Monday, December 6, 2010

Hot Doggin’ It:

A few months ago, David trekked out to a suburb of Chicago for a work expedition. When he returned from the windy city, he chronicled his adventures for me--and told me of the strange beefy beast that is the Chicago style hot dog.

“At first I didn’t understand it.” He said, after a detailed break down of the hot dog’s components. “It’s like someone tripped and dropped an entire salad on a perfectly good hot dog. But it’s actually really good. And nearly impossible to eat neatly.”

A Chicago style hot dog must have all these items on it, or it loses points:

It must start with a all beef frank, from Chicago, usually Vienna. It must have diced white onion, sweet pickled relish that’s usually bright green, mustard, a dill pickle spear, 2 little sport peppers, 2 tomato wedges, and a teeny bit of celery salt. And it must be on a poppy seed bun.

Also, do not forget. No Ketchup allowed. They’re serious about this.

It was around that time that I learned of Hot Doggin’ It, a restaurant specializing in authentic Chicago style hot dogs located in Symmes township. I was very curious about what David had encountered on his trip, so we visited a few months ago and met Ava and David Baldwin, the owners. We stopped in for lunch, chatted with owners a bit, and had a great time.

HDI’s location is a little tricky to find, it’s on the backside of one of the shopping centers on Montgomery road. After our second visit this Sunday, we feel justified saying it is definitely a hidden gem. A delicious gem covered in melty, golden cheese sauce.

moar cheese please

Chicago style hot dogs are very good, though messy, and the variety of condiments do compliment each other very well. In the same way that some people will never "get" Cincinnati style chili, I'm sure some people will never "get" the Chicago style hot dog. That said, I was pleasantly surprised. I opted to get a chili cheese dog with Vienna chili, while David ordered the Chicago style hot dog, which he shared with me.

I assure you, my hot dog is under there...somewhere

Considering my love of spicy things, we also tried some hot giardiniera. It has quite a kick.

We spoke to Ava in a little bit more detail this time, after she was done taking care of her regulars. As I walked up to the counter to get my free ice cream (twist, which I think is superior to chocolate or vanilla alone, with sprinkles) I heard Ava call out after a departing patron,“Give that baby a kiss for me!” We heard several people arrive and order their “usual.” and I also watched Ava and David interact with a native Chicago couple and their young boy.

Sometimes actions speak a lot louder than words, and you can tell that Ava and her husband really care. HDI won best hot dog last year from Cincinnati Magazine, and this year, were also part of the Best of the Best, serving up hot dogs at Cincinnati Magazine’s “Best of the City” party. “I think we served over 400 hot dogs.” Ava recalled. “People kept coming back for more!”

There is a map on the wall with pins representing native Chicagoans who have visited and the neighborhoods they came from. I overheard Ava taking down the family from Chicago’s address to add to the map.

It’s a bit of a drive from downtown for us, but our trips to Hot Doggin’ It have been worth it. The service is great, and Ava and David are passionate about their business; serving authentic, delicious hot dogs, and befriending their customers. They are, simply put, good people, making good food. And Ava sports some awesome, classy and sparkly eye glasses. I asked to take her picture, but that will have to wait until our next visit.

Hot Doggin' It on Urbanspoon


  1. Thanks for sharing this. We will have to make time for a visit and a good old hotdog.

  2. Your hotdog looks just like the hamburger you got at Rookwood, did they bring this out in a bowl also?

  3. Looks like Portillo's. We share the same feelings on the proper Chicago dog, btw. People just don't understand!

  4. Thanks Pam! We had a great time. Wish it was closer to us!

    lol, Bob, I do love my messy chili burgers and hot dogs. Though I don't really care for coneys. which is weird.

    Nathan--I also had no idea how serious people are about their hot dogs. And the cucumber wedge debate, do you know anything about that? On or off?

  5. I don't know exactly how faithful the recipe is, but also serves a Cincinnati style dawg.

  6. Great chicago dogs in greenhills plaza also

  7. Owners need to open up shop at Restaurant Row or The Banks!


I try to be honest, fair and keep a good sense of humor in my posts--I would appreciate if you follow the same policy with your comments.