By: Nicole Kucharski
What makes Chicago unique? Aside from the magnificent architecture, arts & entertainment, pulsating nightlife and rich history, there is one other thing us Chicagoans love about our city: food. From Mexican to Italian, Chicago has it all. With so much to choose from, there is always one food item that brings me close to home – the Chicago-style hot dog. So you ask: What makes the Chicago hot dog any more special then the rest? Most would say it’s Chicago dog’s unique preparation, style and presentation.
The Chicago-style hot dog is said to have originated in the kitchens of Fluky’s, a popular hot-dog chain that opened in 1929. Although the numbers of Fluky’s have dwindled to just one (the place was renamed U Lucky Dawg until recently closing its doors), the numbers of other hot dog joints have grown. In fact, they have grown in numbers so much, that they supersede other popular fast food joints in the area, such as, McDonald’s.
So what does the Chicago-style hot dog look like? Well it starts with the bun…steamed and topped with poppy seeds. The hot dog is traditionally served kosher (that means no pork), and topped with yellow mustard, relish, white onions, tomato wedges, pickled sport peppers, a pickle spear, and finally, sprinkled with some celery salt.
Why no ketchup? True hot dog lovers will tell you different reasons as to why one of the most popular condiments just doesn’t work. One of the most prominent reasons for ketchup hate, is that the sauce is believed to overpower the already balanced taste of the Chicago-style dog. To put it simply, no ketchup is needed because the combination is already that perfect.
Moving on to other pressing topics…How does the relish get it’s unique neon glow? It’s all about the food coloring. While many are unsure of the exact combination of colors (the recipe is top-secret), it is important to know why the choice of neon green instead of any other green. First, some say that the neon relish tastes a bit sweeter then others, complementing the hot dog just right. Second, it stems from a long tradition, which as many believe, was started by Fluky’s.
Now that you know a little bit about one of Chicago’s most prized possessions check out some of these delicious and noteworthy hot dog joints:
Morrie O’Malley’s (3501 S Union Ave, Chicago): A popular stop for White Sox fans that has the Chicago-Style hot dog recipe down to a T.
Wieners Circle (2622 N Clark St, Chicago) : There are mixed reviews on this joint, but if you enjoy the classic taste of the Chicago dog, you can’t go wrong here.
Chubby Wieners (4652 N Western Ave, Chicago): Simply said, this place serves a a well-prepared Chicago-styled hot dog that’ll sure get your taste buds going.
*Remember that since these places are small-run businesses, or as I like to call them, “joints,” be prepared to come with ca$h and an open mind. Small and cramped places are common in the city but don’t let that discourage you. We promise, you’ll be pleasantly surprised.*