Superdawg Drive-In, Chicago
We’ve touched on the pizza of Chicago before, but they take their hot dogs just as seriously in the Windy City. The Chicago hot dog is legendary to people who have never set foot in Illinois, and several Chicago landmarks will include souvenirs that say what goes on a standard hot dog, and what should never go on a hot dog.
Each place has their own way of doing it, but it’s generally accepted that ay Chicago hot dog includes mustard, sweet relish, onions, a dill pickle and a dash of celery salt on a poppy seed bun. The hot dog may or may not include sliced tomatoes, but absolutely never includes ketchup. In Chicago, ketchup on a hot dog is seen as a sin, and many vendors will not put ketchup on the hot dog. If a customer wants ketchup, they are either refused or handed a bottle and told to apply it on their own, because they believe ketchup ruins the taste.
The latter is the route taken by Superdawg Drive-In, which is one of the most iconic places in Chicagoland to get an authentic Chicago hot dog. Superdawg has a few differences from the standard places to get a Chicago dog, the most obvious of which is the ability to have car service, similar to the 1950’s. Superdawg offers the standard ability to eat inside the restaurant, or you can simply order your meal from your car, as you do at Sonic. The other obvious difference is the two iconic Superdawg figurines on the restaurant, designed in honor of Superdawg’s founders.
Once you get ready to place your order, make sure you’re using the correct name. The restaurant is proud of its hot dogs, so much so that they do not call them hot dogs. They are always referred to as Superdawgs, and the employees will inform you of this if you call it a regular hot dog. The Superdawg, like all true Chicago dogs, is an all-beef hot dog, placed on a poppy seed bun. The frank has a hint of garlic in its flavor and has a bit of resistance in its casing when you bite into it, like a good sausage would.
All toppings on the Superdawg are optional, but if you choose to get them all, you’ll find mustard, sweet relish, a dill pickle spear, hot peppers, onion and celery salt on a poppy seed bun, along with a green tomato on the side. I’m not sure why they used a green tomato, or why it’s not on the Superdawg itself, but that’s the way they choose to do it. The green tomato isn’t obvious as a part of your order, but it is there for a reason, along with your fries that surround the dog.
Probably the best way to describe the quality of the Superdawg is that my lady Amy McFann, who hates the taste of beef in all its forms, enjoyed her Superdawg, which served as her first experience of the Chicago dog. While she was willing to try the all-beef dog, she does have her limits and chose to pass on the onions. I went without the peppers, which is a good decision for me because as we’ve seen before, I’m not much for heat.
Even without the heat, the Superdawg is super. The hot dog snaps well and provides a juicy texture in every bite, and the condiments work perfectly with the meat, which is exactly what all good condiments are supposed to do. With a side of crinkle fries and ketchup to pair with those (the only real reason Superdawg even has a ketchup bottle), it’s a perfect meal at any time of the day.
When you stay in business for decades, it’s a great sign. When your business was around from the carhop days and still has them in service, that’s an excellent sign, especially in a town that demands as much from their dogs as Chicago. Superdawg is definitely worth the drive.
Time to go: Late night is perfect. Superdawg opens at 11 am and stays open until 11 pm at their northern location and 1 am in the city, with both extended an extra hour on weekends.
Wait during my visit: None. This happens when you go at night.
Location: Superdawg is found at 6363 N. Milwaukee Avenue in Chicago and 333 S. Milwaukee Avenue in Wheeling, Ill., north of Chicago proper. We visited the second location.
Cost: A Superdawg and fries with drink costs about $7.50. I’m putting them in the Aguila’s Sandwich Shop Hall of Fame for cost.
Parking: Plenty. Unlike the rest of Chicago, driving here in encouraged because of the car service, which is optional.
Seating arrangement: Inside the place, it’s chairs and stools, with room to sit.
Signature items: Chicago-style hot dogs