In honor of National Hot Dog Month (July, in case you need a refresher), I’m sharing with you my favorite place for the freshest, made-to-order hot dogs in the City of Chicago–the Vienna Beef Factory Store and Cafe. Ever since the debut of the Vienna Sausage Company at the Columbian Exposition in May of 1893, Chicago has had a love affair with the hot dog. And if you want to taste a hot dog fresh out of the factory and steamed or grilled to (your) perfection, the Vienna Beef Cafe is the place to try one.
At the corner of Fullerton and Damen Avenue is the kitchy lunchroom-style cafe decorated in mustard yellow with uncharacteristically-Chicago, ketchup-red colored chairs. Hmmm…. The cafe features counter service, and offers a wide array of hot dog styles, Polish sausages, hamburgers, chili and soup, and deli-style sandwiches showcasing Vienna Beef products. You can stand at the counter and watch (and take in the all of the delicious smells) as your order is assembled. During the week, the menu features specially themed sandwiches, all named after city streets. Every day, a two-hot dog special and a corned beef sandwich special are offered.
My teenage son and I set out for lunch one day after an errand in the city; he is a self-proclaimed “foodie,” picky about food quality, and enjoys exploring Chicago’s history with me. And I have to say this visit was certainly more than the little hot dog haven we expected. From a meager cafeteria emerged the best tasting food. This is certainly not a large or a fancy place to eat, but the quality of food was spectacular (pictured above, a Vienna Beef hotdog, sort of Chicago-style with grilled onions). In addition to fountain drinks, craft sodas are available for purchase by the bottle.
We also enjoyed the bits of hot dog history scattered throughout the cafe and market area, and looked at the gifts items in the shop. Hot dog apparel? Vienna Beef has you covered — literally. Patrons can also purchase deli meats by the pound, and Vienna Beef products by the case. If you are having a party and need your encased meats en masse, this is the place to purchase. This location also houses Chicago’s very own Hot Dog University where hot dog cart and stand owners learn about best practices for their businesses.
I’ll admit, I’m a little reluctant to drive to the Vienna Beef Factory and Cafe as a solo destination from the far northern suburbs, but I definitely seek it out if we are nearby in Chicago. Located on North Damen Avenue, it is located in the vicinity of Bucktown and the North DePaul neighborhoods, just west of the North Branch of the Chicago River. We happened to be visiting Micro Center on Elston, so it was the perfect opportunity for us to venture to the Land of Vienna Beef.
Enjoy a fun little bite of Chicago’s hot dog history here — you won’t be disappointed. And if you are truly a Chicago hot dog aficionado, don’t miss Chicago Hot Dog Fest 2017 to be held from August 11-13 at the Chicago History Museum in Lincoln Park. The event is free, although there is a suggested $5 donation per person. Over 35,000 hot dogs will be served, and many restaurants will be on-site for this event (save on dog bucks with Groupon). And if you simply want a great hot dog here in Lake County, Little Lake County has you covered with a list of where to find them locally, too. But I still think a drive to the Vienna Beef Factory Store and Cafe is definitely worth the trip.
Editor’s Note: There is also a location in Bridgeport that opened in 2016. This location is smaller than the original location in Bucktown.
Vienna Beef Factory Store
3847 S. Morgan St., Chicago | (773) 435-2298
Where is your family’s favorite place to enjoy a Chicago-style hot dog?
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