Where To Find The Best Hot Dogs In Chicago

When the legendary Hot Doug’s closed shop last fall, fans of the famed hot dog stand wept and sighed and begged for a longer stay, then they pulled themselves together and camped outside in line for a solid day to get one last bite of their favorite encased meat. Just in time for summer ball games and grilling season, we asked former owner Doug Sohn what makes the perfect Chicago-style hot dog.

"You start with an all-beef hot dog with natural casing — that’s very important," he explains. "When steamed, you get that snap, and when char-grilled, you get a little extra crunch you wouldn’t get with a mushy, uncased hot dog." Then, you need all of the "requisite toppings": yellow mustard, chopped onions, sweet green pickle relish, tomato slices, a crisp dill pickle slice, sport peppers, and a dusting of celery salt, all stuffed into a plump and properly steamed — not soggy! — poppy seed bun. And, don't even think of looking at that ketchup bottle.

"The combination of flavors and textures is what makes the Chicago hot dog taste so distinctively good," Sohn says. You can taste what he's describing firsthand at Hot Doug’s Appreciation Day on May 16 at Lakeview’s Paulina Market, or next month at The Dog Dayz of Summer, a two-day fest where Sohn will be slinging sausages.

Can't wait until then? We took a little tour around town sampling dogs and fries to come up with a list of the very best bites. While our picks are not technically all Chicago dogs, they are all amazing and delicious. Click ahead and feast your eyes.
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Photo: Courtesy of Franks N' Dawgs.
Franks 'N' Dawgs
In what bears perhaps the closest resemblance to the Hot Doug’s concept, this Clybourn corridor storefront serves stepped-up sausages with toppings like crispy duck confit (atop a turkey and date sausage with garlic aioli and pickled carrots), rendered pancetta (atop Bratwurst with crispy Brussels spouts leaves, fennel, horseradish, balsamic, and pretzel crumbs), and Dijon Cognac crème fraîche (atop steak au poivre sausage with pickled shallots and sautéed asparagus). Then there’s a lamb, chicken and salmon version, but vegetarians will rejoice over the Singhing Fu, a smoked tofu dog with basil paneer, spicy turnip masala, chivda (a.k.a., Indian trail mix with nuts, seeds, raisins and spices), and chopped cilantro.

Franks N’ Dawgs, 1863 North Clybourn Avenue (between Clifton Avenue and Willow Street); 312-281-5187.

Devil Dawgs
While the menu at this DePaul University (and most recently, South Loop) hangout may feature Chicago dogs front and center, the kitschy stand is also well known for its — dare we say it — tasty New York street dog with spicy mustard, caramel-y grilled onions, and 'kraut. Other funky versions include the Korean-inspired Seoul Dawg with shoyu mustard and kimchi, and the Taco Dawg with spicy Devil sauce, pico de gallo, tangy beef coney sauce, shredded cheddar, and tortilla strips for extra crunch.

Devil Dawgs‎, 2147 North Sheffield Street (near West Webster Avenue); 773-281-4300.
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Photo: Courtesy of Portillo's.
It's hard to say which is more conspicuous from the outside — the drive-thru line that snakes down Clark Street come 5 p.m., or the swarms of locals and visitors alike, funneling into this River North institution's doors for a variety of classic Chicago treats, from Italian beef and pizza to hot dogs, of course. Here, the specially made Vienna Beef sausage is juicier than ever and comes with super-fresh condiments, like a salad on your bun, for a complete, handheld meal.

Portillo's‎, 100 West Ontario Street (between LaSalle Drive and North Clark Street); 312-587-8910.

Vienna Beef Factory Store
You can't go wrong at the Chicago dog headquarters. While the factory near the busy Damen-Elston-Fullerton intersection lacks that same nostalgic ambiance you'll find at most hot dog stands, the taste and consistency of the dogs makes it worth the trip. With that signature, garlicky flavor and perfect snap from the natural casing, the all-beef dogs made fresh here daily pair perfectly with pickles and celery salt, among other signature Chicago toppings.

