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Gapers Block published from April 22, 2003 to Jan. 1, 2016. The site will remain up in archive form. Please visit Third Coast Review, a new site by several GB alumni.
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Wednesday, October 4

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Event Tue Jul 16 2013

No Ketchup Allowed: The GB Hot Dog Cookoff

GB Hotdog_4223.jpg

The ballots are in and the first Gapers Block Hot Dog Cookoff was a big win! Five teams of chefs fearlessly pushed the boundaries of what the humble red hot can do, while celebrity judges and hundreds of attendees deliciously decided whose was the top dog.

The cookoff was held on July 13th outside Schuba's, where the crowd sampled hot dogs in between games of corn hole and Old Style tallboys on a perfect summer afternoon. Despite the friendly atmostphere, the competition was fierce and chefs arrived with secret ingredients and plenty of trash talk ready to go. This came as no surprise, though, because in a city of hot dog die-hards, no one is as serious as this crew.

And now, for the good stuff:

GB Hotdog_3442.jpg

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Annie Conway / Comments (1)

The Dog Show Tue Apr 02 2013

The Dog Show: Chris & Rob's in Minnesota

Thumbnail image for TheDogShow_01.jpgThere has been much debate about where to go for the best hot dog in Chicago, but where would one find a decent hot dog dragged through the garden elsewhere?

If you happen to be in Minnesota, then the answer is Chris & Rob's: Chicago's Taste Authority. The Chicago-born-and-raised Chris and Rob Dubnecay opened their Chicago-style grill in Minneapolis and have since opened two more restaurants in the Twin Cities area.

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Tyler Davis / Comments (1)

Feature Thu Dec 13 2012

Gene, Jude, and Me

Until recently, I had a dirty secret: I had never been to Gene and Jude's.
Gene & Jude's Sign.jpeg

I know, I know. People talk about this place as hot dog nirvana, the Shangri-La of red hots. What's worse, I'm a passionate hot dog consumer, a connoisseur of the corner yellow shack, a lover of hot dogs high and low. As someone who uses her Vienna Beef Finder app regularly, I knew I should be particularly ashamed.

Maybe it was the supremely inconvenient location that turned me off, or the way foodies talk about the journey as so worth it. I happen to know quite a few outstanding hot dog joints that don't take an hour to get to, and that give you a poppy seed bun to boot. But in any case, I couldn't listen to one more rapturous description without trying this place myself.

After a mind-blowingly frustrating hour and a half on the Kennedy, I arrived at the glowing yellow sign full of ravenous hunger and road rage. Gripping the counter, I tried not to scream my order at the teenager in front of me: "Double dog, everything."

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Annie Conway / Comments (1)

The Dog Show Thu Oct 04 2012

The Dog Show: Jimmy's Red Hots

Thumbnail image for TheDogShow_01.jpgChicago is a city steeped in tradition and history, a town full of allegiance to memories and what we love. Whether you grew up in Chicago or not, once you live here you have those first places you visit in the city that, for the most part, remain favorites. It's the type of city with pride where you'll find multiple generations eating the same food, shopping at the same stores, and cheering on the same teams for years to come. This week in the Dog Show, we visit one of those family institutions on the West Side, Jimmy's Red Hots.

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Lisa White

The Dog Show Thu Sep 13 2012

The Dog Show: Drunk Dogs

Thumbnail image for TheDogShow_01.jpgChicago is a drinking city, so come early Sunday morning once the bars close down, it's no surprise that the busiest spots in town are familiar foods catering to the less-than-sober clientele. Everyone has a favorite, whether it's a taco joint, a greasy slice of pizza, or the local McDonald's you stumble into and regret the next morning. But in a city of high- and low-brow encased meat, the weapon of choice for many of us is the mighty hot dog.

Chicago, for the most part, take its hot dog game very serious. And I'm not just talking about the strict no ketchup policy and the fiery debates over what qualifies as "Chicago Style." We've got some amazing homemade purveyors making some innovative, creative, and strange combinations. If you're a fan of the higher brow hot dog scene, you know what I'm talking about. And as much as I love my foie gras dog at Hot Doug's, the main thing I crave after a night of already poor decisions is that classic, humble hot dog.

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Lisa White / Comments (1)

The Dog Show Mon Aug 27 2012

Neon Green Relish: A Taste Test

Thumbnail image for TheDogShow_01.jpgWhat makes a Chicago-style hot dog so unique? It's the melding of all the ingredients, the balance of flavors tested over time and eventually made canon: hot dog, yellow mustard, relish, chopped onion, tomato slice, dill pickle spear, sport peppers, celery salt, poppy seed bun. All together, they create a delicious harmony.

