by Dave Infante
I don’t blame Chicago, really. NYC overshadows the Second City in every way: pizza, baseball, buildings… on and on. But this is no pity party, and facts are facts (especially when they’re opinions!): Chicago’s proud hot dog heritage is but a gimmick-riddled bush league next to New York City’s winning wiener tradition.
If you’re from the Midwest, you’re probably not reading anymore, because stormy rage/cholesterol have blinded you to reason. That’s fine -- you’ll never admit to the Windy City’s dog deficiencies. But for the rest of us, it’s time to explore the categorical inferiority of the Chicago-style hot dog. To wit:
1. They’re pitifully insecure. I read a book called The Devil in the White City once. You know what I learned? Historical nonfiction can be fascinating when given a proper narrative arc, serial killing is bad, and the World’s Fair was a cultural oddity even before it landed the MIB UFOs in Flushing.
Oh, and also: Chicago is full of a bunch of wiener-measuring blowhards.
Chicago has always been New York City’s adorably fat little brother, clamoring for recognition as equals despite our frank superiority. (DO YOU SEE WHAT I DID THERE?!) The thing is, Gothamites don’t beg the world to pay mind to our gangland pedigree, our skyscrapers, or even our hot dogs. We just wake up every morning and dominate, while The Chi pathetically plies airwaves/bandwidth with meager "me-toos". We get it: you make hot dogs too. Congratulations, dorks.
2. They taste like fermented salad. Chicago favors the “dragged through the garden” approach to toppings, which means your dog (normal or char) will arrive buried under more pickled produce than you’d find in a Bushwick loft during jarring season.
Here in New York, we don’t hide our dogs beneath an avalanche of flavor-masking greenery. If the water’s dirty, we want to taste it. Sauerkraut and relish -- no problem. But once you get into tomato and “sport pickle” territory, you’ve crossed from “convenient street food” to “sloppy hassle”. And have fun getting those poppy seeds out of your teeth.
At this point, Chicago’s hot dog apologists usually swoop in with allegations of NYC’s “dirty water” storage method. Yes, our carts keep their dogs in vats of warm water. No, it doesn’t bother us. There are germs all over this town, and we aren’t afraid of ‘em. Welcome to the big leagues, Loopers.
3. Coney Island… ever heard of it? Every Fourth of July, the world’s finest athletes descend on Brooklyn’s original Nathan’s Famous stand to showcase their fearsome hot-dog-housing abilities. It’s pretty disgusting. We don’t generally enjoy watching it. But regardless, this frankfurter fiasco doesn’t go down on Lake Michigan’s shores, because Coney Island is the world’s one and only cased-meat capital.
4. We don’t stress you out with a bajillion decisions. Out there in the hinterlands, ordering a dog is a high-tension process. Beyond those ridiculous toppings, you’ve gotta deal with silly minutiae like cooking method (water vs. char) and condiments (mustard, celery salt, or, if you want to get rudely heckled FOR NO REASON, ketchup). Don’t even get us started on Hot Doug’s; it’s admittedly delicious, but it’s also an outrageous choice-vortex/stress-fest that's miles into the suburbs.
New York City doesn’t have time for your hot dog preferences. We make our dogs lean & mean, give you a no-judgement selection of reasonable accoutrements, and then send you on your way. Our dog is “coffee, black”; Chicago’s is “half-caff macchiato with two pumps of low-sugar hazelnut syrup and a small spoon to gently agitate the raw sugar”. Lame.
5. And finally: we have the best of everything. It only stands to reason that our hot dogs are best-in-class. Hate us if you want, but we didn’t ask for this. We’re just out here making it happen every day. Take a couple practice swings before you step into the box, Chicago. NYC’s hot dog is pitching real heat.
Matt Lynch is a senior editor at Thrillist from Chicago who once enjoyed a lovely meal of encased meats there with Dave Infante, who is now dead to him. Follow their showdown at @MLynchChi and @dinfontay.
Adam Lapetina is a staff writer for Thrillist, and put these two in a room sans hot dogs, which was obviously a mistake. Follow him at @AdamLapetina.