Fancy hot dogs at the Four Seasons, the Publican and Franks 'N' Dawgs.
When there are specimens in this world as perfect as a $2 Vienna Beef, what could motivate a chef to make a hot dog from scratch? Mag Mile tourists. “I got sick of seeing deep-dish pizza coming into the hotel,” says Kevin Hickey, executive chef at the Four Seasons. So he set out to outdo the delivery guys, developing a section of the room-service menu devoted to Chicago foods: steaks and chops, deep-dish…and a hot dog. Within a few days, the bar staff was asking for the dog to go on their menu, too, because, well, this isn’t your average hot dog: It’s beef shoulder emulsified with a small amount of suet (basically beef fat) and spices, passed through a hand-ground sausage stuffer before being smoked, boiled, then later charred and served on a poppy-seed bun with just about the cutest squeeze bottles of housemade relish and beer mustard you’ve ever seen. But making something that can compete with a Vienna Beef isn’t so easy. “The first batch came out like rubber bands,” says Brian Huston, the chef de cuisine at the Publican, which, after trying out a number of recipes, recently added a 100 percent beef short-rib frank in natural sheep casing to its afternoon menu, served from 3:30–5:30pm. That may be why Franks ‘N’ Dawgs, a hot-dog shop in Lincoln Park, decided to source its basic hot dogs (they’re Boar’s Head) and focus on making its “haute dogs,” which Joe Doren, an alum of Blackbird and Sixteen, makes in varieties like veal and beef curry. But before things get too carried away, let’s make one thing clear: You can take the Vienna Beef out of the Chicago dog, but, as Hickey is quick to remind you, “the ketchup is just for the fries.”