Hot Dogs in the Dead of Winter

Admittedly, much of the joy of hot dogs comes from where they are eaten: outdoors on a sunny day, perhaps with the laughter of children at a playground nearby or within earshot of the crack of a bat from a box seat – where your hot dog may, in all likelihood, have been brought right to you – or passed along a row of strangers, like they do at Wrigley.

In these thermally challenged days of winter, when the clouds hang oppressively low in the heavens (to paraphrase Poe), how can we even think of hot dogs?

We manage to.

In the U.S. (according to Weird Facts, and who would ever want to dispute them?) 550 hot dogs are consumed every second of every day, all year long. So on any given day in Chicago, when the snow is blowing horizontally (only in Chicago) and the winds are whipping, there will be people munching on dogs.

Some of my favorite hot dog trailers are boarded up for season, so we need to scope out the year-round joints. Where are some of the cozier hot dog stands in the city during these times when the craving is there but the weather is not cooperating?

If you’re further west, try Franksville Station at 3550 N Harlem Ave., a clean, well-lighted hot dog place if ever there was one. On the Wall of Respect leading to the restrooms at Franksville, there is an impressive 2’ x 3’ plaque commemorating the establishment as a member of the Vienna Beef Hot Dog Hall of Fame, an honor reserved for the prime movers in the Chicago hot dog world. The acclaim is deserved. Hot-C and I ordered the foot-long char dog with everything and became even more convinced that the flame is definitely a dog’s best friend. The skin was nicely licked and branded by the fire grill, which made for a savory experience when laid upon a produce-filled bun. It warmed Hot-C and me up.

And if you’re waiting for a Milwaukee Avenue bus, duck into Hot Dog Express at 4300 N Milwaukee Ave, which has a nice, friendly buzz about it, with counter-only seating that turns over quickly. It’s right next to the bus stop, and the hubbub of the counterman dropping deep fat cages of fries on the paper behind the counter will warm you up along with the steam rising from the bun steamer there. Good dog, too. First bite – an explosion of flavors and textures. You get the bonus heat from the sport peppers and the crunch of the dill spear and fresh tomato slices. Critically, you also get the impossibly green relish that is so much a part of the Chicago dog experience.

Some more “hotdogiana” from Weird Facts? Babe Ruth once ate twelve hot dogs and eight bottles of his favorite beverage between games of a double header. He was reportedly rushed to the hospital after the game with a severe case of indigestion.

God, I love that guy.


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  • fb_avatar

    Mark, you have great taste. Swing by some time and try one made on site.

  • In reply to Tom Pierce:

    That'd be great, Tom -- Sweep the kitchen and drag it through the garden ........

  • In reply to Tom Pierce:

    Hey Tom -- What are the chances of getting an inside look at Hot Dog University?

  • I figure that winter is a good time for hot dogs because they are hot. The steamier the better. No roller grill dogs for me.

  • In reply to jack:

    A good Chicago dog can be very warming -- literally (extra sport peppers and steamed bun) and emotionally (transporting you back to a nice summer day ...)

  • In reply to Mark Andel:

    The sport peppers are too "heart burn inducing" to me. Especially when I found out that some places use serrano chiles.

    Does Rick Bayliss sell a habanero dog among his fusion food?

  • In reply to jack:

    That's a nice thought -- if Rick doesn't, he should. I know he uses orange habanero chiles for his sauce. Regarding the heartburn, one word: Prilosec. Sometimes you gotta play through the pain.

  • ALs,Lake and California,Sammys on Division,Byrons,Portillos, Clark street dog super dawg ....
    need I say more

  • In reply to Craig Jackson:

    That's a mouthful -- and all are excellent choices. Superdawg does an awesome job, and is one of the more iconic hot dog stands in
    Chicago (and perhaps the world) with its enormous, famed hot
    dog couple Maurie and Flaurie outside, he in a wrestling tunic
    flexing his Supermuscles while she demurely looks on.
    Superdawg has red blinking lights for eyes, a perpetual,
    knowing wink that dares the observer: “Go ahead and try to
    find a better dog than me!” The dog is a thick Vienna beef dog that competes in a different weight class than many Hot-C and I have encountered. The skin is firm, and an excellent pickled green tomato pepper is a distinctive and memorable switch-up from the standard red tomato wedges. The relish is as green as a fairway at Augusta National, the quartered dill spear crunchy and awesome, and sport peppers are sprinkled liberally on the dog. It's a contender.

  • In reply to Mark Andel:

    The one thing I figure is that Superdawg is in business in Wheeling, next to La Francais and Hackney's, which aren't any longer. But, if it is only car hop like the one at 6300 N. Milwaukee, winter may be too cold for that.

  • In reply to jack:

    Yeah, Jack -- a challenge, for sure. But there is a little stainless steel dining room at the Milwaukee location that seats around 12-20. When you're there, you get a feeling you’re in the presence of, if not greatness, at least substantive notoriety, because there's a whole row of magazine covers and media articles and signed celebrity photos in there.

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