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Peppers for Chicago Style Hot Dogs

I just came back from a trip to Chicago where I ate quite of few Chicago Style hot dogs. I want to replicate the experience at home. The one ingredient that I'm wondering about are the little chili peppers. They look like gherkins. Do these have a name? Do you have suggestions for which would come closest to matching the flavour?


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  1. Sport Peppers... you can find them at grocery stores here... Surfas also has the SUPER teeny ones...


    1 Reply
    1. re: Dommy

      I've been to Vons, Pavillions and Ralphs grocery stores in Santa Monica and none have had sport peppers. I went to Surfas last weekend and they didn't have any. I asked an employee and she took me to the aisle where I'd just been and she couldn't find any either. She said that someone else asked for them a couple weeks ago and they couldn't find them then either.
      I guess I'll try WF next, unless you have another idea.


    2. They are called Sport Peppers. I believe you can buy them at any market.

      1. I am sure I have seen them at Hows, Gelson and I think Jons, Bristol Farms might also be a good source. Where are you gonna get the poppy seed buns?

        5 Replies
        1. re: Burger Boy

          Wow, thanks for your help.

          About the buns--I forgot about duplicating the buns. I was disappointed with the buns in Chicago--they were pasty/doughy/weber breadish and too thick for the size of the dog.
          I'm okay with it not being a perfect replica. I really like hot dogs on good toasted rye bread, so I'll try that first.

          1. re: Wolfgang

            "I really like hot dogs on good toasted rye bread, so I'll try that first."

            Chicago Style just left the building.

            1. re: ferret

              I know, I know. I agree with you for the most part. However, the buns stunk each place I had a dog in Chicago. They took away from the dog and supporting toppings.
              Hebrew Nationals are all beef. I can't recall if Boar's Head dogs are all beef. I do like them regardless.
              About the relish--I think Heinz sweet pickle relish is pretty close. I have some so i'll try that.

              1. re: Wolfgang

                i looked into this once a while back. You can get a whole Chicago hot dog kit from i think the Vienna beef company. Do a google search. They send you everything you need

                1. re: Wolfgang

                  One man's "stunk" is another's ideal. I'm on board with your desire to control for your personal taste (isn't that the whole point of eating?) but as a life-long Chicagoan, the poppy-seed bun is a must. Rye bread is for corned beef and pastrami, Italian rolls are for beef and sausage and toasted whole wheat is for tuna. You can mix-and-match to your liking but then you've ventured into foreign territory.

          2. My compliments to ferret on providing the perfect response to Wolfgang's desire to change the bun. But a dog on toasted rye does sound good.

            Where in LA, ideally east side, can you get these requisite requirements* for a Chicago hot dog?
            Vienna beef wieners Ideally with natural casings.
            Repeating Burger Boy's request- poppy seed hot dog buns
            neon green, nuclear relish

            *Redundant for emphasis

            More importantly, where can you get a good proper fully constructed Chicago dog in LA, ideally east side, SGV?

            6 Replies
            1. re: ilikefood

              Wolfgang. i used to live in chicago for 5 years, i miss those dogs like nuts! Where did you end up going? Did you by chance go to hot dougs? that is the most magnificant place in the universe!

              http://www.hotdougs.com ,i think

              Theres another institution from chicago called Portillos, huge burgs and sick dogs n italian beef. THeres one out here but i have not been yet.


              "there are no two finer words in the english language than incased meats, my friends"

              1. re: GrillEmAll

                There are two Portillo's in Southern California -- one in Buena Park and a newer one in Moreno Valley. In my experience, they offer the best Chicago dogs and beef outside the Chicago area, but having eaten at both numerous times, I'd bet that some of the California teenagers working there can't pronounce the name of Portillo's home state. Keep alert, because they also forget the gravy and the hot giardiniera on the beef occasionally, and I can't imagine that happening back in Illinoiz.

                By the way, let me take this opportunity to correct a mistake I've been making ever since the first location opened out here a few years ago. Something, somewhere on the Web convinced me that Portillo's didn't use Vienna Beef hot dogs, and I was further encouraged in that belief by the fact that, unlike almost every other stand I know in Chicago (Superdawg being the major exception), the famous Vienna "V" sign (overlaid with a hot dog on a fork) is nowhere to be found at Portillo's. Why wouldn't you advertise your best and best-recognized product?

                But a while back someone on this board with inside connections challenged my ignorance and said that Portillo's was indeed a V shop, so I started a correspondence with Portillo's and, separately, Vienna Beef. Each confirmed a proud association with the other, but neither would answer my question, "Why don't you shout that to the world?"

                I still didn't want to believe it, but when I stopped in Buena Park a few days later for a hot dog, I thought it was really good. Then I noticed they had given me a jumbo dog by mistake, and now I know what to order for a genuine taste of Chicago street food. (I lived there for a dozen years, so the urge is frequently strong.)

