I'm a Chicagoan, and I like ketchup on my hot dog. Deal with it.

I'm a Chicagoan, and I like ketchup on my hot dog. Deal with it.

I love love love hot dogs, but I'm a traitor to my Chicago roots; I have to pile on the ketchup and onions. I hate Chicago-style hot dogs, and I get sooooo tired of people making a big deal about how I prefer my dog. (My picture is even on the Wall of Shame at Flub a dub Chubs.) I've always wondered where all of those nasty Chicago-style hot dog ingredients came from. Thus, it's the topic for this week's "Did you know, Chicago?" feature.

So what exactly is in a Chicago style hot dog? It is a Vienna Beef hot dog in a steamed poppy seed bun topped with yellow mustard, chopped onions, green relish, a Kosher pickle spear, a tomato wedge, sport peppers and a dash of celery salt.

The Chicago-style hot dog was born during the Great Depression on Maxwell Street. Abe Drexler opened the original Fluky's, a hot dog stand on the corner of Maxwell and Halsted, in 1929 and began serving this famous meal.

The original hot dog was called a "Depression Sandwich." Five cents would get a customer "the works," which for some was an entire meal in itself.

The foundation of a traditional Chicago-style hot dog was the Kosher Vienna Beef hot dog. Why Kosher Vienna Beef? During the Great Depression, Vienna Beef was THE dog of choice. And since the founders were Jewish and Abe Drexler was Jewish, Kosher hot dogs all around. Today, Vienna does not make Kosher dogs, but to make a true Chicago-style creation you need to get an all-beef hot dog.

The ideal hot dog requires a substantial bun to handle the steam warming and heaping ingredients. Typically, a traditional dog is made with S. Rosen's Mary Ann Poppy Hot Dog Bun.

Today there are more hot dog stands in Chicago than McDonald's, Burger King and Wendy's restaurants combined.

So, what's with the strict "NO KETCHUP" policy? I couldn't find one! It really seems like you don't use ketchup just because you don't use ketchup. Abe didn't use it, so it's wrong.


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  • Me too! Ketchup and relish. Anyone doesn't like it, just step off man! This is my prerogative! :)

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    The writer has not done his homework, Vienna Hot Dogs are not Kosher.

  • In reply to jfsp:

    They actually were originally. I'll clarify better, though.

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    In reply to jfsp:

    the writer said they were not Kosher any longer. you may want to read the article again and do your homework.

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    Vienna hot dogs are NOT kosher, they are kosher STYLE, no pork products (FAQ from Vienna's website http://www.viennabeef.com/about/faq/#FAQ52).

    Jewish is not always kosher.

  • In reply to Steve Rosenzweig:

    Yup, all fixed! They were once Kosher, but they're not anymore. Should have clarified better.

    P.S. I know Jewish doesn't always mean Kosher. I'm Jewish and could not even begin to learn all of the laws.

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    Try being the guy who only puts Ketchup and MAYO on a hot dog in Chicago. (Okay, I am originally from the south, but I still get grief for it..)

  • In reply to Channing Greene:

    I think I might try that! I love me some mayo.

  • AMEN SISTA! I LOVE ketchup on my hot dogs! Along with hot sauce and relish. I'm off to get a dog right now!

  • In reply to klf22:


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    Putting ketchup on a Chicago dog is as unChicago as claiming to be a fan of both the Sox and the Cubs. One could do it, but why would one? It should mean exile to someplace like Iowa.

  • In reply to Mark Weinstein:

    Nooooooo I won't go to Iowa!

  • Try being a Cubs fan on the South side and having four kids that LOVE ketchup on their dogs. Life is hard, but I shall persevere!

    Great post!

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    Totally agree with you! I always put ketchup on my hot dog!

  • I got into a debate with a lady on Yelp who swore up and down hot dogs with ketchup were only for children. All I could do was shake my head. I've been a vegetarian for almost eight years now, but before I was, I ONLY ate ketchup on hot dogs (I'm 30 now). Even when I get a veggie soy dog, I still use ketchup or barbecue sauce. I have no desire to have a bunch of onions, peppers, etc., all on my hot dog. I'm not even that interested in mustard. Bleh.