Nonetheless, one ingredient stands out, especially to visitors to Chicago: the neon green relish. Its artificial hue can't help but draw attention, and it's the most talked-about element among tourists and insult comedians.

Nobody is quite sure where the bright green relish got its start. Hot Dog Chicago Style claims it was introduced in the 1970s at classic stand chain Fluky's, while Dining Chicago's Leah Zeldes reports that Superdawg cofounder Flaurie Berman says her shop has used it since it opened in 1949. Zeldes guesses that the lurid green may have been an overzealous attempt by a relish manufacturer to ensure a consistent color in his product. Who knows how many copycats it inspired, but today there are only three brands of neon green relish available at retail: Vienna, Rolf's and Puckered Pickle Co. ( sells a Fluky's branded green relish, but only in a $25 four pack with yellow mustard, giardiniera and, for some reason, serrano peppers.) None of them is easy to find -- you're lucky if the grocery store near you carries even one -- but a Chicago-style hot dog isn't quite the same without it.

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Andrew Huff / Comments (2)

The Dog Show Fri Jul 13 2012

The Dog Show: High- and Low-Brow at Allium & Munchie's Red Hots

Thumbnail image for TheDogShow_01.jpgSince our last column, Lisa White and I weren't able to make our schedules match in order to visit one of the hot dog joints on our list, so we opted to dine separately. Lisa took the high dining road, visiting fine dining restaurant Allium, while I went the more plebeian route. How'd we fare? Read on, hot dog lovers!

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Andrew Huff

The Dog Show Thu Jun 28 2012

The Dog Show: Franks 'N' Dawgs

Thumbnail image for TheDogShow_01.jpgWhen you think of high end dining, most people would never consider the humble hot dog as part of this rank of food. Franks 'N' Dawgs, 1863 N. Clybourn Ave., sets out to change that mindset, one tubular meat at a time. First, let's set the record straight. Despite the multitude of comparisons, this place is not Hot Doug's. Hot Doug's doesn't make their own sausage, there is the infamous line, and frankly this place isn't just some hot dog shack. I love my Hot Doug's, but Franks 'N' Dawgs really is a sit down affair that you need to go into treating it like a more refined type of meal. Yes, the price will be more than any other hot dog around, but for the quality of ingredients and given the background of the chef, you are getting more than your money's worth. The menus might bear some resemblance, but the atmosphere and overall style are vastly different.

When you go, make sure to go on a sunny day if possible and utilize the back patio. It's a perfect place to enjoy your meal, much better than the dark cavernous interior of the shop. Step up, order, then pick a celebrity instead of a number to signify your meal to the staff. Everything is plated beautifully, the first sign of the higher end quality before you even take a bite of food.

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Lisa White

The Dog Show Wed Jun 13 2012

The Dog Show: Susie's Drive-Thru

The Dog Showby Lisa White & Andrew Huff

After a long absence, The Dog Show has returned! Every other week, we'll be exploring Chicago's many hot dog stands, checking out their Chicago-style hot dogs as well as other treats.

To mark the column's return, Lisa White and Andrew Huff visited Susie's Drive-Thru, a classic Mayfair spot that's been pleasing people for 38 years. Set on an odd-shaped lot at 4126 W. Montrose Ave., just west of Elston, it's mostly oriented toward eating in your car -- there are two drive-thru windows and ample parking, while inside there's but a narrow counter along the windows. A couple of picnic tables are set up outside.

susiesdrivethru_sign.jpgThe menu is surprisingly long for a hot dog stand. In addition to the standard encased meats, burgers and gyros, there are also all sorts of combinations of menu items -- seemingly anything may be topped with anything else, resulting in such oddities as the hot dogs wrapped in gyro meat, burgers served like reubens, and just about anything on top of cheese fries. Apparently being stuck in tight quarters from noon to midnight every day inspires a good amount of experimentation.

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Andrew Huff / Comments (3)

The Dog Show Mon Oct 11 2010

The Dog Show: Hot Doug's

Thumbnail image for TheDogShow_01.jpgI feel like this article has been a long time coming. A very long time coming. If you are a true blue Chicagoan, you know what Hot Doug's is. Started by Doug Sohn, Hot Doug's strives to make hot dogs more than just something you get at roadside restaurants and sidewalk carts. The restaurant offers more than twenty different sausages every day, and about half of those change up every month or even every week. Hot Doug's was at the center of the foie gras controversy, has been named a top restaurant by Zagats and Bon Appetit, and was one of Anthony Bourdain's Chicago picks on his show No Reservations. And Doug Sohn has achieved all of this in a little less than a decade. It's a culinary cornerstone in my opinion. The gourmet hot dog is now springing up all over Chicago, but Hot Doug's still reigns at the top of the dog chain. You can't call yourself a Chicago foodie until you've eaten a sausage at Hot Doug's.

