Liz Barclay
Liz Barclay

Get to Know the Chicago-Style Hot Dog

Liz Barclay
Liz Barclay

If you know only one thing about eating a hot dog in Chicago, know this: no ketchup. It’s natural to think of a Chicago dog—traditionally served with a heaping combination of toppings as improbably delicious as it is bizarre—as defined by its accoutrements, but its essence is articulated not by what’s on it, but rather what isn’t.

And ketchup isn’t.

Most Chicagoans will tell you, exasperated, that there’s no ketchup on Chicago dogs because there just isn’t. Bill Murphy, who’s served them at Murphy’s Red Hots in Chicago’s Lakeview neighborhood for 28 years, has a better explanation: “Ketchup is very powerful; it throws the whole flavor profile off.” And if you want to go off the rails, unless you’re a child or a pregnant woman, you’re on your own: Murphy’s cooks will refuse to dish out the verboten condiment.

The most accepted version of the Chicago dog’s origin myth dates back to the Depression, when vendors would load up their hot dogs with common vegetables and sell them to broke customers as a cheap full meal. For a food that’s never gone out of style, the Chicago dog exists in a throwback universe: The most popular vendors are big-mouthed and talk fast, serving from antiquated stands with menus that haven’t changed in decades.

In other words: Save the ketchup, and savor a classic.

The Chicago dog you see here was photographed (and eaten), rather sacrilegiously, in New York City, at the Shake Shack in Battery Park. At locations globally (including Chicago), Shack makes what many Chicagoans regard as a passable, tasty “Shack-Cago” dog—though it’s missing poppy seeds. If you’re in Chicago, however, we suggest visits to Murphy’s Red Hots, Gene & Jude’s, Jimmy’s Red Hots, The Weiner’s Circle, or Wolfy’s. Or all of ’em. Photo by Liz Barclay.

The fixin's include:

1. Poppy Seed Bun
Purists accept only Rosen’s—their buns best withstand a dog’s heat.

2. Vienna Beef Hot Dog in Natural Casing
Usually steamed. Charred: also fine. The casing gives the dog that key first-bite “snap.”

3. Yellow Mustard
The simple part of this.

4. Neon Relish
Usually sweet, and alien-green colored.

5. White Onions
Only white, and diced.

6. Tomatoes
Preferably wedges.

7. Dill Pickle Spear
Something cold and crisp—crunch is key.

8. Sport Peppers
Served whole.

9. Celery Salt
A distinct seasoning improbably tying the mess together into a thing of culinary beauty.

GLOSSARY:

Char Dog
A dog grilled and charred rather than steamed or boiled

“Chicago-Style”
Never say it.“Style” implies Chicago’s hot dogs are a variation
of an original. Diehard Chicagoans argue that theirs is the original.

Depression Dogs
[a.k.a. the Minimalist] Some claim this is the original Chicago dog: a regular bun, mustard, onions, peppers, sometimes with relish, sometimes topped with a pile of skin-on French fries.

“Garden-Style”
With everything on it; also acceptable: “loaded up,” “dragged through the garden,” and “with the works.”

Red Hots
Synonym for “hot dogs”; refers to the temperature of the dogs and the red dye the Vienna brand added for aesthetics. Trust vendors that use this terminology.


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Ernest Hemingway’s Guide to Life, In 20 Quotes
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Central Press/Getty Images

Though he made his living as a writer, Ernest Hemingway was just as famous for his lust for adventure. Whether he was running with the bulls in Pamplona, fishing for marlin in Bimini, throwing back rum cocktails in Havana, or hanging out with his six-toed cats in Key West, the Nobel and Pulitzer Prize-winning author never did anything halfway. And he used his adventures as fodder for the unparalleled collection of novels, short stories, and nonfiction books he left behind, The Sun Also Rises, A Farewell to Arms, Death in the Afternoon, For Whom the Bell Tolls, and The Old Man and the Sea among them.

On what would be his 119th birthday—he was born in Oak Park, Illinois on July 21, 1899—here are 20 memorable quotes that offer a keen perspective into Hemingway’s way of life.

ON THE IMPORTANCE OF LISTENING

"I like to listen. I have learned a great deal from listening carefully. Most people never listen."

ON TRUST

"The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them."

ON DECIDING WHAT TO WRITE ABOUT

"I never had to choose a subject—my subject rather chose me."

ON TRAVEL

"Never go on trips with anyone you do not love."


Ernest Hemingway Photograph Collection, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston. [1], Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

ON THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN INTELLIGENCE AND HAPPINESS

"Happiness in intelligent people is the rarest thing I know."

ON TRUTH

"There's no one thing that is true. They're all true."

ON THE DOWNSIDE OF PEOPLE

"The only thing that could spoil a day was people. People were always the limiters of happiness, except for the very few that were as good as spring itself."

ON SUFFERING FOR YOUR ART

"There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed."

ON TAKING ACTION

"Never mistake motion for action."

ON GETTING WORDS OUT

"I wake up in the morning and my mind starts making sentences, and I have to get rid of them fast—talk them or write them down."


Photograph by Mary Hemingway, in the Ernest Hemingway Photograph Collection, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston., Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

ON THE BENEFITS OF SLEEP

"I love sleep. My life has the tendency to fall apart when I'm awake, you know?"

ON FINDING STRENGTH 

"The world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are strong at the broken places."

ON THE TRUE NATURE OF WICKEDNESS

"All things truly wicked start from innocence."

ON WRITING WHAT YOU KNOW

"If a writer knows enough about what he is writing about, he may omit things that he knows. The dignity of movement of an iceberg is due to only one ninth of it being above water."

ON THE DEFINITION OF COURAGE

"Courage is grace under pressure."

ON THE PAINFULNESS OF BEING FUNNY

"A man's got to take a lot of punishment to write a really funny book."


By Ernest Hemingway Photograph Collection, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston. - JFK Library, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

ON KEEPING PROMISES

"Always do sober what you said you'd do drunk. That will teach you to keep your mouth shut."

ON GOOD VS. EVIL

"About morals, I know only that what is moral is what you feel good after and what is immoral is what you feel bad after."

ON REACHING FOR THE UNATTAINABLE

"For a true writer, each book should be a new beginning where he tries again for something that is beyond attainment. He should always try for something that has never been done or that others have tried and failed. Then sometimes, with great luck, he will succeed."

ON HAPPY ENDINGS

"There is no lonelier man in death, except the suicide, than that man who has lived many years with a good wife and then outlived her. If two people love each other there can be no happy end to it."

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