Forget a slice of Chicago; what you crave is a litany of classically UNclassic Chicago hot dogs! The Chicago hot dog is one of two ubiquitously signature items to The Windy City (the other being deep dish pizza).
However, what are some of the best unique twists on the Chicago dog? I dug deep into the Chicago hot dog culture and was excited to discover five delicious options across the city!
The Duck Inn
I was fortunate; The Duck Inn had just opened for brunch when I arrived in the afternoon. The dog was a great start to my adventure, featuring one blended condiment from the classic Chicago hot dog toppings. That’s right; The Duck Inn takes the toppings from normal run-of-the-mill Chicago hot dogs and blends them together! One completely even taste throughout. What a concept! And what a completely awesome hot dog. Couple that with other unique menu items made in the local community, and you have an awesome street corner restaurant with great food!
The Meal: Duck Fat Dog, Rice Cake Fingers with Kimchi Sauce, Orange Soda
The Price: $26.30
The Verdict: B+ Great meal but became a bit expensive when factoring in a tip. Awesome venue but definitely out of the way for a Chicago downtown city visitor. As a note, this restaurant has Polynesian luaus in the summer where they serve Mai Tais and Piña Coladas as well as roast whole pigs. I repeat: WHOLE PIGS. Experiencing that could have bumped this up a grade.
Belly Shack / Urbanbelly
First of all, Belly Shack’s Passion Fruit Lemonade is my jam. Seriously. Legitimately. Jam. Doesn’t passion fruit make everything awesome? Belly Shack uses the ingredient to major addiction. I returned to Belly Shack before leaving the city to have a second carafe, but they were sadly closed. And even sadder, this restaurant is permanently closed. However, you can find Urbanbelly as a meaningfully awesome substitute with Belly Shack’s signature Belly Dog with Togarashi Fries on the menu! Let’s talk the dog.
The Belly Dog is a really unique Latin American-Korean blend featuring crispy egg noodles and pickled green papaya with curry mayo on Texas toast–massive enough to be a difficult fit for most mouths. But I think that’s the sign of a great sandwich. Eclectic and electric, your taste buds will be tantalized with this diverse blend of tastes just as mine. It’s a taste adventure well worth the price of admission and with minimal risk of regret.
The Meal: Belly Dog, Togarashi Fries, Lemon-Dill Chew, Passion Fruit Lemonade
The Price: $16.09
The Verdict: A+ Insanely sad they’re closed but insanely glad the Belly Dog and Togarashi Fries live on at Urbanbelly. I hope to heck they also preserved the lemonade!
Closed. Again. Being shafted twice with a near miss at The Duck Inn, I learned a valuable travel lesson—investigate hours of operation better (even for hot dog restaurants). Because you and I both know it is almost a complete waste of time to travel to a location and find that destination closed. Thankfully, I salvaged this misstep by validating that Chubby Weiners did appear to have a litany of delicious options through the front window–including the unique Chicago hot dog which drew my attention! Had I planned better…had I planned better…
The Meal: Momona Dog
The Price: $6.99 (had I bought it…)
The Verdict: Incomplete. I hope I can sample this award-winning dog the next time I visit Chicago.
Hot “G” Dog
Snatching away Chubby Weiners’ business would be the next stop–Hot “G” Dog which was open and doing brisk business! I could tell the place was popular; and as the successor to Chicago’s popular but closed Hot Doug’s, I can also tell what justice is done to that former pillar of Chicago eats. Hot “G” Dog offers special Chicago hot dogs each week, and I was fortunate to sample the Demi-Glace Venison. A venison dog with roasted peppers, goat cheese, and garlic sauce, the only thing I didn’t particularly enjoy was the bun. All other components fired on all cylinders and left my mouth watering for more.
The Meal: Demi-Glace Venison Dog
The Price: $8.50
The Verdict: A- Amazing dog and awesome rotating gourmet Chicago hot dog options. The bun brings the grade down one notch.
Rapidito Colombian Gourmet Bites
Watering for more? The final tour de force stop was Rapidito Colombian Gourmet Bites, an awesome neighborhood fast casual restaurant serving Colombian street food. I’m a glutton. I admit it. I consumed two Rapidito entrees and drinks–enough to make anyone pop. However, with food this good, popping is worth the risk. The signature dish is their hot dog with house pink sauce (and everything else save the kitchen sink). Everything was delicious, but do yourself a “flavor” and order chorizo for your dog of choice. (For those of you wondering, that is known as the Oinking Dog.) I tried the chorizo in the choripapas dish which was a mixture of chorizo (chori) and potatoes (papas), and I instantly regretted ordering the mere Rapidito Dog instead of the Oinking Dog.
To continue the street food immersion experience, try the Colombian juices. Colombia is one of my dream destinations, and the lulo and soursop fruit juices whetted my taste buds even more for the South American nation. Topping off the entire experience, I enjoyed watching some awesome international Colombian soccer on their projection system.
The Meal: Rapidito Dog (cheese, crushed potato chips, ketchup, mustard, house pink sauce, honey, pineapple sauce, quail eggs), Choripapas (creole potatoes, chorizo, quail eggs, house pink sauce), Lulo Juice, Soursop Juice
The Price: $21.31
The Verdict: B+ Delicious authentic South American food with great service. The sheer volume of unique ingredients may become overbearing for sensitive palates. Admittedly, hard-boiled eggs as a hot dog topping is not quite my cup of tea for everyday dining. But nice once in a while.
So there you have it–the five best I could find! Do you know of other unique Chicago hot dogs? Let me hear them in the comments below, and let’s show the Chicago dog just how much innovative competition exists!