This is a town that knows what it likes and isn’t afraid to go all in on the classics. Italian beef, steak and tacos rank pretty high, but it’s hard to beat Chicago’s hot dogs — especially on National Hot Dog Day.
The Chicago dog is iconic, an ironclad part of the region’s food identity. And while, for some, there’s no better place to enjoy one than a noisy ballpark on a breezy April day, the truth is, there’s never a bad time to scarf one down. Head to your favorite stand Wednesday and grab one (or two).
Like the standing-lunch staple, the institutions that have been slinging out countless hot dog combos through the years are just as beloved in this city. Here’s our list of 25 first-rate hot dog stands in Chicago and the suburbs, listed alphabetically.
The Vienna Beef Hall of Fame made Ariston part of its Hall of Fame class, lauding the restaurant as “both a purveyor of consistently good quality food and a credit to the community.”
Nick Reveliotis, who co-owns and founded Ariston with brothers-in-law Tom and Jim Katris, broke it down. “You have to be in business at least 10 years, you have to sell X amount of hot dogs,” he said. “You have to have a good business … you have to be involved in the community.”
It helps that Ariston is consistently tidy inside and out and that for years the restaurant sponsored a scholarship program at Hillcrest High School, offering free food to high-achieving students. 17501 Kedzie Ave., Hazel Crest; 708-799-6166
For a decade, Brendan O’Connor’s tiny Berwyn restaurant has been delighting fans with house-made sausages (the Maxwell Polish is superb), ground-daily burgers, and a fine hot dog ($6.99) made with natural-casing Vienna Beef. The dog arrives on a poppy-seed bun with the required Chicago toppings, but if you really want a treat, ask for a charred dog — the same essential ingredients but with an assertive char. 7021 Roosevelt Road, Berwyn; 708-317-5213, bigguyssausage.com
Arrive at Bill’s Drive-In, the no-nonsense, no-frills joint in Evanston, and you’ll see, mounted in the kitchen, an illustration of a guy kinda smiling, with the legend welcoming customers to “a family tradition since 1949.” Certainly, Bill’s is a tradition for some families, like the friend who spied an Instagram photo of the place. “We grew up on Bill’s,” she wrote. “So delicious!!!!”
Order a hot dog, and you can choose from the usual condiments (“everything” is defined here as mustard, relish, onions, sliced tomatoes and a sprinkling of celery salt). A Combo No. 1 gets you the dog, a bag of sturdy fries and a drink. The mild hot dogs are from Leon’s Sausage Co., a family-owned business that’s nearly a century old. As the name suggests, you’ll likely be eating in your car; seating is limited to two tables in the parking lot. 120 Asbury Ave., Evanston; 847-491-9844
Fancy corn dogs with house-made batters and artisan sausages are all well and good, but sometimes simplicity is all we’re craving. If you want a no-frills experience, head over to Budacki’s in Ravenswood. Expect a straightforward Vienna Beef dog encased in batter and fried to a pleasing golden brown ($4 with fries). Crispy and sweet, the batter hides the expected snap of the beef frank, but not its classic beefiness. Snag a seat at one of the picnic tables outside and relax — not every meal has to be a fine-dining experience. 4739 N. Damen Ave., 773-561-1322
Though you may think the ingredient list for a fully loaded Chicago-style hot dog is written in stone, that’s definitely not the case at Byron’s Hot Dogs. The stand, which has two locations, serves a hot dog topped with what is essentially a full-fledged salad. Lettuce, green pepper and cucumber join the regular cohort of mustard, relish, onions, tomato slices, a pickle spear, celery salt and hot peppers.
