A Chicago-style hot dog, Chicago Dog, or Chicago Red Hot is an all-beef frankfurter on a poppy seed bun, originating from the city of Chicago, Illinois. The hot dog is topped with yellow mustard; chopped white onions; bright Green Sweet Pickle Relish; a dill pickle spear; tomato slices or wedges; pickled sport peppers; and a dash of celery salt. The complete assembly of a Chicago hot dog is said to be “dragged through the garden” due to the many toppings. The method for cooking the hot dog itself varies depending on the vendor’s preference. Most often they are steamed, water-simmered or grilled over charcoal, the latter of which are referred to as “char-dogs.”
The canonical recipe does not include ketchup, and there is a widely shared, strong opinion among many Chicagoans and aficionados that ketchup is unacceptable. A number of Chicago hot dog vendors do not offer ketchup as a condiment.
Many sources attribute the distinctive collection of toppings on a Chicago-style wiener to historic Maxwell Street and the “Depression Sandwich” reportedly originated by Fluky’s in 1929. Both the founders of Vienna Beef frankfurters, the most common brand served today, first sold at the 1893 World’s Colombian Exposition in Chicago, and the proprietors of Fluky’s were Jewish, which may account for the wieners’ pork-free, kosher-style character.
The “dragged through the garden” style is heavily promoted by Vienna Beef and Red Hot Chicago, the two most prominent Chicago hot dog manufacturers, but exceptions are common, with vendors adding cucumber slices or lettuce, omitting poppy seeds or celery salt, or using plain relish or a skinless hot dog. Several popular hot dog stands serve a simpler version: a steamed natural-casing dog with only mustard, onions, plain relish and sport peppers, wrapped up with hand-cut french fries, while the historic Superdawg drive-ins notably substitute a pickled tomato for fresh. Many vendors, including Portillo’s, offer a Chicago-style dog with cheese sauce, known as a cheese-dog.
Chicago-style hot dogs are cooked in hot water or steamed before adding the toppings. A less common style is cooked on a charcoal grill and referred to as a “chardog.” Chardogs are easily identifiable because very often the ends of the dog are sliced in crisscross fashion before cooking, producing a distinctive cervelat-style (“curled-x” shape) as the dog cooks. Some hot dog stands, such as the Wieners Circle, only serve char-dogs.
The typical beef hot dog weighs 60 g and the most traditional type features a natural casing, providing a distinctive “snap” when bitten.
The buns are a high-gluten variety made to hold up to steam warming, typically the S. Rosen’s Mary Ann brand from Alpha Baking Company.
Chicago-style Hot Dog
- 1 frankfurter (Vienna hot dog), boiled or steamed
- 1 poppy seed roll, heated or steamed
- ½ tablespoon yellow American mustard
- 1 tablespoon neon green relish
- diced onions
- 2 large dill pickle slices
- 2 slices red tomatoes
- dash celery salt
- 1 sport pepper, up to 2, optional (see Note 1)
- Place cooked hot dog in poppy seed roll.
- Top with mustard, green relish, onions, pickles, and sliced tomatoes.
- Finish it off with a dash of celery salt.
Cooks Notes & Variations
- The sport peppers are optional. Pepperoncini or Jalapeño peppers are reasonable substitutes
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