The Chicago hot dog, a cylinder of beef on a cradle of bread, is more than a snack. It?s the culinary embodiment of a city?s soul, an edible reminder of the massive German immigration that lit the city afire in the 1850s. Just like the Windy City, says Dr. Bruce Kraig, founder of the Culinary Historians of Chicago, ?a Chicago dog has a complex, subtle flavor.? It also happens to be delicious.
With more hot dog stands per square mile than any other American city, the search for the perfect Chicago hot dog is a serious undertaking. Happily, though Chicago winters are notorious, buzzing around Chicago?s summer streets on a scooter on a hot dog vision quest is one of life?s more sublime pleasures.
The first stop on any hot dog tour must be Murphy?s Red Hots, a tiny corner store with five tables. Order the Vienna all-beef ?dragged through the garden.? Your weiner will come the classic way, piled high with neon relish, grilled onions, pickle spears, lettuce, tomato, celery salt, and sport peppers -- small mild peppers from Southern Louisiana that are pickled and sent north. Next up is Jim?s Original, an old stand founded by a Macedonian, owned by a Greek, and run by a Pole. Order the Maxwell Street Polish sausage, a coarse-grind sausage invented there 70 years ago, topped with golden grilled onions.
In the late afternoon, buzz out to Hot Doug?s, a new classic stand where Doug Sohn serves exotic dogs like a cranberry and Shiraz wild boar sausage with sweet curry mustard and Gran Canaria cheese.
After your sausage party, take a nap downtown at the Palomar Hotel, then get your groove on at Chicago?s hipster gay dance club Berlin.
It?ll be a three-dog night yet.
More Road Trips:
New York: An upstate culinary crawl
Key West: Fish seen, fish eaten in the Conch Republic
Napa: Massages and Meyer lemons in wine country