You’ve been having Hot Doug’s cravings since they closed – but where to sate your gourmet hot dog craving now? Hot Doug’s imaginative take on the typical Chicago hot dog is sorely missed, but Franks ‘n’ Dawgs is a worthy heir to that proud tradition.
Enter through the side alley off North Clybourn and you’ll find this hipster haven: part hot dog stand, part classic American diner, part Goth night club. Old-school wooden booths and tables are surrounded by walls – alternatively brick or studded metal, or painted red or black.
Order at the counter and take a numb– um, Franks ‘n’ Dawgs’ version of a number. To alert the server to your whereabouts, you’ll be Velcro-ing a picture of your favorite celebrity train wreck – either a celebrity mug shot or unflattering paparazzi photo – to your table.
Your first clue that you’re about to dive into the biggest hot mess this side of those celebrity hot messes (Oh! We get it now!) is that each table comes with its own personal napkin dispenser; this might not seem out of the ordinary, but you’re going to need all of them. You’ll need no fewer than seven napkins per eating for their award-winning, Vietnamese-meets-gourmet-Chicago hot dog, the banh mi: a chicken sausage based on the Vietnamese sandwich of the same name. With hints of coriander and lemongrass, it’s draped with julienned pickled veggies and topped with a Sriracha mayonnaise.
The Southerner’s caramelized-onion pork sausage is subtle, leaving plenty of room for the big flavor of the cherry bourbon barbecue sauce and the sweet, crumbly cornbread they top it with. Napkin count: 6.
And…why, yes, in fact: A bacon hot dog topped with truffled mac’n’cheese is exactly as good as it sounds. Napkin count: 11, maybe 12. If the you like your truffles in French-fry form, go for the truffle waffle fries. They’re face-puckeringly salty – and wildly popular.
Or if you want to stay within the ballpark of a traditional Chicago hot dog, you could always go with the chili cheese. This being Franks ‘n’ Dawgs, it’s going to come as an andouille sausage with a rich homemade bean chili and a white cheddar sauce that’s closer to a béchamel than a whiz. Napkin count: 23.
No matter what you choose, you’ll be dining with a wide swathe of the alternative Chicago hot dog lovers crowd: properly bearded and flanneled hipsters, workmen on breaks, and families with doe-eyed out-of-towners in tow. Babies dance along to melodic tunes by The Beatles, Rick James, and L7 as their parents reach for the napkin dispenser between bites.
Bonus: The lines are mostly non-existent. Plus, Franks ‘n’ Dawgs is directly across from the Lincoln Park Trader Joe’s and near Clybourn Corridor shopping, making it a perfect spot for a mid-shopping trip pick-me-up. In the summer, there are a half-dozen no-frills tables out on the back patio, plus there’s always overflow bench seating behind the counter. So really, there’s no excuse not to sit down and dig in.