How to make a Chicago-style hot dog

Chicago Hot Dog

Photo by Arnold Gatilao — Creative Commons License Some Rights Reserved

Not only does the Pitchfork Music Festival have a really endearing name, it doesn’t cost a lot to attend and it’s got a super lineup. Grizzly Bear, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart and The Duchess and the Duke are just several of the indie bands performing at Pitchfork.

Another great thing is that it takes place in Chicago. And we all know what that means. It means you’ll have a legal reason to eat the neon green corn syrupness known as sweet pickle relish. But before we learn more about the Chicago-style hot dog, let’s take a minute to reflect on the history of the original fast food.

Most hot dog historians agree that the hot dog should be credited to Johann Georghehner, who first peddled his “little dachshund” sausage around Frankfurt in 1852. (Hence the name Frankfurter, neh?) Fast forward a decade or so and we’ve got the very first hot dog cart, built by Charles Feltman. But it wasn’t until the end of the 18th century that the term “hot dog” was coined. According to the notes of people who had time to write such things down, students at Yale University took to calling the cooked sausages sold outside their dorms as “hot dogs” for the nefarious ingredients they were purportedly composed of.

Other milestones in the hot dog’s history: Nathan Handwerker crushes the Coney Island competition by pricing his Nathan’s hot dogs five cents lower than Feltman’s in 1916. Scandal and slander in 1939 when FDR’s outdoor lunch menu with the King of England went public, courtesy of The New York Times. The menu included Nathan’s Hot Dogs. George VI had seconds.

It’s uncertain when the Chicago-style hot dog first came about, but what is certain is the many things that go on it. In fact, the little fellow comes with so many condiments, natives will order them “dragged through the garden”. In addition to a steamed or boiled all beef dog with natural casing, a true Chicago dog comes with mustard, onion, unnaturally colored relish, dill pickle spears, tomato slices, pickled sport peppers, celery salt and cucumbers for good measure. It does not come with ketchup. Never has, never will. And don’t even think about eating it on a regular old bun. This baby needs to rest on a poppy seed carrier or it can’t be from Chicago.

Because you’ve come to this site in the first place, I’m going to take it for granted that you are a cultured, open minded and highly literate individual, so I’m also going to guess that you know how to boil a hot dog. Nevertheless, the order and position of the toppings is pretty darn important, so here’s a link to a video that will take you through the layering process, step by voiced-over step. If you prefer a list of ingredients, head to the Food Network.

Not interested in making one yourself? Get your dog on in Chicago.

- Courtney Maum

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2 Responses to “How to make a Chicago-style hot dog”

  1. KadmusArts Playlists » Blog Archive » The Decidedly Non-Nostalgic Playlist
    July 9th, 2009 03:59
    1

    [...] check out — and if you’re stuck at home, you can still pretend you’re there, and make yourself a Chicago hot dog while you listen to the [...]

  2. The Edible Festival » Blog Archive » Radical Reubens & Vegan 1000 Island Dressing - Vegetarian Cooking Meats its Match in Chicago
    August 3rd, 2009 06:03
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    [...] at KadmusArts, we just can’t get our fix of Chicago. We’ve talked about their hotdogs, we’ve talked about their cocktails, and now it’s time to talk about their [...]

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