Versus: Windy City Dogs Fail to Blow Our Mind

The Dish

A traditional Chicago Dog is made from an all-beef frank, topped with mustard, onion, sweet relish (usually the nuclear green variety), pickle spears, tomato wedges, sport peppers, mustard and a dash of celery salt before being laid to rest on a poppy seed bun. How difficult can it be to successfully recreate one of these hot dogs outside of the city it originated from? As we found out...very.

A Taste of Chicago in the U-District.
The Rivals

Taste of Chicago

5259 University Way N.E., 274-9999

The Taste of Chicago website declares that this place is owned and operated by "real Chicagoans," but does that mean their Chicago Dogs are just as authentic? TOC is a sterile little joint on The Ave. On a recent Friday night, there was no hustle, no line, no excitement inside -- just a few college kids playing chess at one of the tables and Blades of Glory playing on the tube. In addition to Chicago Dogs, this place does everything else Chicago-style: brats, chili dogs, pizza puffs and a variety of Italian sandwiches. The Chicago-style hot dog ($5), which also comes with a side of fries, has all the proper trimmings, right down to the poppy seed bun. It looks delicious, but halfway through this dog, the entire thing fell apart. Maybe it was the mustard or the juices from the veritable vegetable garden on top, but either way, there was too much liquid for the bun to remain intact. As anyone who has ever eaten a hot dog knows, a stable bun is the base for everything else, including one's eating enjoyment. The taste was just okay, nothing you haven't tasted before -- unless you've been to Chicago.

A Po choice for a bun.
Po Dog

1009 E. Union St., 325-6055

If we were to write an open letter to Po Dog it would look something like this: "Dear Po Dog, please stop over-stuffing your hot dogs so we can actually eat them. Oh, and stop charging so much. Thank you, Voracious." Po Dog's heart (we think) was in the right place when they developed their Chicago Dog, but there's diced dill pickle instead of pickle spears, and diced tomato where wedges should be. Besides being too sweet and not poppy-seed, the brioche bun wasn't substantial enough to hold all of the toppings. What there was, however, so much filler that it was nearly impossible to eat. If any hot dog establishment is going to top their dog with a variety of toppings, there needs to be diligence paid to fitting all of the ingredients securely into the bun; laying them on top like some sort of nude model draped seductively over a bed, taunting you with something you'll never get to sample, is just plain mean. Needless to say, the nearly $7 hot dog spilled all over our basket after the first two bites. We left in a huff, wishing Po Dog hadn't made it so challenging to enjoy their food. A fork and knife should not be mandatory for anything served in a plastic basket.

The Champ

Neither of these Chicago Dogs blew our socks off, but the Taste of Chicago had a dog we could at least eat. It wasn't the best rendition of a Chicago Dog we've ever had, but at least it was good and cheap and came with a side of pretty great fries. We're still not over our disappointing visit to Po Dog, mostly because we were starving while presented with a dog that was neither user-friendly nor authentic. We do look forward to returning to Po Dog one of these days to try one of their other unique creations, but sometimes when you're hungry and on a mission, you just want a tasty dog you can easily stuff in your face for not that much money.

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