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The Chicago Hot Dog. History of the Chicago Hot Dog. The "Chicago Style" hot dog got its start from street cart hot dog vendors during the hard times of the Great Depression. Money was scarce, but business was booming for these entrepreneurs who offered a delicious hot meal on a bun for

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The Chicago Hot Dog

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History of the Chicago Hot Dog

The "Chicago Style" hot dog got its start

from street cart hot dog vendors during

the hard times of the Great Depression.

Money was scarce, but business was

booming for these entrepreneurs who

offered a delicious hot meal on a bun for

only a nickel.

The famous Chicago Style Hot Dog was

born! They'd start with a Vienna Beef hot

dog, nestle it in a steamed poppyseed

bun and cover it with a wonderful combination

of toppings: yellow mustard, bright green

relish, fresh chopped onions, juicy red tomato

wedges, a kosher-style pickle spear, a couple

of spicy sport peppers and finally, a dash of

celery salt. This unique hot dog creation with a

"salad on top" and its memorable interplay of

hot and cold, crisp and soft, sharp and smooth,

became America's original fast food and a true

Chicago institution.

building a chicago style hot dog
Building A Chicago Style Hot Dog


Name the components of a classic Chicago-style

hot dog. If you rattled them off faster than the Sox

can tank a winning season, congrats, you’re

officially a Chicago dog aficionado.

If you’re dumbfounded, this breakdown is for you: a

boiled or steamed all-beef dog on a poppy-seed

bun topped With mustard, relish, chopped onions,

Tomato wedges, a pickle spear, sport peppers and

Celery salt. How these particulars came to be is

Part speculation, part marketing and a little bit of

the old telephone game (i.e., “this guy my father’s

brother knew said…”). And the guy who’s heard the

most of those stories is Bruce Kraig, president of

Culinary Historians of Chicago and author of the

forthcoming book The Hot Dog (spring 2009,

Reaktion Press).

columbian exposition
Columbian Exposition

But even earlier, the hot dog—

sans seven toppings—made its

Chicago debut when it was

trotted out at the 1893 World’s

Columbian Exposition under

the Vienna name by a couple

of Austrian immigrants looking

To cash in on the Eastern

European frankfurter. More

than a century later, Vienna is

still the main game in town,

supplying franks to 85 percent

of Chicago’s hot-dog stands.

Bob Schwartz, Vienna’s senior

Vice president, points to the

company’s Jewish roots as the

source of the all-beef dog (as

opposed to pork), but he defers

to Kraig on the cornucopia of

toppings that turned the term

“with everything” into “dragged

through the garden.”

ethnic background
Ethnic Background

“Sausage is German in origin and so

is mustard 1, but buns are American—

Germans would eat it with bread, but not a

bun,” Kraig explains. “Sport peppers 2 are

basically giardiniera, as is relish 3, which

is Italian, while dill pickles 4 are German.

Tomatoes 5 and onions 6 are

Mediterranean, so that’s Greek and Italian,

and these came from guys that turned

their produce carts into hot-dog carts on

Maxwell. Chicago was a major producer of

celery until the ’20s, and celery salt 7

became a substitute. The poppy-seed bun,

which is Jewish and was introduced locally

by Rosen’s bakery, didn’t appear until after

World War II.”

no ketchup
No Ketchup!

But what about the ketchup ban?

The solid red line Chicagoans have drawn in the

sand between themselves and those who “ruin”

a dog with ketchup is so notorious it’s infiltrated

organizations like the National Hot Dog &

Sausage Council, whose Hot Dog Etiquette

guide includes the rule, “Don’t use ketchup on

your hot dog after the age of 18.” Schwartz is

such a disciple of the rule he’s written the book

Never Put Ketchup on a Hot Dog.

“The real reason not to use it is because the

sweetness and acidity doesn’t blend well with the

other toppings,” Schwartz asserts. “Sure, it’s

played up and there are several stories about

‘why no ketchup,’ but very simply, it’s just

legend. And when the legend becomes stronger

than the fact, you print the legend.”

hot dog trivia
Hot Dog Trivia
  • The world’s longest hot dog, according to the Guinness Book of World Records, was 65.6 feet.
  • The Vienna Beef hot dog was introduced at the Chicago's Columbian Exposition.
  • Most agree that the hamburger was introduced to America at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair by Fletcher Davis of East Texas, though many disagree about where and when it was invented. He told a reporter that he learned to cook his potatoes in Paris, Texas, and some think that’s when America started calling the treat "french fries."
  • Think about it: Just as there are no dogs in hot dogs, there is no ham in a hamburger.
hot dog riddles
Hot Dog Riddles
  • What did the pickle say to the bun?
  • - I relish you.
  • What did the burger say to the hotdog?
  • -Let’s meat for lunch.
  • What did the condiments say to the bun?
  • -Lettuce stay together.
  • What did the bun ask the bank robber?
  • -Knead my dough?