Versus: Seattle’s Windy City Wiener-Slingers Dog It

The Dish: A traditional Chicago Dog is made with 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 re-create one of these dogs outside the city it originated in? As we found out, very.

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 on the tube. In addition to Chicago Dogs, this place does everything Chicago-style: brats, chili dogs, pizza puffs, and a variety of Italian sandwiches. The Chicago-style hot dog ($5), which 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.

Po Dog, 1009 E. Union St., 325-6055. If we were to write an open letter to Po Dog, it would read something like this: “Dear Po Dog, please stop overstuffing 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; however, they use diced dill pickles instead of pickle spears, and there’s diced tomato where wedges should be. Besides being too sweet and not poppy-seed, the brioche bun wasn’t substantial enough to hold all the toppings. 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, diligence needs to be paid to fitting all 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 knocked our socks off, but Taste of Chicago had a dog we could at least eat. It wasn’t the best rendition we’ve ever had, but 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.