I can’t recommend that version of a hot dog, which gets drowned by the barrage of vegetables, but the jumbo dog ($6.40) is up to the task. The beefy ¼-pound Vienna Beef sausage is juicy and heavily seasoned, which contrasts nicely with the crisp and fresh vegetables. 1017 W. Irving Park Road, 773-281-7474; 1701 W. Lawrence Ave., 773-271-0900; byronschicago.com
After a couple of in-depth articles and sleuthing by fellow Food critic Louisa Chu, we now know Chicago’s oldest hot dog stand opened “sometime in the early 1930s” with Dave Kaplan as its first owner. In 1971, it was sold to Eugene Gaines, and though he’s no longer around, his family continues to run the business in Lawndale. While the menu has changed a little over the past 90 years, you’ll still be able to find snappy natural-casing hot dogs and some of the best fresh-cut fries in the city. 3422 W. Roosevelt Road, 773-722-9935
While the original Lincoln Park shack beloved by DePaulians closed at the end of 2020, four locations continue to churn out sinfully good hot dogs, like the giardiniera-topped Chi-talian and the It’s Not a Corn Dawg, loaded with green chiles, pico de gallo, cotija and marinated corn. The newest joint is close to Michigan Avenue, while the State Street location is just a few blocks away from Grant Park. For the ultimate Devil Dawgs experience, order a Chicago dog or Polish sausage topped with fries. 767 S. State St., 312-583-9100; 1431 N. Milwaukee Ave., 773-687-9441; 937 W. Belmont Ave., 773-883-2000; 804 N. Rush St., 312-929-4757; devildawgs.com
Amy Pawlikowski, her brother Ted and their father, Fat Johnnie himself, make some of Chicago’s best hot dogs (or red hots, as the family likes to call them) at their Marquette Park stand, which opened in 1972. They’re best known for their mother-in-law (the South Side delicacy that subs a chili-soaked tamale for the sausage in a Chicago-style dog), but our favorite is their Mighty Dog, which puts the hot dog and the tamale in the same bun, with all the Chicago-style toppings plus cheese.
They start off with a warm and soft S. Rosen’s poppy-seed bun, then nestle in a Red Hot Chicago skinless dog, Tom Tom tamale, doctored Danielson chili with beans, melted cheese, Lake Valley sweet relish, red ripe tomato, chopped white onion, thick cucumber slice, celery salt, plus sport peppers on request. It’s hard to believe so much can be packed in one small space, yet work together so well — which can also be said about the tiny stand itself. Fat Johnnie’s is cash-only, but open year-round, with a sole picnic table overlooking Western Avenue. 7242 S. Western Ave., 773-633-8196
Fat Tommy’s in the South Side neighborhood of Mount Greenwood certainly isn’t the first restaurant to name a dish after former Bears coach Mike Ditka. (Considering it’s been 35 years since he helped coach the hometown team to a Super Bowl win, he’s probably just as well known to the younger crowd for hawking sausages.)
But the Ditka Dog at Fat Tommy’s may be the most emblematic of Da Coach. The shop serves a bacon-wrapped, deep-fried Polish sausage stuffed into a bun and covered in melted cheese and caramelized onions. The bacon crisps up in the fryer, lending a salty crunch to the juicy sausage. The gooey cheese is absolutely over-the-top, but isn’t that pretty much how Ditka acts most of the time? 3031 W. 111th St., 773-233-3287, fattommyschicago.com
One of the most unexpected places to score a great hot dog in Chicago is at certain locations of Home Depot. Right by the checkout area of the home improvement chain, you’ll find a tiny stand called Fixin’ Franks run by the Conley Shirley.
Though a bare-bones operation, it serves excellent sausages made by Makowski’s Real Sausage, a 102-year-old sausage manufacturer based in Bridgeport. While the jumbo skinless hot dog is an excellent choice, don’t skip over the fat and garlicky Polish sausage. Fixin Franks is located inside these city locations of Home Depot: 6211 N. Lincoln Ave.; 3500 N. Kimball Ave.; 2570 N. Elston Ave.; 1300 S. Clinton St.; 200-232 W. 87th St.
The sign outside actually says “Gene’s and Jude’s,” but there’s only one possessive in the official name, one of many quirks that distinguish this beloved hot-dog stand, which has occupied the same parcel in River Grove since 1950. Gene & Jude’s favors the “Depression Dog” style, which means the only condiments to find their way onto its hot dogs are mustard, green relish, onions and sport peppers. (Want a pickle? Bring your own).
