Off the Wall: A James Coney Island Chicago Dog

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OffWallJamesConey_JCDog.jpg
A James Coney Island dog.
Katharine Shilcutt's article on Sonic's version of a Chicago dog inspired many readers to weigh in on the American classic. Here's the ever-popular Fatty FatBastard, on what James Coney Island was serving up: "I keep telling you to go to James Coney Island for their Chicago dog. It is EXACTLY the same as one you'll get at any vendor in Chicago."

Perfect. I was in Chicago a few months back and just so happened to consume a Chicago dog from a typical local spot. I even took a picture. With the memory still fresh and my stomach empty, I headed to my nearest James Coney Island to see if Fatty was correct.

OffWallJamesConey_REALchicagoDog.jpg
A real Chicago dog.

He was not. In fairness, I hate James Coney Island, and their take on a Chicago dog did nothing to change my opinion of the place. It certainly looked the part. But here's the difference. I devoured the real-deal Chicago Chicago dog. I didn't make it through half my James Coney Island one, probably because I was still thinking about that recent authentic experience.

JC's bread was a tad crunchy on the edges, the pickle didn't extend the length of the bun (sounds like a personal problem), the pieces of tomatoes were small, and the wiener just tasted strange (that's what she said). All the veggies were fresh and tasty. I guess it wasn't terrible, but I wouldn't eat it again. Hey, the dog was the best part of my combo meal. Those fries were tasteless, high-caloric sticks of nothingness. Wait, to be fair, I did enjoy my Diet Coke.

I thought Fatty was onto something when I first opened my box of food, but the look just didn't match the taste.



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Location Info

James Coney Island

5745 Westheimer, Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant


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32 comments
DaleyBll
DaleyBll

I'm from Chicago. We used to steam or boil our dogs in beer. Maybe JCI should try that.

On the other hand, Lum's never made it nationwide, and Portillo's had more success in expanding.

Rawchester
Rawchester

Identical ingredients don't make identical dishes. Otherwise, I could steal Alberto Baffoni's grocery list and open up a lovely Italian joint in the shut JCI downtown.

Corey
Corey

I think you have to ask for Vienna beef, I don't think it's even in the same ballpark as a real chicago dog, but then you have a food blogger sans taste buds apparently to tell you otherwise..

Flimflamman
Flimflamman

gee guys, do you think all the chicago dogs in chicago are perfectly alike?no variability? really?

Kevin Shalin
Kevin Shalin

I think we need a third party to settle this debate. I'm not going back to JC anytime soon, so someone else may need to help us.

I don't agree with Fatty on this one, but if someone else can jump into the mix and support his claim, then that might tilt the scale in his favor.

The place I went to in Chicago was called The Dog Joint (in Lincoln Park).

Bruce R
Bruce R

So, Fatty confirmed that he (I assume Fatty is a he) got the real deal. Kevin has been to Chicago (so he knows what the real deal is) and insists that he got an inferior version. So maybe they screwed up the order?

Kevin, you need to return to the scene of the crime. Something evil happened at JCI and you need to find out what.

Albert Nurick
Albert Nurick

I've been disappointed with JCI whenever I stray from their traditional dog with chili, cheese, and onions. That one is a Houston classic.

Timgreene
Timgreene

Could you expand on why you hate JCI? Been eating them for forty years, and although the quality has slipped in recent years, I have never had a Hot Dog like an original JCI chili cheese coney, anywhere, including New York or Chicago.

Fatty FatBastard
Fatty FatBastard

Tsk Tsk. As I showed you in the article I had linked, JCI gets their bread, peppers, relish, weiner, and yes, even the pickles directly from Vienna Beef, as does every other Chicago Dog place. The only differentiation is the onions and tomatoes. In other words, you could've easily had that exact same hot dog in Chicago. Yet another person with blinders. Here is the article again...

http://www.houstonpress.com/20...

ReginaDupuis
ReginaDupuis

That's pithy, but assembling a hot dog with pre-made buns, relish, dogs and the rest, doesn't really equate with whipping up a great Italian dish from scratch.

Alberto Baffoni and his groceries would like you to know that.

Kevin Shalin
Kevin Shalin

Thank goodness!!! Someone finally said it.

