The Chicago Hot Dog Alternative You Need To Know

Hot dogs serve as everything from a stadium staple to a backyard favorite. Through their reign as one of America's favorite dishes, there has been no shortage of creativity in developing toppings for the popular treat. Regional hot dogs reflect the preferences of different parts of the country: The Michigan-famous Coney dog comes with meat sauce, onions, and mustard, per the Detroit Historical Society, while Atlanta-style chili dogs are piled with coleslaw (via Taste of Home). The variations keep going, from relish to grilled peppers and even cream cheese — the last of which you can find on the Seattle dog, according to the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council.

One hot dog destination is Chicago, whose residents take pride in their local variations on the mystery-meat dish. As it turns out, there is more than one type of hot dog in the city. The colorful, toppings-loaded Chicago-style hot dog you might be familiar with has some competition with another interpretation of the dish — and those who love a good dog will want to hear all about it.

The difference is in the cooking method

A classic Chicago dog has tons of vibrant toppings. Besides bright red tomatoes, Chicago dogs are also traditionally laden with chopped onions, a pickle spear (a must), spicy sport peppers, a sprinkle of celery salt, relish, and mustard, says Tastes of Chicago. To finish it all off, it's served on a poppy seed bun. If you thought that was a lot to remember, let us introduce you to the char dog: the underrated Chicago frank variation that just might give the original a run for its money.

The only difference between a char dog and a traditional Chicago dog is the cooking method. While typical Chicago dogs are steamed, char dogs are grilled until they're dark and crispy, according to The Takeout. This cooking process is important, though, because while the dogs should be charred, they should not be totally burnt. Fatso's Last Stand, one of Chicago's most popular spots for a char dog, makes a cross-cut through each end of its hot dogs, which allows each bite of meat to take on some crispiness. From there, the grilled hot dog follows the traditional form of a Chicago dog; the toppings remain the same, but that extra depth from the smokiness gives those veggies a new kind of home on their poppyseed bun.