There’s no place to sit, so find elbow room along the narrow counter, or dine al fresco in your car or parking lot (one enterprising fellow brought a folding camping chair for just that purpose the other day). The dog in question is a legit Vienna Beef, natural-casing frank, nestled in a pillow-soft seedless bun, and it’s smothered with a large fistful of fresh-cut hot fries prior to being wrapped and handed over (which is one way to keep the hot dog warm). A single dog is $3.86, but it’s hard to resist the “double dog” (two hot dogs under a pile of fries, wrapped together) for $4.84. 2720 N. River Road, River Grove; 708-452-7634; geneandjudes.com
In most respects, Jeff’s Red Hots in Portage Park looks like dozens upon dozens of other hot dog stands scattered around the city. The menu is heavy with hot dogs and hamburgers, while the décor of muted yellows and browns looks like it hasn’t been updated since the 1970s (that also means it’s awesome). But in one key respect, Jeff’s does things differently. Look amid the usual toppings on its Chicago dog, including bright red tomato slices and a dill pickle spear, and you’ll find a generous helping of sauerkraut. Blasphemy! Right? Well, it may not be a traditional topping, but it’s an inspired addition, lending a hit of acid to each bite. Of course, it helps that the shop uses a natural-casing Vienna Beef hot dog, and a soft and steamed poppy-seed bun. But more places should get on the sauerkraut bandwagon. Let’s make this happen. 3901 N. Cicero Ave., 773-777-1513, jeffsredhots.com
When the late James “Hot Dog” Faruggia opened Jimmy’s Red Hots in 1954 on the far northwest edge of the Humboldt Park neighborhood, his nephew Billy Randazzo was there — and still is, now in his 80s, behind the counter with Faruggia’s granddaughter and current owner, Rose. The Jimmy’s red hot is of the minimalist, or so-called Depression style: A skinny, snappy, natural-casing hot dog comes dressed with yellow mustard, white onion, relish (but not the neon-green kind) and sport peppers on a plain bun (no poppy seeds), served with a jumble of house-made, twice-fried fries. Ketchup, of course, is forbidden. 4000 W. Grand Ave., 773-384-9513, jimmysredhotschicago.com
Jimmy Stefanovic bought his aunt’s hot dog stand in 1939, then made it famous for his Maxwell Street Polish sausage and bone-in pork chop sandwich. But the relatively modest hot dog endures in the neighborhood now known as University Village.
When you arrive, a counterman will call you up to one of the two sidewalk windows. Order your hot dog with everything, which starts with a natural-casing Vienna beef dog in a plain steamed bun, slicked with yellow so-called salad mustard, then daubed with green relish. You will be asked if you want your onions raw or grilled, but there’s only one answer: grilled. The aromatic, colossal sweet Spanish onions are cooked until translucent and radiant. Sport peppers and fries come wrapped on the side, all slid into a brown paper bag, whether you’re dining along the stainless steel counter or taking your meal to eat in your work truck, like generations before you, and probably long after. 1250 S. Union Ave., 312-733-7820, jimsoriginal.com
This North Shore institution, once known as Michael’s Chicago Style Red Hots, has rebranded for the modern era and pared down its hot dog menu to greatest hits that include a Chicago-style dog ($4.19), a char dog ($4.49), a Polish sausage ($6.99) and what’s known as “The Chosen Char” ($8.49), a Romanian jumbo kosher dog. As the new name suggests, Michael’s has also added an array of salad options, including a robust salad bar, plus wraps and burgers. What was once merely a hot dog joint now has something for everyone. 1879 Second St., Highland Park; 847-432-3338; eatmichaels.online
Mustard’s Last Stand opened in 1969, and it does a Chicago-style dog with the works as well as anyone: a classic Vienna Beef dog nestled in a poppy-seed bun with ripe slices of tomato, a crisp pickle spear and zippy sports peppers. The thin, crispy french fries — heavenly — are such a bountiful serving they practically bury the hot dog. There’s some counter seating inside, and five circular tables out front. 1613 Central St., Evanston; 847-864-2700; mustardschicago.com
Here’s my advice on visiting Poochie’s: Go with the “char” whenever you can. The searing heat of the grill adds flavor and a wonderful snap to the natural-casing franks you get here. Fans also adore the jumbo dog ($6.99), a thicker, juicier play on the more diminutive dog one usually sees. If you want to go wild, the onion rings ($4.99) are a terrific add-on too. Poochie’s opened in 1969 and moved to its current 48-seat location in 2011. 3602 Dempster St., Skokie; 847-673-0100; poochieshotdogs.com
In 1963, Dick Portillo’s empire started with The Dog House, a plumbing-free trailer parked on North Avenue in Villa Park (he used a garden hose for his water supply; it was a simpler time). Today, you can find Portillo’s locations throughout the city and suburbs (and in eight other states besides), and each is relentlessly efficient — check out a Portillo’s drive-through during lunch rush, and you’ll see what we mean. The hot dog is Vienna Beef, the poppy-seed bun steamed to the right balance of softness and sturdiness, and the traditional Chicago-dog accompaniments in correct “garden in a bun” portions. Multiple locations, portillos.com
Redhot Ranch is another believer in keeping things simple, and its dressed-down Depression-style Chicago dog is paired with old-school techniques like cooking in ceramic crocks and wrapping up your meal in wax paper. When a single thin frank isn’t enough, opt for the double ($5.19): Two natural-casing franks snuggle up in a single bun, topped with sport peppers, onion, mustard and fries. 2449 W. Armitage Ave., 773-772-6020; 3057 N. Ashland Ave., 773-661-9377; redhotranchchicago.com
Newlyweds Maurie and Flaurie Berman opened Superdawg in 1948 on the Far Northwest Side neighborhood of Norwood Park, originally as a summer-only hot dog stand, then at the end of a streetcar line. A lot has changed in the past 74 years, but the Superdawg with everything ($7.25 with fries) has not. A fat, proprietary-recipe, all-beef sausage in a poppy-seed bun includes mustard, chopped white Spanish onion, neon-green piccalilli relish, a kosher dill pickle, pickled green tomato and hot sport peppers (which they will confirm you want).
