WATCH: 5 vegan Chicago hot dogs in 5 minutes

Photo of 2 vegan Chicago hot dogs being assembled in a kitchen
A chef adds sport peppers to a vegan Chicago hot dog at the Original Chicago's Doghouse. (Julia Lowe/MEDILL)

By Julia Lowe
Medill Reports

The iconic Chicago-style hot dog can be found all over the city and beyond. A hot dog dressed in mustard, pickles, green relish, onions, sliced tomatoes and celery salt can be called “dragged through the garden,” but where can vegetarian and vegan Chicagoans find a meatless dog to take part in the tradition? Watch how five hot dog restaurants make their vegan spin on the classic Chicago-style hot dog.


NARRATION: The Chicago-style hot dog. It’s all about the toppings.

CHARLIE O’CONNELL, Devil Dawgs director of operations: It’s those famous toppings, the seven toppings that you have to have on a real Chicago hot dog.

VARIOUS: The mustard, the bright green relish, the onions, tomato, the pickle, the sport peppers and the celery salt.

NARRATION: There’s one other rule:

GREGORY GIARRATANO, Flub a Dub Chub general manager: You do not put ketchup.

NARRATION: Some Chicago restaurants put a meatless spin on the Chicago dog, swapping the Vienna beef for a veggie dog.

JULIA LOWE: I’m riding the L train all over the city’s North Side on the hunt for the best vegetarian versions of the classic Chicago dog. And my first stop is the Original Chicago’s Doghouse on Fullerton.

AARON WOLFSON, Chicago’s Doghouse owner: We saw a demand for clientele coming in wanting a vegetarian or vegan hot dog, and we didn’t want to turn them away, so we introduced that onto our menu.

JOHN VOLK: It is the quintessential Chicago-style hot dog, vegan. Taste, I’m gonna give it a 3.75. Might have gotten a little too much char on the dog itself, but otherwise, so fresh, so perfect. Great atmosphere in here, friendly staff.


WOLFSON: If you’re a vegetarian or vegan, and you have a craving for a veggie hot dog, stop on by.


LOWE: My next stop is Flub a Dub Chub’s on Broadway. I’m here with my friend Rachel who’s going to try their vegan dog, The Willie.

GIARRATANO: We want it to be a great experience. We want you to taste every flavor. We don’t skip on anything.

NARRATION: The Willie has a twist: a cucumber slice. The family-owned business is a Lakeview staple with some loyal fans.

GIARRATANO: ​​It’s basically hot dog bartending, because you get to know everyone in the neighborhood. I’ve got a couple that comes in from Elgin on Fridays. This is their place to get a veggie dog. So that’s like an hour away. We have another couple from Indiana that drives in on the weekends.

RACHEL BLOME: It’s a super cute little diner, the staff was super friendly, the food came out really quick and hot and great, so yeah, absolutely, I would definitely recommend.


LOWE: My next stop is Portillo’s. You can’t talk about the Chicago dog without mentioning this place. Last year, they added the Garden Dog to their menu, which I will be trying today.

NARRATION: It’s prepared the same way as the original: chargrilled and “dragged through the garden.”

LOWE: All right, now it’s my turn to try the Portillo’s Garden Dog. Overall Chicago experience, I mean come on, look at this place. Absolutely 4 out of 4 stars.


LOWE: All right, it’s a new day, I’m hungry again, I’m ready for some hot dogs, and I’m here under the Belmont stop at Devil Dawgs.

O’CONNELL: Devil Dawgs is an institution at this point in Chicago. It’s been around for 12+ years at this point. A lot of our employees have been with us since the beginning. We’ve created a sort of family institution as far as employees go, which is beautiful.

NARRATION: Devil Dawgs has four locations across Chicago and a fifth coming to Evanston this summer. And they’re proud of their celebrity status.

O’CONNELL: Jessica Chastain, who just won the SAG award, tagged us, and she was eating one of our vegan Chicago dogs, which is super fun.

BLOME: For taste, I would give 4 out of 4 stars, I really, really enjoyed this. The vibes in here are super cute, I really love the atmosphere and the employees are awesome, so yeah, 4 out of 4.


LOWE: My journey ends here at a neighborhood spot – Cubs neighborhood, that is.

NARRATION: Wrigleyville Dogs recently added a new vegan hot dog from Uptons to their menu.

BOBBY SDRALIS, Wrigleyville Dogs general manager: We have a certain clientele that has been begging for a vegan dog, and really there has been. We’ve identified it, we knew there was a thing, we knew there was a need, but there wasn’t a good vegan dog out there.

JORDANA COMITER: Yeah, so I’m not vegan, so I was kinda scared to try the vegan one. I love hot dogs. I’m a hot dog enthusiast. But it’s not bad, like I’m pleasantly surprised. And the ambiance here, (*chef kiss*), and the staff, incredible, the vibes are good, the buns were good.


NARRATION: If there’s one thing I’ve learned from this adventure, it’s that no matter where you go for a vegan Chicago dog, you’re sure to have a great experience. And … always skip the ketchup.

NARRATION: In Chicago – Julia Lowe, Medill Reports.

Julia Lowe is a magazine graduate student at Medill. You can follow her on Twitter at @juliamlowe.