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Amy Dittmeier / Comments (7)

The Dog Show Tue Aug 03 2010

The Dog Show: George's Hot Dogs

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George's Hot Dogs opened up in Bucktown in 1948, and since then has remained a family-owned and operated hot dog and sandwich joint. After reading about George's in Redeye and Chicago Food Planet I decided to venture out and check out the stand for myself. The outside of this hot dog stand is quaint and inviting, making me think that I was in for some great American food made by a people who have been doing this for years. Little did I know George's had some punches to pull on the inside.

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Amy Dittmeier

The Dog Show Mon Apr 26 2010

The Dog Show: Redhot Ranch

Thumbnail image for TheDogShow_01.jpgI came, I saw. I got a stomach ulcer, couldn't eat anything but soup and bread for about a month. I moved to Wicker Park/Bucktown. I dreamed about eating curries and rich cheeses in a bare two-bedroom apartment. And now I am back. My stomach is healed, I'm all moved in, and I'm ready to explore my new neighborhood and eat the food I missed most of all within that month of my bland food diet: hot dogs.

The one hot dog joint that piqued my interest in my new 'hood was Redhot Ranch. Every time I walked down Western that bright yellow Vienna Beef sign drew me in like a moth to a flame. The banner advertising "homemade french fried shrimp" didn't help me stay away either. This weekend's rainy weather offered the perfect opportunity to get out and try what Redhot Ranch promised.

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Amy Dittmeier / Comments (2)

The Dog Show Mon Feb 22 2010

The Dog Show: Byron's

Thumbnail image for TheDogShow_01.jpgOn Valentine's Day -- a day to spend with the person you love doing what you love -- I was with the man I love, eating what I love: hot dogs. Keeping close to home, my boyfriend and I ventured to Byron's on Irving Park Road. Byron's claim to fame is for having Chicago's healthiest hot dogs. We already know that hot dogs can kill you. Is there such thing as a healthy hot dog that isn't soy-based?

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Amy Dittmeier

The Dog Show Mon Feb 01 2010

The Dog Show: Wiener and Still Champion

TheDogShow_01.jpgWiener and Still Champion has been an institution of the Evanston area since 1975, when a local grade school contest resulted in renaming an old restaurant in the area. In 2005 the new owner Gus revamped the restaurant into a totally new establishment, featuring freshly made burgers, fries and of course hot dogs. What drew me to travel to one of Evanston's finest hot dog joints can be summed up into one word: bacon. What I've heard Wiener and Still Champion can do with bacon is enough to make me jump up and down with joy. Bacon-wrapped hot dogs, country fried bacon -- it's enough to make my digestive system scream in terror and my mouth to water with anticipation. I had to try it for myself.

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Amy Dittmeier

The Dog Show Mon Jan 18 2010

The Dog Show: Flub A Dub Chub's

TheDogShow_01.jpgFlub A Dub Chub's is a relatively new hot dog emporium in Lakeview that's getting more and more attention from the locals. It could be because of their cute logo or their friendly atmosphere, but I have to chalk it up to their amazing menu. Featuring good ol' fashioned American staples, hot dogs and burgers, there's always something for even the pickiest eater to find at their restaurant. Family owned and operated with the help of their friends, Flub a Dub Chub's welcomes you downstairs with a waft of encased meat and the promise of a warm atmosphere. Every time I've come into this place I'm always greeted by one of the owners, who are always there, and have a great conversation. These guys care about food and about their customers, which is a welcome change to the quick service places around the area who couldn't care who you were.

In this particular hot dog excursion I ate six hot dogs. That's right, six loaded to the top hot dogs with only my trusty boyfriend to help me finish the remainder of what I couldn't. I will probably never do this again until I go to Hot Doug's but let me tell you right now, when the menu has 14 different types of hot dogs sometimes it's okay to let a few wait until the next visit.

