For many Chicagoans, eating ketchup with hot dogs is a taboo. Some hot dog stalls and restaurants won’t even serve it; Others are handing out ketchup packets to customers because the staff won’t put things on the dogs themselves. A proper Chicago-style hot dog contains onions, tomatoes, relish, a whole pickled spear, and a dash of celery salt, all on a poppy seed bun. The formula offers a mix of flavor profiles: not just salty, and definitely not just sweet.
Or so you think. Some hot dog spots in Chicago and elsewhere in the Midwest not only increase sweetness, they turn hot dogs into bonafide sweets, adding items like chocolate, Froot rings, and even gummy bears (in the meat itself). I had the chance to chat with the creators behind five of these very exotic flavor combinations.
Hot dog ice cream
Hot dog assortment: Hot dog ice cream. In fact, it’s hot dog flavored ice cream in a pink poppy seed bun with mustard and pickles. And no ketchup, of course. A sweeter version is also available—with pink vanilla ice cream, strawberry sauce, and sprinkles—along with a special vegan pumpkin served with graham crackers and Halloween sprinkles.
Available at: Only Chicago Ice Cream Museum. Sweet and savory versions are standard, but the soft pumpkin serving is only for Halloween.
Why: It’s a tribute to the Chicago hot dog, says Ryan Beshel, partner and creative director of SIX4 Creative. “We wanted to take this classic pattern and put it around to get people to think of the Chicago dog in a whole new way,” he says, adding that the museum has seen diverse responses from people who love it and those who don’t. “But everyone who tries it leaves a truly unique culinary experience.”
price: Ice cream hot dog included as part of general admission: $36 on weekdays, $44 on weekends
churro kung dog
Hot dog assortment: Corn dog covered in sweet potato and cinnamon sugar. Note that the original Kong Dog and Potato Kong Dog can also be rolled in sugar. Rainbow Kong Dog, topped with fruity rice puffs, can be made even sweeter with powdered sugar.
Available at: Kong Dog. All corn dogs are available everywhere including Lincoln Park, the University of Illinois at Chicago and Chicago’s Chinatown, and Glenview, Illinois.
Why: “It is common to have a salty corn dog and it has been around for a long time,” says Emily Hahn, Kong Dog Marketing Coordinator. “By adding something sweet, it makes our flavors unique and [it’s] Something different for people to try.”
price: From $5 to $7
Apple sausage, ham and chocolate
Sausage Variety: Apple ham sausage with pear mustard and chunks of Vosges Bacon chocolate.
Available at: Hot dog restaurant owner Doug Sohn created this amazing concoction. Hot Doug has been closed for several years, but you can make your own by buying Vosges Bacon Chocolate (dark or milk) for $9 and Apple Pork Sausage at Paulina Market.
Why: Son says he wanted to try using locally made chocolate on the sausage. “Yeah, I’m not sure this works,” he says, “but I really couldn’t stop taking it.”
price: $9 for Vosges Bacon Chocolate and $11.50 for Pork-Apple Links
naughty bear gum
Sausage Variety: It’s sausage filled with gummy bears and topped with More gummy bears, plus honey mustard and relish, all in a brightly colored hot dog bun. The gum in sausage melts when cooked, so you don’t get a mouth full of raw meat and gum. The finished mixture was rolled into a blue or red cake from a local bakery.
Available: Leadfoots Race Bar & Grill at the Wisconsin State Fairgrounds. The Wisconsin State Fair is over, but the Leadfoots Race Bar, near the Milwaukee Mile, will sell Gummy Bear Brat through September at events like Harvest Fair.
If you missed your chance, you can try to get gummy bear sausage from Grundhofer’s Old Fashion Meats in Minnesota.
Why: Every year, the Wisconsin State Fair encourages vendors to make “crazy food” [Editor’s note: This happens in Texas as well] This fits the bill. “As crazy as it was a food, we still wanted it to taste good,” says Patti Emikos, co-owner and managing director of Leadvos Reese.
Hot dog assortment: Hot Dog Topped With Bacon, Pimento Pasta And Cheese, And Fruit Lobes.
Available: Cleveland Guardians Progressive Field or Happy Dog Cleveland. On the field, it’s available throughout the baseball season at the Concession Stand Happy Dog in the main lobby.
Why: When Executive Chef Fishwatigue Nath at Progressive Field was asked why it was so successful, he said, “It’s a fun experience with a regular hot dog out of the box.” He said that Froot Loops add not only sweetness but color and crunch, if that’s what you’ve been missing.
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