Hot Dog! Chicago's Favorite Food Has Its Own Festival

Plus, more fun facts

If there was an official food for the city of Chicago, there is no doubt it would be the hot dog. The prized meat on a bun was first debuted at the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago and the love affair has only grown ever since. On August 10-12, the Chicago History Museum will celebrate this relationship and go into depth about the local roots of the frankfurter in the 6th Annual Chicago Hot Dog Fest, sponsored by Vienna Beef. Several of the area’s best food vendors will be present, offering up their own unique creations—eateries scheduled to appear include Edzo’s, Robinson’s, Frannie’s, Pinstripes and Byron’s among others.

The outdoor festival (held just north of the museum at Stockton and LaSalle Drive) will also have plenty of activities including inflatables, games and interactive exhibits and discussions about Hot Dog History, the World’s Fair, Baseball in Chicago and Chicago Blues. There will also be a range of music all weekend. That includes Wiggleworms and School of Rock as well as the ‘80s hair metal tribute Hairbanger’s Ball and the Trippin’ Billies (a Dave Matthews cover band).

A Few Frankenfurther Facts ...

• There’s only one right way to do a ChicagoStyle dog: It includes a poppyseed bun, Vienna Beef hot dog in natural casing, mustard (NEVER ketchup), green relish, white onions, tomato wedges, a pickle spear and celery salt.

• If you ask for ketchup in Chicago, many vendors won’t even serve it to you. Ask for it at the Weiner’s Circle, in Lincoln Park, where insults are part of the menu, and expect a tongue-lashing.

• Many say that the “Chicago-Style” hot dog came around during the Depression when street vendors would slice up leftover vegetables and pile them all on top of the bun, promoting it as a full meal.

• Though German immigrants were thriving in Chicago as early as the 1840s are the ones largely responsible for introducing their culture’s frankfurter to the city, it’s said that the debut of the red hot was done by two Jewish immigrants from Austria-Hungary, Samuel Ladany and Emil Reichl, who made the grand introduction at the World’s Fair in 1893 and then opened their first Vienna Beef store the same year.

• A Hot Dog Museum To celebrate their 125th anniversary in 2018, Vienna Beef opened a fully-fledged Hot Dog Museum. 2501 N. Damen.

Selena Fragassi
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