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Amy Dittmeier

The Dog Show Wed Dec 09 2009

The Dog Show: The Big Ass Hot Dog


"Why have a bunch of little hot dogs when you can have a big hot dog?" Why indeed is the question. From ball games to cook-outs, we all enjoy eating hot dogs together. It's become a social food for our culture, fitting into situations that include drinking cheap beer and yelling at football players on our televisions. But who wants to be the guy bringing the small package of hot dogs when you can be the guy who brings a seven pound hot dog? Enter the The Big Ass Hot Dog. This sausage is made of beef, pork and veal, with none of the chicken beaks and nasty bi-products generic hot dogs include in their hot dogs. Weighing in at seven pounds and almost a foot and a half long, it's a mighty piece of meat that's quite intimidating when first seen.

Chicagoans may know Gorilla Tango Theatre for their productions and forays in the arts, but what you might not know is that they are much more. From video production custom jewelry, Gorilla Tango refuses to stick to their current success and diversifies into other business ventures commonly. Their newest venture, the Big Ass Hot Dog, has seen the same success since it's official launch in November. Dan Abbate, one of the creators of the Big Ass Hot Dog and a partner in Gorilla Tango, thought of the idea one of their meetings. "We were just sitting around one day and just brainstorming a bunch of goofy ideas and my dad, who happened to be there that day, just made some sort of comment about hot normal hot dogs just roll off the grill." The first idea was to make a normal sized square hot dog, one that would lay flat on a grill and cook evenly. After finding out that the production of something like this would be quite difficult and expensive, Abbate and Gorilla Tango went back to the drawing board. Naturally the progression lead to the Big Ass Hot Dog, a large hot dog that can be sliced into four-inch patties and be grilled with ease.

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Amy Dittmeier / Comments (8)

The Dog Show Mon Nov 23 2009

The Dog Show: Murphy's Red Hots


DSCN7101.JPGMurphy's Red Hots started in the mid-Eighties when Bill Murphy decided to create a more family-style hot dog place that represented a Fifties vibe before the Fifties vibe became chic. With his wife and daughter helping him man the small restaurant in Lakeview, the three started grilling up Vienna Beef hot dogs for the budding neighborhood to enjoy. Little did they know but their creation and care would take off, making Murphy's one of Chicago's most notable hot dog stands. Bill Murphy's hot dogs were so incredible that you can now find the restaurant in Japan. The Manabe company found Murphy's back in the '90s and wanted to bring the signature America food to Japan and Murphy agree. Now, there are two sister restaurants overseas serving up "Chicago-style" hot dogs. Vienna Beef has also entered Murphy's into their Hall of Fame, which to me is like the Oscars of the hot dog world. This above all things drove my decision to eat at Murphy's for this week's edition of The Dog Show.

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Amy Dittmeier / Comments (2)

The Dog Show Mon Nov 09 2009

The Dog Show: Superdawg


I don't know why hot dogs are my favorite food. Putting Freudian analysis aside, these cylindrical encased meats have been invading my food dreams from a very young age. Growing up in and around Chicago has only fueled this insane love for hot dogs because here it's almost a cultural staple. If you're getting a hot dog in Chicago, it's comprised of a poppy seed bun, one all-beef hot dog (usually Vienna Beef), yellow mustard, chopped raw white onions, green relish (the more abnormal the color the better), tomato wedges, sports peppers, a dash of celery salt, and a pickle on top to seal the deal. When I've taken out-of-staters to my favorite hot dog joints and shown them this amazing meal, they've usually shirked away in pure fear. Hot dogs shouldn't be feared as that strange mystery meat at sporting events and family cook-outs. They're a culinary delicacy that can be dressed up or down for the occasion. In Chicago, it's usually the latter. I say embrace this culinary piece of heaven, and learn the best places to go in the process.

The Dog Show is something for hot dog aficionados and casual eaters alike to find and experience Chicago standards in the art of hot dogs as well as fresh new finds. Though the Chicago hot dog has a standard build there are plenty of restaurants in the area that add their own flair to it. The Dog Show isn't all about finding the best Chicago style hot dog, though that is an added bonus. We're ready to try any encased meat on a bun that's been concocted in the Chicagoland area. Since Chicago has more hot dog stands than McDonalds, Wendys and Burger Kings combined, there is more than enough fodder to explore and sift through. Twice a month I'll dive into the dish that started as a simple meal for poverty-stricken locals during the Depression and evolved into a cultural icon.

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Amy Dittmeier / Comments (5)

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Feature Thu Dec 31 2015

The State of Food Writing

By Brandy Gonsoulin

In 2009, food blogging, social media and Yelp were gaining popularity, and America's revered gastronomic magazine Gourmet shuttered after 68 years in business. Former Cook's Illustrated editor-in-chief Chris Kimball followed with an editorial, stating that "The shuttering of Gourmet reminds...
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