You might recall my little adventure back in May, where I was first a part of American’s Boeing 787 Dreamliner launch in coach, then a week later, took the same 787 to Chicago in business to compare and contrast the product. Do you really think a committed foodie like yours truly would be content to fly all the way to Chicago a second time just to experience a plane ride, though? Of course not. I had built in enough time – just barely – to put my food critic skills to the test. A Chicago foodie I follow on Instagram had, just a couple of weeks prior, posted a photo of a red hot from Hot “G” Dog, an upstart dive in the Uptown neighborhood that traces its ancestry to the recently departed Hot Doug’s (the owners, Juan Carlos and Octavio Garcia, worked on the line there). Thusly, it was ordained. My mission on this short trip would be to check out this purveyor of the humble hot dog.
Hot “G” Dog
- 5009 North Clark Street, Chicago, IL
- Hours: Monday-Saturday 10:30-8; Sunday 10:30-4
- Price: Less than $15 per person, CASH ONLY
Directions: from the “El” Red Line Argyle Station, walk west on Argyle to Clark, then turn right. Restaurant is immediately on the right. If you’re driving, you can follow Clark north all the way from downtown Chicago, but the easiest way to get there is to take Lake Shore Drive to Lawrence Avenue, turn left (west), then go right on Clark. From I-90 (Kennedy Expressway), exit at Lawrence, go east, then left at Clark.
Date of Visit: Saturday, May 16, 2015
What made this an especially fun exercise was that getting to Hot “G” Dog required taking the Blue Line to the Loop, changing to the Red Line, getting off at Argyle, then walking about 10 minutes to the restaurant. That’s 70-75 minutes of train time/85-90 minutes total travel time each way. My entire layover was scheduled to be 4 hours, 32 minutes. This was going to be a race, needless to say, and you better believe I was walking very quickly to and from the “El” station. Fortunately, the flight in was on-time, so at least I didn’t lose any time there.
The restaurant is unassuming from the outside, and it’s pretty much the same inside. In other words – it’s a dive, not that that’s necessarily a bad thing. You order at the counter, and make yourself comfortable at whatever table you can find.
Much like its predecessor, Hot “G” Dog advertises several, shall we say, unusual menu items, such as hot dogs made with kangaroo and snake meat, and duck fat fries (available only Friday through Sunday). Perhaps next time I’ll branch out, but this time, I decided to keep it simple, with a loaded red hot and cheese fries.
As for the dog, simple yet yummy, prepared in the classic style with mustard, chopped onions, bright green sweet pickle relish, a dill pickle spear, sport peppers, tomato slices, and celery salt, and most importantly, the all-beef frankfurter is steamed, not grilled. I suspect the brightness of the relish comes from an infusion of mint, the flavor of which was noticeable though not overpowering on this variety. The casing has a nice snap on the first bite, and the wiener itself has a lovely, almost slow-cooked flavor – though honestly, it does get a little lost unless you look for it with all the other stuff on top. As for the cheese fries, they were OK, but not my favorite. The hand-cut fries themselves are actually very good, with a crispy skin but tender inside, but I’m not enamored with the cheese sauce. It tastes like the canned nacho cheese sauce you get at the ballpark. Not really my style. In any event, it was a meal tailor made for wolfing down quickly, followed by working it off with a brisk walk back to Argyle Station to catch the train. Incidentally, I did make it back to the airport in time to catch my return flight, getting to the gate about 20 minutes before boarding began. Just beware, if you want to re-create what I did, prepare to hustle…
So is it worth the trip to get one? I won’t hold myself out as an expert on red hots, but I found the hot dog superb. At least a few former aficionads of Hot Doug’s seem to agree that Hot “G” Dog is a worthy successor, if not quite the same as the original, as this food critic from the Chicago Reader reports (incidentally, even at 11:30 on a Saturday, the restaurant was half empty, unlike the long lines often reportedly found at Hot Doug’s). Apparently next time I go, I need to branch out and try the thuringer…
Rating: I’m going to bestow the vaunted 5 stars rating. If you’re in Chicago and are hankering for a hot dog, Hot “G” Dog needs to be at the top of your list.