                Getting back to the OP, at their carryout counter, Portillo's sells everything but the chairs -- hot giardiniera, beef by the pound, etc. I'll bet you could purchase sport peppers, buns, and everything else in bulk. Alternatively, you can order everything direct at: http://viennabeef.com/ .

                Portillo's Hot Dogs
                8390 La Palma Ave, Buena Park, CA 90620

                Portillo's Hot Dogs
                12840 Day St, Moreno Valley, CA 92553

                1. re: sbritchky

                  Portillo's is popular even in Chicago and they are a fine example of what fast food joints should be like.

                  1. re: ferret

                    Funny you mention this...I was on the chain's board a few days ago and outlined my top chains in various categories...and then I picked one...Portillo's. Good food that can appeal to many palates, well run restaurants, fair prices.

                  2. re: sbritchky

                    The Vienna "V" neon sign you talk about is displayed on the patio at Portillo's, Buena Park. It's the only Vienna signage in the whole place, I confirmed it with a manager working there.
                    They also import the S. Rosen poppy seed rolls for the Chicago dogs from Chicago.

                    1. re: monku

                      That's what I've been saying -- there's just that one "V"! ;-)

                      Well, I don't know how it escaped me, as many times as I've been to Portillo's over the last five years, but I'll certainly look for it next time. Thanks, monku, for the detective work

              2. There is a place in Irvine called Chicago's Best hidden in a non-descript strip mall. They do Chicago-style hot dogs, italian beef/sausage, ribs, and more. It is a local family-run operation and I would be willing to bet that they would probably sell peppers, buns, etc.

                1 Reply
                1. re: RSMBob

                  Chicago's Best is good! They pretty much use all Vienna Products for there hot dogs.

                  They even sell the dogs, buns and everything else in bulk.

                2. If you have the patience to have it delivered go to Vienna Hot Dog Store in Chicago and they will ship everything you need short of the pickle spears and french fries to make a Chicago Dog. Neon relish, sports peppers, plochman's mustard and celery salt.

                  6 Replies
                  1. re: Hughlipton

                    Portillo's Buena Park would be cheaper and more convenient. They make the real deal, S. Rosen poppy seed bun from Chicago too.

                    1. re: monku

                      Ditto, but for the last several years I've been getting my celery salt from Penzey's Spices in Torrance (now also in Santa Monica). I like the appealingly noticeable celery flavor, which also goes well with omelets and certain other dishes, rustic and refined. By the way, I strongly agree with JGold's Dad who, according to his son, insists on sprinkling the salt before adding other condiments. I don't know how any reasonable person could do otherwise, but apparently it happens. Probably agitators.

                      1. re: hnsbmg

                        Eaten many Chicago dogs, but just don't get it.
                        All that stuff....you can't get a handle on the taste of the hot dog.
                        I'm originally from NY.....Nathan's w/ sauerkraut and mustard kind of guy.

                        1. re: monku

                          I enjoy sauerkraut with Central-European-style roast duck or goose but not on my hot dogs, which I also don't smother in mustard, relish, etc., like most Chicagoans (my ex-wife and her family, for example). But I do like celery salt, onions, and sport peppers. Burgers, on the other hand, with their more sublime beef flavor get only cheese and, perhaps, a small amount of raw onion. As I've said in some other thread, I'm convinced that many people rate their burgers on the condiments, not beef taste and cooking technique. I'll add here that I think something similar is true with hot dogs but is, perhaps, more justifiable, given the off-flavors of many tube steaks (except the delicately mild Vienna Beef dog).

                          1. re: hnsbmg

                            I'm with you on the burger only slice of raw onion....no ketchup, lettuce, pickle or tomato.
                            Think it depends what you grew up with.
                            NYC hot dog carts...chili was not a hot dog option.

                            1. re: hnsbmg

                              I like not having to defend any one dogma (g). I like them all the ways you and monku have both listed. Now you both have me drooling like a mad fool and coming up with a non dogmatic approach to devouring a dog or two...soon!

                    2. We have been on this 'journey' find the right stuff for Chicago dogs
                      Only place locally (L.A. area) we have been able to get the Vienna Beef dogs is at Bob's Market on Ocean Park and 17th st. in Santa Monica....you can get (or order) the amount you want and don't have to buy a truckload.
                      They don't have the celery salt, sport peppers, or emerald green relish, (those we have found at the "Chicago Dog" in Las Vegas (not on the strip, but you can Google it)...they have the jars
                      Back to Bob's market....they don't have the poppy seed buns, but they do have large brioche buns that fit the dogs (maybe if enough people asked, they could et them....and maybe the sport peppers, etc. - I just fed 20 people for the 4th of July.....Bob's has a really good, live butcher , too..not where I do my staple shopping, but it is the good source for Vienna wieners.