poochie's, now that spring is almost here.

                                  1. I feel your pain. I lived in Chicago for a couple of years and after growing up in CT choking down those weenie abominations known as Grote and Weigles (I know some people love em but still..), those 2 years in Chitown rekindled my passion for dogs such as I remember from the CT shore (where they do not use Grotes). However after 2 years of searching for a good chidog in Bostong I can pretty much say that there aren't any. There used to be a place in the Downtown crossing Food Court that made a vienna with the proper trimmings but it just didn't stack up.
                                    However, when in Rome... or Haymarket... do as the Beantowners do and hit Speeds. It isn't the same and, while I don't think it's the best ever as most folks do here (abit with good cause), it is a great dog. I'll attach the Holly eats link to speeds.
                                    On another note, I'm psyched to say that after 2 years stuck in the Chow wasteland known as Hartford, I'm goingto be moving back to Chicago in the spring. Woo Whoo

                                    1. what about spikes? is it open yet? does the doghouse in harvard square do a chidog?

                                      1. I don't know about "Chicago dogs," but has anybody been to Top Dog, up in Gloucester or Rockport or someplace?

                                        3 Replies
                                        1. re: weaver

                                          I've been to Top Dog, which is in Rockport. Got fried clams there tho so can't comment on the dogs altho they looked good.

                                          1. re: Joanie

                                            (OT: Fried clams there any good?)

                                            1. re: weaver

                                              i thought their fried clams were quite good (ones will bellies, not the strips). tasty batter that didn't detract from the clams. the only ones i've had to beat them so far are at the clam box. when the weather is nice, you can take your goods to the old harbor wall a block away and picnic looking at the harbor and beach.

                                        2. I think there is a hot dog place in Swampscott, along the beaches that serves a Chicago style dog.

                                          1. I'm sorry, Stacy the Great, but Boston is not a hot dog town. I've lived in Chicago for about 3 years and my husband has lived there for about 15 years before moving back East and my husband usually makes his own when he bas a hankering for a Chicago hot dog. I had a similar problem when I was living in Chicago. I couldn't a decent place when I had a yen for thin crust pizzas.

                                            1. Target sells Vienna Beef dogs at its food courts. They are rather anemic fresh off the heat rollers but we took them home and fired up our grill and they were like the Char Polish of the Wiener Circle. I don't have a source for poppy seed rolls, but you could probably cobble together the other fixin's to dress up your dog.

                                              1. Has anyone been to Chicago Dogs in South Portland, Maine? I tried to go once but they were closed, but I believe they get all their supplies from Chicago and the decorations are certainly authentic.

                                                1. Stacy --
                                                  Although I've lived in Boston since the early sixties, I grew up on Chicago's Southside. As others have already remarked, there is, sadly, no chance of getting a hot dog in Boston that is the equal of what you can get at Poochie's in Skokie or at hundreds of other hot dog joints in Chicago.

                                                  For years when I used to visit with my parents, I'd often disappear after a big dinner and have a hot dog at Poochies as a second dessert.

                                                  1. Hi Stacy-

                                                    I have a suggestion, and you're probably going to laugh at me...Target (being a Minnesota based co.) sells Vienna brand hot dogs in their concession area...top with a few dill pickle slices, tomato, onion, celery salt, etc...and you'll feel back at home. This suggestion comes tested and approved by my Chicago-born/chef BF.

                                                    Hope that helps.

                                                    1. Although they're not Chicago style, "Lawton's Famous Frankfurters" in Lawrence, MA has the best dogs around. These foot-longs are sort of deep fried on top of a griddle - "sort of" in that the oil isn't really "deep", it's shallow but deep enough to submerge the dogs. Really unique and really tasty. Worth every minute of the 27-mile journey up there.

                                                      2 Replies
                                                      1. re: mmcc900

                                                        love Lawton's. although i usually get two w/chili which only 'stay with me' about an hour, but i can't resist. love the fire plug by the counter.

                                                        1. re: ScubaSteve

                                                          Me too Scuba...and the fact you're standing on the sidewalk while "in" the place. Too cool.

                                                          If you want to drive, Stacy, there is a place called "Chicago Dogs" which does a decent Chicago dog in Scarborough Maine, almost to Portland, route 1

                                                      2. I've lived all over the country, and every time I move I call (or, lately, email) Vienna Beef and ask for the names of any restaurants or retail outlets that carry their products at my new location. They've been quite helpful.

                                                        1. I have only had the pleasure of a Chicago dog once, a couple of years ago, and I don't recall where it was but the description was right on. I loved it, and it made me sad that Boston doesn't have the same "dog culture" as I somehow think it should. Still, I have had something close at Spike's (I agree with all previous comments about the bun though) and also would note that UBurger has a close version and might be persuaded to make a true one if enough asked.

                                                          1. Ah yes, I remember Chicago Franks in Harvard Square with much fondness. They made their own french fries too.

                                                            Vienna Beef sells a Chicago hot dog kit on their website. I haven't tried it yet but I'm thinking this may be the time.