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Jul 27, 2010 06:21 AM

Chicago Hot Dawgs (Dogs) in San Diego

Passing through O'Hare last month I grabbed a quick bite at a slightly dismal airport concession. We were in a hurry, but I needed to avoid as much of the in-flight meal as possible.

I'd heard of Chicago style hot dogs, and had tried one locally at Chicago on a Bun with reasonable results. Reasonable meaning it interested me beyond the usual- it had the bright green relish from Mars. It had been "dragged through the garden" with tomatoes, onions, dill pickle spear and had the signature celery salt. It was ok- I figured anything hot in a place that has something called the "lake effect" freezing one's spittle prior to leaving one's lips would be welcome, but the culinary heavens did not part or anything.

Until O'Hare.

This was truly a dawg of a different species. Just as four legs and a waggely tail does not define a dog, the components contained in the Chicago on a Bun version was, when compared to the O'Hare dog, like Toto vs. Rin Tin Tin.

I was in a hurry so I didn't take my typical copious notes nor whisk the specimen off to the lab (haha-lab), and it was not until I finished it that it's awesomeness truly hit me. I had just had an amazing culinary experience! Around I whirled, headed to the counter for another lap around my new gustatory racetrack- and they called our flight. So I have few details with which to describe the canine.

I noticed the outside casing had been scored on both sides. If I remember correctly, it may have been grilled, and meat had a definitive "oh, snap!" when I attacked it. But the flavor profile (see I type foodie and use terms like that) was a unique cadenza with which I'm now obsessed.

We returned to O'Hare two weeks later, salivating. I'd spent the fortnight's interlude in the world's finest restaurants- Italy and France. But couldn't shake the monkey firmly on my back that is the "Chicago Hot Dog".

We were in a different terminal this time, and despite running up and down the hallways like a soccer dad seeking a lost four year old, there was no sign of my portal to heaven; the slightly dismal airport concession. I settled into a bar and ordered their version.

Four legs and a waggley tail it certainly had. Relish from Mars, celery salt, tomato, onion dill pickle spear. But the heavens did not part, there was no cadenza. It was just another mutt. I dragged myself onto the plane and headed home.

So. Anything in San Diego I should try for that Rin Tin TIn of dawgs? I've tried Wolffys around the corner (4 legs, waggley tail) already.

Help me, please?

PS: I don't do the sport peppers. More heartburn I don't need, thanks.

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  1. Chic dogs are surely different, I still can't get over the food dyed neon green relish. Gota have the hot peppers for a kick! They are a tasty dog, don't tink you'll find them here. Ever try a NJ deep fried ripper? They're excellent.

    1. Fakey..
      Did you notice if they had a 'turkey dog'.. ; )
      What kind of bun was that dawg the celery salt and that it was dragged through a garden.
      There used to be a Sabrett's cart on 163 and Clairemont Mesa across from the Chevron.
      Excellent report and welcome home!

      2 Replies
      1. re: Beach Chick

        "Did you notice if they had a 'turkey dog'.. ; )"

        Oh, sure. May I have pet fish but without any water?

        Why do you irk me so with these veggie options?

      2. The Chicagoans I've met in SD typically cite Lefty's as being the best, vs. Chicago On A Bun.

        3 Replies
        1. re: Josh

          Ooo. Lefty's is less than a mile away on foot. I could even take the dog!

          1. re: Fake Name

            I second Lefty's! They're the closest thing to a real Chicago dog I've had here.

          2. re: Josh

            Chicago On A Bun had an ownership change a few years back and the place went downhill. The old couple that owned it were from Chicago. The new owners, not sure.

            Lefty's is way better than Chicago On A Bun now.

          3. Your post has made me teary-eyed over the loss of Sluggo's, even though it closed several years ago. They carried all kinds of hot dogs, including a VERY "snappy" Chicago dog wiith the aforementioned Mars-green relish and other accoutrement. When they moved to their second, "upscale" location, it was a blast to order Chicago Dogs and beer, sit outside on the picnic tables in the back and watch the "then-champion" Bulls wipe the floor.

            4 Replies
            1. re: foodiechick

              Try Lefty's - it kills Sluggo's, IMO.

              1. re: Josh

                Ding, ding, ding. Coming from you, I consider that a ringing endorsement.

                1. re: foodiechick

                  When I was less discriminating about my meat eating, I was a big fan of Lefty's burgers and dogs. They have items they call char-cheddar burgers and dogs, which have some kind of a cheddar cheese spread involved. Seems like it's a Chi-town equivalent to the Cheese Wiz on cheesesteaks. No, not haute cuisine, but yes, definitely tasty.

                  1. re: Josh

                    Getting that cheese spread melted over fresh fries is even better! Ah, it brings back memories of the Wiener Circle in Chicago...

            2. Went to Lefty's Mission Hills today, and it appears to be the real deal. But I've had a cold and my olfactory sense is not currently up to par. I need to give this a few more tries. But here's a nice snappy.

              4 Replies
              1. re: Fake Name

                It's a shame they have no veggie dogs.

                1. re: Josh

                  Et tĂș, Josh?

                  Grass-fed hot dogs maybe?

                  1. re: Fake Name

                    Homegrown's grass-fed dogs are good, but I doubt Lefty's will carry them. The Yves brand Veggie Dogs are a pretty good substitute (though also lacking the snappy casing).

                  2. re: Josh

                    I read recently that Home Grown Meats sells house-made, grass-fed beef hot dogs. Sadly, no snap-snap-snappy casing.