The Chicago Dog at Sonic: A Passable Imitation

Categories: Fast Times

Sonic Hot Dog 003.jpg
Photos by Katharine Shilcutt
Understanding that the mere headline alone may cause cringes and howls among Chicago dog connoisseurs, I'm going to come swiftly to the point on this one: The Chicago-style hot dog that Sonic is currently serving for $1.99 is not even in the same league as a true Vienna beef dog on a steamed bun. It is, however, a passable imitation.

By passable imitation, I mean that it tastes good for what it is: a fast food hot dog way out in the wilds of Texas, far far away from Morrie O'Malley's or Ziggy's Red Hots. And considering that there are only a couple of places in Houston serving a really great Chicago dog -- BB's Beef & Hot Dog being my personal favorite -- it's kind of nice being able to grab a passable imitation when the craving hits and Missouri City seems like a pretty long drive for a hot dog.

Sonic Hot Dog 001.jpg
While the dog itself isn't Vienna beef, it is at least 100 percent beef. Although the bun isn't steamed, it is covered with a poppyseed sprinkling. And although it's coming from a drive-thru at a Texas fast food joint, it's still impressively topped with sport peppers, neon green relish, red tomatoes, a pickle and spicy mustard.

The effect is one of a regular ballpark-style hot dog that's been "dragged through the garden," Chicago-style: sweet and fresh and altogether pretty remarkable considering its origins. I'll keep making the drive to BB's, mind you, when the cravings for Italian beef and Chicago dogs hit. But if BB's happens to be closed, Sonic's Chicago dog will make a passable replacement in its own right.

Plus, you can always get it with an order of tots and a vanilla Coke for about a buck more. And you can't beat Sonic's tots.



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19 comments
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Bruce R
Bruce R

OK, I tried one. Maybe this particular one missed the mark, but I found the entire concept of the Chicago hot dog to be ill-conceived. The problem is that all the crap on top obscures the hot dog. Also, there is way too much vinegar. Vinegar in the mustard, vinegar in the relish, vinegar in the pickle, vinegar in the pepper. And Sonic's hot dog was mushy.

Densmoore
Densmoore

What's the big issue? Vienna beef sells restaurants the whole package to make a Chicago, including the bright green relish, sport peppers, poppy seed buns and the rest.

Hell, even the Chinese could do this Chicago thing.

Fatty FatBastard
Fatty FatBastard

The big issue is that Chicago folk still think they have the "real deal" and that simply isn't the case. You can get the exact same dog at JCI. Now, Chicago Beef Sandwiches? That you can't get yet here in Houston.

Densmoore
Densmoore

...except at Chicago Italian Beef on Airline.

(where you been, fatty?)

Corey
Corey

JCI's is no where near what you'd get in Chicago.. First off they don't use vienna beef. Sonic is just a cheap excuse for eventual heart burn, Cayhill does a passable chicago dog. And there is a hole in the wall place on 1960 that supposedly does "run it through the garden" dogs right. But it's stil Houston, and it's still pales to Chicago. Sorry it does.

Bruce R
Bruce R

Gossamersixteen, are you OK? Fatty just burned you pretty bad. You might need to go to a burn center.

Fatty FatBastard
Fatty FatBastard

Oh, and I tried Cahill's version a couple of weeks ago because it is next door to me. Nowhere near as good as JCI, which sucks because the nearest JCI is on 45N. But I think I'll still go there for dinner tonight and get an AUTHENTIC Chicago-style dog.

Fatty FatBastard
Fatty FatBastard

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.

Kevin Shalin
Kevin Shalin

You're on Fatty. Welcome to my next Off the Wall.

mmmmmfood
mmmmmfood

i just recently tried this and completely agree with the passable imitation description. For a fast food chain it's not bad at all. The pickle was actually pretty crunchy too.

Fear2stop
Fear2stop

I was shocked that it was actually pretty good. Makes me want to try an authentic one now...

Katharine Shilcutt
Katharine Shilcutt

I had a crunchy pickle, too! Sonic might be onto something here...

Jeff in Seabrook
Jeff in Seabrook

Katharine - Your picture looks better than the one on the menu board...

Theo Shu
Theo Shu

Well done. Chicago dog not my favorite style, but I'd be willing to try the others based on this.

Question for those that are from Detroit/Michigan: I always thought that the "Coney Island" hot dog style that Sonic makes (chili) was a Michigan favorite, whereas New York dogs are pretty bare bones.

Reason why I'm asking: the commercial asks if someone from Akron would prefer the Chicago or New York version. I'm guessing it's the coney version.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v...

Perhaps I'm over thinking this.

Laurie
Laurie

I am from Michigan and yes the whole 'Coney Island' concept is really a Greek thing immigrants to the Detroit metro area started. The dogs that I grew up with were covered in more of a chili gravy than a traditional chili. Akron people would defnitely go Coney Style. I always think of NY dogs as covered in kraut. Mnnn Platos in Canton Michigan I miss you. James just doesnt do it for me as it is missing all the Greek side dishes that we pair with our dogs and chili fries.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/C...

Matthew
Matthew

i appreciate sonic trying to fill the sector hot dog niche.

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