Photo: Frank "N" Dawgs Sweet Home Chicago Sandwich
Chicagoans are quick to support area farmers, and a growing preference for locally sourced foods has boosted the popularity of restaurants like Great Lake, which tops its pies with vegetables grown in the Chicago area. Franks ‘N’ Dawgs buys everything from meats to toppings to buns from local farms and bakeries whenever possible, and Brunacci says his customers and staff alike revel in the feel-good factor of supporting the community.
So, has Chicago, with its world-renowned chefs and eateries, outgrown its humble culinary beginnings? No way, says Portillo Restaurant Group president Dick Portillo. “Why change a winner?” he says of his 34-restaurant hot dog empire, which began with Portillo himself peddling Vienna dogs from a 6-by-12-foot trailer. For 47 years, Portillo’s Hot Dogs has served its famous, old-school, classic Chicago dogs to the masses, and Portillo has no plans to add alligator sausage to his menu.
“Don’t think for a moment that I wouldn’t change my menu if I thought that the majority of the public was asking for a different type of hot dog. But we did 28 million transactions last year, and I’ve yet to have someone say, ‘Give me a Chicago dog with some guacamole.’ ”
Brunacci admits the Chicago-style dog paved the way for his business’ success. “We know that the Chicago-style dog is here to stay, and we pay homage to it because it’s made what we’re doing possible,” he says. And according to Quinteros, as long as there are hungry tourists to feed, Chicago-style eats will survive.
“When you go to a new town, you have to try the local specialty. And in Chicago, that will always be deep-dish pizza,” he says.
Carly Boers is a Chicago-based writer who has decided that a few extra hours at the gym is a small price to pay for enjoying her city’s culinary offerings.
Franks ‘N’ Dawgs
1863 North Clybourn Ave.
Be sure to try: the Tur-Dawgen
1477 West Balmoral Ave.
Be sure to try: the cremini mushroom, spring onion, Dante aged cheese and black pepper pizza
3324 North California Ave.
Be sure to try: the Salma Hayek andouille-sausage dog
Portillo’s Hot Dogs
Be sure to try: the char-grilled Maxwell Street–style Polish sausage
Spacca Napoli Pizzeria
1769 West Sunnyside Ave.
Be sure to try: the prosciutto e rucola pizza