How many hot dog stands could you visit between now and October 17?
Vienna Beef, purveyor of arguably the finest hot dogs in the world, has launched an extremely tempting Hot Dog Stand Challenge, and if I wore a younger man’s trousers and t-shirt (of a considerably smaller size), I would take it up in a heartbeat. Happily, fellow blogger, bowling team captain, and friend Stephanie Espo and companion may be up to the challenge.
At latest count, more than 350 places in Chicagoland serve hot dogs, including some in Indiana and Wisconsin. The quest does not have to be entirely local.
And what could you win? The person who eats at the most participating hot dog stands will be crowned Top Dog by Vienna Beef, an enviable achievement, and earn tickets to a special “VIP entertainment experience” once a month for an entire year.
That could mean great seats at a Chicago Bears game, baseball tickets, a VIP tour of the Vienna Beef factory in Chicago, and much more. The grand prize winner will also get a Top Dog T-shirt plus $1,000 to spend at ViennaBeef.com. They will even throw in a trophy.
Sure, you could get a Top Dog t-shirt at Amazon, but what would it mean? I once received a coffee mug hand-painted by my 6-year-old daughter once that said “#1 Dad” on it. What did that mean to me? The world — because it came from her. I received it. I still have it. She’s 37 now. Imagine the value of a shirt that came from Vienna Beef itself!
Second-, third- and fourth-place winners will be dubbed Hot Dog Royalty, and will receive a catered hot dog party for up to 40 friends. They will also get a very cool miniature hot dog cart and a ribbon to commemorate their accomplishments, probably in red and yellow.
Vienna Beef will also confer the honorific of “Mayor” to the person who checks in the most to the 15 neighborhoods that those hot dog stands fall into. For that, you will get a T-shirt and six pounds of hot dogs to enjoy. Six pounds!
If you can only do one stand a week, you still have a chance to win a Vienna Beef trucker hat. They will be giving away five of those per week. It’s no flying corncob hat, but it has an undeniable je-ne-sais-quois cachet.
Scanning through the list, I can happily report that I’ve been to more than a few. So mine has not been a wasted life! Here are just a few:
Hot Dog Express
4300 N Milwaukee Ave Chicago, IL 60641
No poppy seeds. Points off for that, but two dogs with everything (with fries!) for $5.45, the deal cannot be beat. First bite – an explosion of flavors and textures. You get the heat from the sport peppers and the crunch of the dill spear, fresh tomato slices, and that impossibly green neon relish.
6682 1/2 N Northwest Hwy Chicago, IL 60631
All the requisite components are here: crisp dill spear powdered with a light dusting of celery salt, fresh tomato wedges, sport peppers that bring a nice, eye-watering bite to the dog, onions chopped just so, vibrant, kelly green relish, and a nice lathering of yellow mustard on a steamed poppy seed bun.
The Dog Stop
6100 W Belmont Ave., Chicago, IL 60634
A plethora of chopped onions looked promising, and other essentials seemed to be in place: poppy seed bun, tomato slice, generous dill spear, green relish, and (count ‘em!) three sport peppers. A major disappointment? No celery salt.
3550 N Harlem Ave. Chicago, IL 60634
An impressive 2’ x 3’ plaque commemorates this place 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. The dog, which is King, was savory and snappy. It’s clearly the star, and when combined with a great pickle spear that was briny, tangy, and perfect, fresh tomato slices, chopped onions galore, the lusty impertinence of good mustard (tip of the hat to Herb Gardener), and signature bright green relish, this makes for a great dog.
Papa Chris’s Place
6235 W Touhy Ave Chicago, IL 60646
The jumbo quarter-pound Papa Chris Deluxe I ordered was charred, however charring here did little to rid the dog of its sodden water-logging. It was mid-afternoon, and the big, sad dog seemed to have overstayed its boiling hot bath. The seedless bun fell apart, leaving a crumbling mess of produce and a dog that had to be eaten without the comfort and enclosure of a cozy bun. There are better places out there. Go try a few.
In order to participate and begin logging visits to participating hot dog stands, you’ll need to So go register on the Hot Dog Challenge website. Visits to each of the participating stands (Vienna Beef has provided a list) can be logged by scanning the QR code that has been placed near the register at each location. You’ll be able to log the QR code for an individual stand multiple times, which seems like cheating to me.
Nevertheless, Bon Appetit!
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