JWDC
JWDC

Lived in Lincoln Park many years. Had more than my fair share of Chicago dogs. The Dog Joint didn't even exist in late 2007 when I moved to Houston. You'd need to compare to a place like Superdawg, or other long-standing institution for this to be a truly legit comparison.And Lincoln Park is enchanting. Probably the brownstones, breezy lake and lack of generic strip centers that made the dog taste better. But I think I'll settle for a JCI dog, a snow-free windshield, and my (much lower) Montrose mortgage anyday.

bogus dentist
bogus dentist

Bruce has hit on a key point. Kevin has been to Chicago. God forbid any of you other myopic fools actually travel in your lifetime and have the opportunity to compare the JCI dog with the so-called real deal. I too have frequented Chicago. And I can tell you there's no fundamental difference between a Chicago dog IN Chicago and the JCI dog. You're likely to find the same kind of differences among vendors in the Windy City. You know not of which you speak. The real frustration here is that the Chicago food scene is sooooooooooo much more evolved than the one in Houston – but you idiots would never know it or admit that.

Fatty FatBastard
Fatty FatBastard

Here's my story: I started getting the Chicago dogs at JCI around 2004 and loved them. Then I went to Chicago for a week in 2008 and went to two different vendors seeing what "the real deal" was all about and then realized they tasted exactly the same. And then I found that Robb Walsh article last year and realized why there hadn't been any difference. Like it or not, JCI offers as authentic a dog as any you'll find in Chicago.

Fatty FatBastard
Fatty FatBastard

I always order at least one every time I go for that very reason.

Raviolis
Raviolis

Cincinnati. That's where the coney scene is. Not NY or Chicago.

Bruce R
Bruce R

I'd like to like JCI but I don't. The coney dogs are mushy. The chili is OK, but not much better than canned chili. I can go to my local grocery store, get some Nathan's dogs, buns, and canned chili, and make a better chili dog than JCI.

bogus dentist
bogus dentist

assuming FFB's assertions are correct, a "genuine" Chicago dog sees to benefit more from reputation and one's location upon consumption than many other foods. The first time I tried a Chicago Dog from a non-touristy, small, legit place in Chicago, I was certainly satisfied, but it was far from a life-changing experience. With the right ingredients, a good Chicago dog should be fairly easy to replicate. Removed from its environment, a by-the-book Chicago dog is not necessarily THAT spectacular. If you want to talk about somewhere like Hot Doug's in Chicago, that's a completely different animal.

Bruce R
Bruce R

Maybe there's a lot of variability in the size of the bun and dog, but the dog in the JCI photo is shorter than the bun and the Chicago one is longer than the bun. Makes me wonder if JCI is still using the Vienna Beef hot dog.

Ronprpeil
Ronprpeil

So easy, even a caveman can do it.

Rawchester
Rawchester

Chicago Dog vendors may take exception to your low regard for their craft, and remind you that, in Chicago, great Italian dishes whipped up from scratch are commonplace.

Fatty FatBastard
Fatty FatBastard

Oh, please. We're not exactly talking about a beef bourguignon. It's a hot dog and toppings. With the same ingredients it is pretty much idiot-proof.

Kevin Shalin
Kevin Shalin

You are right about Lincoln Park--very enchanting. I think you should win Comment of the Day just for your use of "enchanting".

Great comment on your part!

That said, none of those things factored into why that was a better dog.

Sean Whittaker
Sean Whittaker

I'd say the real frustration here is claiming there is no fundamental difference between a Chicago dog in Chicago and JCI dog, then claiming the Chicago food scene is more evolved, then calling us idiots. That seems a bit rude. But hey, maybe that's just running contrary to our friendly Southern hospitality. I don't expect a fucknugget like you to understand it.

Jwdc
Jwdc

skyline? - eh. it's ok. it is the 1/2 lb. of finely shredded cheese that makes the dog worth eating.

Fatty FatBastard
Fatty FatBastard

You know, I'm going to go grab one right now to see if anything has changed. I haven't had one in a while. I will let you know my results.

ReginaDupuis
ReginaDupuis

and Alberto Baffoni might swoon over you comparing his craft to that of a hot dog vendor.

Fatty FatBastard
Fatty FatBastard

Ok, Just got back. I ordered the Chicago dog & a cheese coney to go. While I was waiting, I asked if the still had Vienna beef as their vendor. He said yes, and then was quick to correct himself and let me know that the original coney wasn't and was a beef/pork combination. He also joked about how Sonic was trying to compete with them these days and told me to come back and let him know once I had one. I drove home and opened the box and, lo and behold, my pickle spear was too short also. But again, they're getting them from Vienna, so who knows why they're like that. Perhaps a pickle shortage, or they're trying to keep all the longer pickles in Chicago. Other than that, it was still a Chicago dog. I'm glad I verified that they still use the same vendors as every other Chicago stand.

Bruce R
Bruce R

Kevin, is it possible that they screwed up your order and used the wrong type of hot dog?

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