  • In reply to Shamontiel:

    People take is so personal! Why can't we just spread a little ketchup on and all just get along?

  • In reply to Shamontiel:

    Well, if anyone is crazy enought to eat a "veggie soy dog" and admit it, then ketchup, bbq sauce, even chinese mustard, siriracha sauce, or ANYTHING is permissable to kill the flavor!

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    It is truly frustrating when writters shortcut their due diligence on research. The original reason for not putting ketchup on a hot dog is due to the ingredients, such as sugar, that some manufacturers put in their ketchup. The sugar counteracts the acid from the tomatoes which will dull the flavor (and the other tangy flavors on the dog). Adding sugar is not always a good thing. Of course you can have a hot dog any way you want it, but this was the prime reason for not using ketchup. Eat up and enjoy.

  • In reply to War1420:

    I can see that being the reason why modern hot dog connoisseurs don't use ketchup, but I found no evidence stating that this was the reason Abe Drexler or any of the original hot dog vendors chose not to use it. If you find out otherwise, please do let me know. I'm not above admitting I'm wrong.

  • In reply to War1420:

    Really. It is "truly frustrating" to you? Perhaps the word "frustration" needs to be recalibrated if a blogger writing an opinion about ketchup sends you into a whirl.

  • I think to each it's own. Personally, I don't like ketchup on anything but fries. I don't like relish on my hotdogs. Mustard, onions, pickles and sport peppers are just fine for me. I think we need to respect people for their likes and dislikes. I know there are plenty of ways we like to eat our food. So, while I was born and raised in Chicago, I cannot disdain someone for putting ketchup on their dog, if that's what the like so be it. Doesn't mean I'm not loyal to Chicago. Chicago really doesn't care what you do with your food, as long as you like it.

  • Sacrilege! ;-) Loved the article! Made my mouth water!

  • In reply to siblingless:

    Actually, it did the same for me :-) Now I would like a hot dog with everything but ketchup and relish.............

  • Royko said it best: "No, I won’t condemn anyone for putting ketchup on a hot dog. This is the land of the free. And if someone wants to put ketchup on a hot dog and actually eat the awful thing, that is their right.

    “It is also their right to put mayo or chocolate syrup or toenail clippings or cat hair on a hot dog.

    “Sure, it would be disgusting and perverted, and they would be shaming themselves and their loved ones. But under our system of government, it is their right to be barbarians.”

  • I'm a vegan in Chicago. Conundrum!

  • Banishment!!!

  • I used to love ketchup on my hot dog. Then I turned 7.

  • How do I put this delicately....

    When a girl does it (especially if she's attractive), it's cute.

    When a dude does it (especially if he's attractive), he's a douchebag.

  • In reply to gwill:

    And when someone, cute, ugly, male, female does whatever the heck they want I say amen. Sorry gwill, but just because you're a closed minded a-holes who can't give any real reasoning for your displeasure doesn't give you any credibility. You just sound like an immature d-bag just like the 7 year old jem99.

  • In Chicago, we use an all-beef hot dog. I like ketchup on anything beef. Deal with it!!

  • isn't ketchup on a hotdog called a Batavia-style hot dog? oh wait, maybe it's East Moline-style...or was it Kankakee-style...Cairo-style? i'll get it eventually...

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    Ketchup is totally fine, and to those who blast it I say, how about you using REAL mustard, and not that crappy flourescent yellow "substance" you all slather on your dogs. Y'know, brown, deli, spicy or any otherwise REAL mustard...

  • "What kind of sick bastard puts ketchup on a Hot Dog".

    Dirty Harry

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    SHAME ON YOU! :)

  • Don't take it the wrong way, but it's a southside and/or Black thing to put ketchup on a hotdog; it tastes good that way. I've done it all my life and so do friend and relatives. We don't get what all the noise is about. If ketchup wasn't supposed to be put on a hotdog, then why is it offered right alongside the mayo and mustard?