A second, bigger location opened 11 miles up Milwaukee Avenue in Wheeling in 2010, also with year-round carhop service, picnic tables, an inside dining room and anthropomorphized hot dog statues named after Maurie and Flaurie on the roof. 6363 N. Milwaukee Ave., 773-763-0660; 333 S. Milwaukee Ave., Wheeling, 847-459-1900; superdawg.com
Gus Ninos named Susie’s Drive Thru in Irving Park after his younger daughter in 1974; now, Susie Ninos owns the place along with her big sister, Anastasia Berry. The hot dog with everything is classic: a Vienna Beef dog in a plain bun with mustard, relish, onion, tomato, cucumber, celery salt, pickle, and sport peppers on request.
Our favorite way to eat a hot dog here, though, is on top of what Susie’s calls the “cheese fry,” a huge serving of hand-cut fries heaped in a deep-fried flour tortilla bowl, then smothered with cheese sauce. Choose the hot dog as your topping and cooks will slice a griddled dog and toss the pieces into your fries. Hot dog fixings aren’t included, but we strongly suggest you ask for them. 4126 W. Montrose Ave., 773-283-6544, susiesdrivein.com
To untangle the notoriously clogged intersection at Fullerton, Elston and Damen, the Vienna Beef factory had to move (though a factory store remains). To see where the sausage is made, you now have to head down to Bridgeport on the South Side, where the new factory is located. Across the street, there’s another factory store — still one of the best places in the city to score a flawlessly prepared Chicago hot dog ($4). The natural-casing sausage has a great snap, and the toppings are placed with care. Plus, you can stock up with all the sausage supplies you could possibly need, from boxes of hot dogs to Vienna Beef swag. 3847 S. Morgan St., 773-435-2217
Everyone’s favorite place to score hot dogs with a significant side of sass, The Wieners Circle has been a late-night destination for nearly 40 years. While the ordering area has all the gritty charm you’ve come to expect, the owners recently unveiled a massive outdoor patio, along with a full bar.
Now you can pick up a can of Old Style or a Chicago-Style dirty martini (vodka with olives and pickle brine) along with a messy plate of cheddar fries. While the shop’s sign antics might get most of the attention these days, the flawless char dog is the reason we keep going back. 2622 N. Clark St., 773-477-7444, wienerscirclechicago.com
Take the advice found on the website of Wolfy’s, the long-running West Ridge favorite: “The jumbo char dog is the proper choice here.” Indeed, it is. Thick, meaty, grilled to a nice char, this dog ($8.59, with fries and drink) is big enough to stand up to the usual array of Chicago condiments, including the pickle spear and ripe slices of tomato.
The Polish sausage ($7.89 with the excellent skinny fries and soft drink), meanwhile, is slightly smaller in size and a bit less bold in flavor. It was topped, at the server’s suggestion, with fried onions, tomato and sliced pickles. Wolfy’s has been open since 1967, so the drill is well established. Order here, pay and pick up there and take your tray into the small, bright, dining area with its view of that signature fork and dog sign out front. Tasty fun. 2734 W. Peterson Ave., 773-743-0207, wolfyshotdogs.com
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