Some cities have signature style hot dogs, but the Chicago-style dog is perhaps the most well-known regional variety out there. I am from Chicago so I may be a bit biased, but hear me out on how awesome the Chicago-style hot dog is.

What Makes A Chicago-Style Dog Truly Chicago-Style?

First of all, Chicago-style dogs NEVER have ketchup. If you don’t remember anything else from this post, remember this: do NOT put ketchup on your Chicago-style dog, especially if you are eating the hot dog in its home town. Most vendors don’t even serve ketchup as a condiment, but if it is there resist the urge and eat the dog as it was meant to be eaten (without ketchup). If you make this faux pas then be ready for some laughter and raised eyebrows.

Now that I’ve got that out of the way, what is meant to be part of a Chicago-style dog? The hot dog itself is made of beef with a natural casing and can be cooked a variety of ways. Usually Chicago-style dogs are steamed or cooked in hot water, though they can also be cooked on a charcoal grill. If cooked in the latter fashion, the dog is easily identifiable because of the grill marks. This type of cooking method results in what is known as a char-dog which is less common but perfectly acceptable among Chicago-style aficionados.

The bun is typically of the high-gluten variety and is topped with poppy seeds. Buns are usually steam warmed, especially if the dog is being served when it is cool outside (which is most of the time in Chicago). Some vendors may choose to omit the poppy seed addition to the bun, though true dogs will have this feature.

Lastly, Chicago-style dogs are affectionately described as having been “dragged through the garden” because of the number of toppings. Chicago dogs are served with yellow mustard, sweet pickle relish with mint, tomato slices, chopped white onion, pickled sport peppers, a kosher dill pickle spear, and celery salt. Don’t ask the vendor to make substitutions as this is almost as bad as putting ketchup on the dog. If you don’t like something, pick it off discretely.

Where To Get Real Chicago-Style Dogs

These restaurants are based in Chicago and are guaranteed to give you an authentic taste of the Chicago-style dog. The next time you are in the Windy City give them a try!

  • The Wieners Circle in Lincoln Park
  • Gene & Jude’s in River Grove
  • Gold Coast Dogs in various locations
  • Mustard’s Last Stand in Evanston

There are other restuarants, but these have been around the longest and have been important in defining what makes a Chicago-style dog a Chicago-style dog.