The Immigrant-Led Institution That Dominates Chicago's Fast Food Scene

An all-American summer isn't complete without biting into a juicy, well-dressed hot dog. Whether it's one of 19 million served at professional baseball games (per Positively Osceola) or bacon-wrapped and grilled at a home cookout, there's no wrong way to enjoy them. Hot dogs are so loved that in the U.S., every region puts on its own spin. Look out for a Sonoran dog wrapped in bacon and topped with tomatoes, avocado puree, and other colorful additions while visiting Arizona. Meanwhile, in New York City, go for the famed classic: A boiled Weiner with mustard, sauerkraut, and sweet onion relish.

The inventor of the beloved food staple is disputed, but origin stories first emerged stateside. Some credit Frankfurt-born Charles Feltman as the first to use a bun in Coney Island. The businessman's waiter later spun off into Nathan's Famous, per Taste Atlas. Others say Antonoine Feuchtwanger, a German immigrant living in Missouri, innovated the slender rolls so that customers could hold hot sausages, reports What's Cooking America. A common thread that ties all of the origin claims seems to be a German background. An immigrant-led creation, the fast food staple continues its international ties, particularly in Chicago.

In Chicago, ubiquitous hot dogs combine European influences

Chicago hot dogs are synonymous with Vienna Beef — formed in the city by Austria-Hungarian immigrants in 1893, per Vienna Beef. The all-beef sausage, which is stuffed with paprika, garlic, salt, and secret seasonings, is thrown onto a soft, poppy-covered Rosen bun and never toasted. The bun bakery has been a Windy City institution for over a hundred years, opened in 1909 by Polish immigrant Sam Rosen. The European influence also extends to the toppings. Chicago Dogs are described as 'Dragged Through the Garden' with an abundance of peppers, pickles, tomatoes, onions, relishes, celery salt, and mustard garnished on top. According to Forbes, such a cornucopia emerged from Greek and Italian immigrants working at the city's market.

Chicago's hot dog pride is most evident through bright red Vienna Beef signage, ubiquitous throughout the city. Just from the beloved producer alone, more stands serve their sausage than Wendy's, Burger King, and McDonald's locations combined. For vegans and vegetarians, the dish's popularity has embraced all diets. Alternative meat substitutes have taken off. Dressed with the same medley of toppings, it still retains the quintessential Chicago style, says The New York Times. From their inception a century before to now, hot dogs have seldom lost popularity– they continue to be consumed in 95% of American households, via The Hot Dog. A bite of Wind City's rendition is one to especially cherish — a celebration of the city's multicultural ancestry.