Last week, I went back to Madison for some training. Like the last time, I flew into Chicago and drove to Madison. This meant that I was able to stop a bite (or two... or three) on my way out of town. This time, I wanted to make sure to try a couple of places I'd never been to before.... and of course, it was only right that I have a sample of one of Chicago's iconic food items; the hot dog.
On previous visits, I'd had dogs from Superdawg and Weiner Circle. This time around Cathy's brother recommended that I give Gene and Jude's, a place that should rightfully and proudly be called a joint, a try. Gene and Jude's is located in the community of River Grove just a couple of miles from O'Hare, which made access pretty easy.
Established in 1946, Gene and Jude's longevity says that they must be doing something right. Later on, I mentioned this place in conversation. I was told that Gene and Jude's are always among the top sellers of Vienna Beef Hot Dogs in Chicago.
I was also told to always expect a line, but not to worry as the line moves very quickly. You just get in line behind this sign.
I stood in awe as the guy two places in line in front of me ordered 10 dogs and fries.... only to be topped by the woman in front of me who ordered two dozen! The guy taking the order didn't even blink an eye.
I felt positively unworthy ordering but a single dog (with everything) and fries. You order, then move over to the next spot and pay.
I grabbed my dog and fries and headed over to the counter to eat.
Yes, the place is a bit worn, and possibly in need of a good scrub-down, but that just seems to add character......
For $2.20, you get a dog covered with a handful of fries.....
The fries are hand-cut, natural, that is, skin on, made fresh from potatoes. These were greasy, but in a good way, and even though I'm not a fan of this type of fries(i.e. In-N-Out), these had good potato flavor.
Below the fries the Dog was a mess.....
The roll was pretty much a mushy mess. "Everything" on this dog consisted of sport peppers, piccalilli, onions, and mustard. No tomato, pickle spear, and no celery salt. In fact, the very same guy who seemed to know everything about hot dogs told me that this was the way Chicago Hot Dogs were originally served. Though this was a mess, I loved the snap of this dog.... it was the snappiest of the four I had on this trip.
In spite of the rapidly disintegrating roll, I thought this was a decent dog. And can you beat the price? The "Hot Dog Nazi" - dive atmosphere added to the (lack of) ambiance. Nothing fancy here, just a couple of things on the menu..... and don't even think about asking for ketchup on your dog!
While eating my dog and fries, I noticed this copy of an article on the wall.....
The article tells of Charlie Trotter's recommendations for best dogs in Chicago..... and Gene and Jude's is one of the three mentioned. The mental image of Charlie Trotter eating greasy fries on a messy dog elbows on the worn and in need of a good scrubbing counters cracked me up.
Gene & Jude's Red Hot Stand
2720 River Rd
River Grove, IL 60171
A few weeks before leaving on this trip, I sat next to a guy from Chicago at Sushi Yaro. When he mentioned where he was from, I told him I'd be flying to Chicagoland before driving to Madison, and staying one night upon my return. We got to talking about Chicago Hot Dogs, and the beauty of the neighborhood Hot Dog stand. His stand was a place called Peep's in Arlington Heights.... in his words, "not the best, but good, and a very typical neighborhood stand. There used to be one in every neighborhood." Since I was able to take my time driving to Madison, I decided to stop at Peep's. It was a bit of a detour from the freeway........ but very easy to find on the corner of Rand and East Thomas Street.
Basically not much more than a shack with a counter and a small dining area.
Here's the Dog with everything from Peep's......
Your standard issue Chicago Dog, nice sprinkling of celery salt, sport peppers, tomatoes that were kind of mushy, and the pickle didn't seemed, well pickled enough. The bun was a bit drier then I appreciate. Strangely, all the dogs I ate were of the same heritage; dogs from Vienna Beef, but they were all different. This one had less snap, though the flavor was right on.
I've had better dogs, and many much worse......