A few days ago Chicago’s Best picked Gene and Judes as its favorite hot dog in the city. We are huge fans, but noted that Gene and Jude’s, “is a minimalist dog, not a true Chicago hot dog,” which is totally true if you’re looking at Wikipedia, Serious Eats, or most other sources. But the comment elicited an e-mail from a man named Dom, who vigorously defended the minimalist dog (sometimes called the depression dog) as the actual Chicago-style hot dog: “It’s time the minimal Chicago-style dog reclaimed the recognition it deserves… as the classic Chicago style dog.” Those are fighting words.
Dom’s reasoning is based on a few claims. He thinks that Vienna Beef invented the “absolute and inflexible canon” fairly recently:
Take a look at how many of the city’s old stands (opening pre-‘70s) serve the minimalist dog. Answer: Almost all of them. Take a look at how many of those Vienna Beef signs with the yellow backgrounds that were made before the ‘70s pictured tomatoes. Answer: None of them.
He also claims that most a vast majority of the best hot dogs in the city don’t follow the fully loaded formula.
I did a quick informal survey of 54 stands (photos culled from Greasefreak), and found that only 10 included poppyseed bun, onion, relish, tomato, mustard, pickle spear and sport peppers. If that’s at all representative of the city as a whole (and 54 is not a small data set), that would mean that less than 20% of the hot dog stands in Chicago are serving Chicago-style hot dogs. Which you can read to mean that we’re terrible at making our own signature food, or that this “standard” isn’t so standard after all.
This brings up some really good points. We are huge fans of what we call the minimalist style, and often prefer it. We use the name just to distinguish it between the more famous fully loaded version. Perhaps the minimalist dog deserves more credit and attention.
What does everyone else think? Should the minimalist dog take the place of the more famous fully loaded Chicago-style hot dog?