What Anthony Bourdain Really Thought About Chicago-Style Hot Dogs

Anthony Bourdain had many opinions about food, which is, of course, why we loved him. We know what he couldn't stand about club sandwiches, where he stood on the hot dog sandwich debate, and how he felt about Chicagoland's culinary treasures. Bourdain visited the Windy City several times for his TV shows, and during his visit for "The Layover," he stated that "the Chicago Red Hot is the finest hot dog on the planet," via Eater. And during an episode of "No Reservations," he begrudgingly admitted, "Chicago has, hands down, a better hot dog than New York City." 

While the late chef held complicated feelings for another Chicago staple, the deep dish pizza, Bourdain loved Chicago and its food. Through his three travel shows, he tried several iconic restaurant dogs, eventually proclaiming on Reddit, "Any Chicago hot dog is the finest in the land." During his visit to Hot Doug's for the 2009 "No Reservations" episode, he explained that the very things that made it delicious also made it difficult to hold. But Bourdain's admiration for the Chicago-style hot dog wasn't just about the taste but also about the city's rich food culture and dedication to perfecting this beloved street food. 

Anatomy of a Chicago-style hot dog

A Chicago-style hot dog has a unique combination of toppings and preparation rules that makes it stand out from other styles. It starts with an all-beef frankfurter that is typically steamed or simmered and nestled into a poppy seed bun. It's then "dragged through the gardens," as the locals say, and topped with yellow mustard, bright green relish, fresh chopped onions, juicy tomato wedges, a crisp dill pickle spear, pickled sport peppers, and a dash of celery salt — and absolutely no ketchup. The vibrant, colorful toppings add a visual appeal, but the real purpose is to create a medley of textures and flavors. The mustard adds tanginess, the relish brings sweetness, and the veggies add bite, juiciness, crunch, and acidity. The celery salt is a must — it's the final touch for an authentic Chicago-style dog that ties everything together. 

If you can't make it to one of the top-rated spots in the Windy City, you can find everything you need to know about Chicago-style hot dogs online, and then make authentic Chicago-style hot dogs at home. Ensuring you have the right ingredients, such as Vienna Beef hot dogs, fresh poppy seed buns, and all the toppings, you can get close to the experience of enjoying a true Chicago-style dog. Just be sure to ditch the ketchup and don't forget the celery salt.