In the battle to be the official food of summer, hot dogs have to be a top contender. From ballparks and barbecues to your favorite drive-thru, you’ll probably find someone with a hot dog in hand.
Chicago style, chilli-cheese or plain on a poppy seed bun are just a few ways in which to enjoy a hot dog. But some local spots are going beyond ketchup and mustard to put their own unique spin on the iconic American fast food item. Whether it’s creative toppings or upscale ingredients, these unexpected twists on the classic dog are a far cry from the backyard barbecue of your youth.
A good place to start is local favorite Mr. C’s Hot Dogs and More, 1350 E. Chicago St., Elgin. This family-owned fast food joint offers plenty of Americana nostalgia in both the decor and on the menu. That means red vinyl booths, checkerboard floors and all of your typical hot dog options.
But Mr. C’s doesn’t stop at typical. You’ll also find a slew of inventive options you won’t find anywhere else. For example, the Tamale Dog. A juicy frankfurter is nestled into a “tamale boat” then topped with chilli, cheese and onions. Or you can order your dog covered in creamy macaroni and cheese. Neither option will set you back more than $4.
Still hungry? The Ditka is a deep-fried Polish served on toasted French bread with mustard and grilled onions. Or try the Francheezie, a cheese-stuffed, bacon-wrapped, deep-fried hot dog that’s sure to fulfill any craving.
If you’re looking to elevate your hot dog experience, the Grandstander, 507 S. 3rd St., Geneva, serves up a gourmet version of the ballpark staple. The “Sausages” section of their menu offers four variations that are a serious upgrade from your typical frank.
Of course, you’ll find a classic Chicago-style bratwurst and a Polish topped with onions, mustard and peppers. But if you’re in the mood for something a little more adventurous, you can dive into a Buffalo Dog, which comes smothered in horseradish cream and giardiniera. Or take a bite out of the Duck Dog topped with cherry compote, blue cheese and red onion.
For fun frankfurter options in more casual digs, look no further than Pete’s Famous Hot Dogs, 44W361 Rte. 64, Maple Park. The tiny fast food joint serves up home-style favorites, such as Italian beef, pulled pork and mega-burgers. And there’s always room on the grill for hot dogs, too.
While the Plain Ol’ Dog is the most popular, there are plenty of fun toppings combos to choose from. The Pizza Dog is loaded with mozzarella cheese and marinara; the Diego Dog has salsa, bacon and cheddar; and the Sloppy Dog comes buried in Pete’s own homemade sloppy Joe recipe. If you’re extra hungry, make it a super dog for a frank measuring one-and-a-half time larger than your average dog.
No matter how you top it, hot dogs are the perfect grub for your backyard barbecues, poolside parties and everything in between.
If you go
Mr. C’s Hot Dogs
1350 E. Chicago St., Elgin
507 S. 3rd St., Geneva
44W361 IL-64, Maple Park