Just say no to ketchup
Whether your kids were born here or not, they won’t be true Chicagoans without understanding the anatomy of a classic Chicago-style hot dog. No better way to bone up on the subject than to visit some of the best hot dog stands in Chicagoland.
Love ’em or leave ’em, hot dogs are foot-long big in Chicago. The traditional delicacy includes an array of colorful condiments. (However, we’ll give kids a pass on not including them all or, worse yet, on committing sacrilege by using ketchup.)
We love the on-the-go ease (no silverware!) and relative affordability of a “red hot.” Of course, no size fits all, and hot dog stands around the city have developed their own personalities and expanded their menus to accommodate all different preferences.
The Most Authentic: Vienna Beef Factory Store and Cafe
Vienna Beef hot dogs made their debut in 1893 at the World’s Fair/Columbian Exposition and put the Chicago-style hot dog on the culinary map. The low cost made it an institution during the Great Depression, and the appeal never subsided. You’ll find the Vienna Beef hot dog at the core of most Chicago-style vendors around the area. In fact, Vienna Beef operates a Hot Dog University to teach aspiring hot dog vendors, exactly how to achieve a properly dressed Chicago style by “dragging it through the garden.” Taste a true original in the cafe, and if you want to give it a whirl yourself, there are DIY kits available at the factory store to bring home with you.
3847 S. Morgan St.
2501 N. Damen Ave.
Bucktown (Returning bigger & better in spring 2024)
The Best Drive-Thru: Superdawg
One of the most revered, iconic hot dog destinations, not only in Chicago but in the country at large, is Superdawg. Recognizable for its statues of hot dog characters that stand on the roof of their Norwood Park location, this spot is Americana nostalgia at its best. Pull up in a car and park by one of the intercom stations. You place your order with a staffer and then indulge in your car. Just like the good old-fashioned drive-ins non-kids remember and cherish! It’s a bygone experience, made all the better by crinkle-cut fries, randomly square-shaped scoops of ice cream, and those dogs. Oh, those dogs. The signature Superdawg frankfurter arrives on a poppy seed bun with piccalilli, mustard, pickle, Spanish onions, and hot peppers. Another favorite is the adorably named Whoopskidawg, a char-broiled sausage basted in a “special” sauce with grilled onions and a pickle.
6363 N. Milwaukee Ave.
333 S. Milwaukee Ave.
The Kitschy Favorite: Gene & Judes
Since hot dogs and nostalgia go together like ketchup and judgment, enjoy them at old-school sensation Gene & Jude’s. The River Grove favorite has been around since 1946 and is often argued as having the best hot dogs in the country. The kitschy atmosphere feels preserved in time, maintaining the same rustic charm it probably possessed when it first opened. It’s rickety and frills-free, but in the most heartwarming of ways, with surly-but-lovable staffers and a bare-bones menu of hot dogs and fries. Rest assured these hot dogs and fries are exceptional.
2720 River Rd.
The Most Legendary: The Weiner’s Circle
The absolute legend, The Wiener’s Circle, is a must-visit but hot-dog-buyer beware: You NEVER know what’s going to be served on the side of your dog at The Wiener’s Circle. But, we can promise it will be filled with a heap of good-spirited sass. If you want a great dog and a hearty laugh, hit this spot for an unforgettable experience, one that will likely teach your kids some new words, but all in good fun. If this makes you a bit nervous, maybe save this one for an adult-only afternoon out.
The Wiener’s Circle reopened in October 2021 after an extended closure for renovations. They’re back and sassier than ever with a new patio, an updated menu (don’t worry, your favorites made the cut), and now serving cocktails. The good-natured banter we all love is still intact, but only order the ketchup if you have a death wish. Trust us!
2622 N. Clark St.
The Quickest Fix: Byron’s Hot Dogs
In the shadow of Wrigley Field, this small hot dog stand might be missed, if not for its larger-than-life reputation. Byron’s has been celebrated by the Vienna Hot Dog Hall of Fame as well as at the 2010 Taste of the States White House picnic. Stop by for a quick bite before a game, after a game, or on non-game days. There’s always time for a hot dog at Byron’s.
1017 W. Irving Park Rd.
1701 W. Lawrence Ave.
The Most Renowned: Portillo’s
In 1963, Dick Portillo opened a small trailer in Villa Park called The Dog House. Since then, Portillo’s has grown to include more than 70 locations across the U.S. Due to its nationwide notoriety, the Portillo’s hot dog has become synonymous with “Chicago Style” throughout the country. Portillo’s is also famous for its Italian Beef sandwiches, and its decadent chocolate cake.
Locations throughout Chicagoland and the United States
For Veggie Options: Devil Dawgs
They’re known for being one of the best dogs in the city, their sport peppers and milkshakes get rave reviews, but they also serve a vegan dog and a Beyond Burger for those that prefer to go the vegetarian route.
Locations in South Loop, Wicker Park, Lakeview & Gold Coast
The Worth-the-Drive Fave: The Dogfather
It doesn’t get any more family-friendly than The Dogfather, a haven of meaty decadence in far west suburban Bartlett. It’s clean and inviting inside and out, and employees radiate friendly vibes. Grab a seat and dig into hot dogs, Italian beef sandwiches, and gyros. The menu is focused and delicious, featuring the classic Chicago-style dog along with a cheese dog, chili dog, chili cheese dog, and Polish sausage. There are kid-sized versions of the dogs, along with crispy sides such as fries, onion rings, tater tots, and mozzarella sticks.
957 Illinois Route 59
Go Beyond the Bun: The Chicago Dogs
Continue the hot dog theme and spend a family day at the beautiful Impact Field watching The Chicago Dogs, an independent professional baseball team that pays homage to our favorite street food.
9850 Balmoral Ave.
Additional reporting from Maria Chambers