Vienna Beef Factory Store and Deli‎
, 2501 North Damen Avenue (between North Branch Chicago River and Fullerton Avenue); 773-278-7800.
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Photo: Courtesy of Chicago's Dog House.
Chicago's Dog House
While this Lincoln Park eatery features a wide variety of unique, gourmet sausages, it's the slew of creative and classic Chicago hot dog offerings — like the Greek Town dog with hummus and tzatziki and the German Shepard hot dog with Swiss, grilled onions, and 'kraut — that makes Chicago's Dog House so memorable. Other dogs have names after notables like Snoop Dog (homemade chili, cheese, and onion) and former Mayor Richard M. Daley (Irish cheddar, caramelized onion, and smokey Dijon). If you’re bold, order the Blago hot dog served with ketchup (guilty on one count) — get it? Veggie dogs available at no extra cost.

Chicago’s Dog House, 816 West Fullerton (between North Halsted Street and North Sheffield Avenue); 773-248-3647.

Jim’s Original
The original, over 70-year-old Polish sausage stand from the old Maxwell Street Market serves up — you guessed it! — an amazing Polish with the works: yellow mustard, grilled sweet Spanish onions, and extra-spicy sport peppers, plus a free bag of fries. Open round-the-clock, this window-service stand is a known stomping ground for night owls and third-shift workers looking for that Polish or a classic Vienna Beef dog with the usual toppings.

Jim’s Original, 1250 South Union Avenue (between West James M. Rochford and West Maxwell streets); 312-773-7820.
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Photo: Courtesy of Gene's & Jude's.
Gene's & Jude's
One of the most talked about hot dog spots in Chicago, this stand founded circa 1946 has been declared by some to have the No. 1 dog in America. The mainstay continues to draw regulars for its boiled red hot with the works, save the ubiquitous red sauce that shall not be named and poppy seed bun (it's plain here). And, we hope you like fries with that — a hot and fresh-cut stack comes piled on top of the dog, and it's all wrapped together in parchment for a hearty, all-in-one treat outside the ballpark. Tip: Wait for warmer weather if you want a seat; there are none inside.

Gene's & Jude's, 2720 North River Road, River Grove (between Cherry and Grand avenues); 708-452-7634.

Superdawg Drive-In
Looking for a super-retro experience with your dog? Park at this old-school drive-in for dogs delivered to your car door in a tightly-packed box with crinkle-cut fries. This unique dog blends the softer texture of a frankfurter with the all-beef taste of a red hot, and comes with classic Chicago toppings and an extra poppy, poppy seed bun, but swaps sweet green relish for a tangier "piccalilli," a pickled mix of chopped veggies and spices. And, there are no tomato slices – just pickled green ones. Pickle lovers rejoice!

Superdawg Drive-In‎, 6363 North Milwaukee Avenue (between North Nagel Avenue and West Haft Street); 773-763-0660.‎
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Photo: Courtesy of Murphy's.
Murphy’s Red Hots
At this Lakeview institution, Bill Murphy serves up classic, Chicago-style Vienna Beef red hots char-grilled to snappy perfection with super-fresh, "Everything On It" condiments, a.k.a., Murphy's idea of "taking a walk through the garden." That means pickle, onions, relish, tomatoes, sport peppers, and even cucumber slices for extra crunch, all stuffed in a steamed poppy seed bun. Bob Schwartz's book prominently displayed on the counter says it all — Never Put Ketchup on a Hot Dog. The die-hard, mustard-only spot also draws crowds for its supersized Polish sausage and foot-long dog, which is butterflied before hitting the grill for easier eating. With its proximity to Wrigley and outdoor seating along the side, Murphy’s makes a perfect before- and after-Cubs game stop.

Murphy’s Red Hots, 1211 West Belmont Avenue (between North Lakewood and North Racine avenues); 773-935-2882.

Weiner Circle
Verbal abuse aside, this serene by day, rowdy by night indoor-outdoor stand serves up plenty of sass with its sausage. Known for its crispy-charry, griddled dogs and super-cheesy fries, it’s the perfect indulgent lunch — or post-party filler. From personal experience, if you’re nice to the staff upfront, you might just avoid the harsh repartee employees are known for when night falls.

Wiener Circle‎, 2622 North Clark Street (between West Drummond Place and West Wrightwood Avenue); 773-477-7444.

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