  • All the people who get so bent out of shape about ketchup on hot dogs, get a life. All the GUYS who get so huffy about it are obviously insecure in their manhood. They have to do what Dirty Harry says or they feel all squishy inside. But Dirty Harry's not from here. He's from San Francisco. Are you advocating San Francisco standards for Chicagoans? I grew up here, and I grew up hungry. I put every condiment they offered on my Fluky's dog, because they were there and because they were free. And nobody said boo to me about it. I will put ketchup on my hot dog until I am dead, regardless of chemical or frou-frou taste considerations, because it's sitting right there at every hot dog stand, free, and I am a free American, Chicago-born.
    (P.S. I've got nothing against San Francisco personally. It's the most beautiful city I know of. In fact, let's face it, living in Chicago is like flunking God's Short-Form Intelligence Quiz from November to April. Let's face it. We are mutants for living here.)

  • I love ketchup on my hot dogs!!! if you don't like it - get you're own hot dog.....

    I see a lot of people put a lot of stuff on food that I would never do (mayo on fries...) because it's not my taste. I'm not going to be a jerk and JUDGE them for that. I judge people on character, not on food.

    but thank you for putting the idea in my head. I have a feeling we're gonna have hot dogs (cheese and ketchup please) for dinner!!!

    (p.s. it's not a South Side/black thing. I know plenty of people from all over the city and all races that like ketchup on their hot dogs!)

  • In reply to goofyjj:

    o crap!!! - I meant "get YOUR own hot dog". and I was doing so well with spelling

  • to put ketchup on a hot dog is barbaric, sacrilegious, blasphemous and just not right.
    if you do, please seek help from your mental health specialist.
    I ordered a Maxwell polish at a stand in WI,
    I asked them if they new where Maxwell st. was. they looked and me and laughed, said Maxwell was just the name of the sandwich and not a location. I left

  • If what I've seen about how hot dogs are made is true, ketchup (or catsup, is there a difference?) may not be the worst thing to put on it!

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    Yellow mustard is awful; brown mustard FTW.

  • Cecil Adams has the definitive word. http://www.straightdope.com/columns/read/679/why-is-there-no-ketchup-on-a-properly-made-hot-dog

    'Ketchup is destructive of all that is right and just about a properly assembled hot dog (and we're talking about a pure beef hot dog, not one of those things you could serve with dressing on Thanksgiving)...

    'Mel Plotsky opened our discussion by describing the condiment as a "catchall of garbage." Over at crosstown rival Vienna Sausage, they refer to ketchup as the "K-word." If you go into an authentic hot dog joint and ask for ketchup on your hot dog, the counterman will pause and look you in the eye. He may or may not say, "Ketchup?" with a tone of disbelief. But you may be certain what he's thinking: "Behold this creature that walks like a man. It wants KETCHUP on its HOT DOG." '

  • Eat 'em however you like 'em. I like ketchup on hotdogs and it's appalling to see this kind of food snobbery.

  • I'd like to think that if _I_ was on the loudest, most obnoxious side of this debate, I wouldn't be as incredible a douchebag as a lot of you are, but since I never will be, I guess I'll never know.

    There is no real reason offered here, or anywhere else, not to put ketchup on a hot dog, other than War1420's nonsensical suggestion above that, "the sugar... throws off the flavorssss..... 'n' stuff." This is patently ridiculous, of course, when you're going to drown the thing in nauseatingly sweet, neon-green relish.

    I'm pretty sure my hot dog with dill relish, ketchup, and mustard (at least) has far less sugar, "...compromising the structural integrity... of the sausage flavinoids... and nitrites, and... pH balance, and.... yeah."

    What a joke! Leave people alone.

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    you can enjoy your ketchup hotdogs while watching 2 broke girls. i will remain very far away while this all is going on.

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