The Definitive Best Hot Dog Style, According To Anthony Bourdain

Anthony Bourdain was a chef, author, television host, father, and an inspiration to countless fans, and there was no question that he was also a New Yorker through and through. Though he built a career on traveling the world and sampling cuisines in their home countries, he once said on his 2022 show "A Cook's Tour,": "Let's face it, New York City is the best city in the world." Bourdain knew exactly where to get the best of New York's iconic dishes – his favorites included pizza from DiFara in Brooklyn, Katz's for pastrami on rye, and bialys and chopped liver at Russ & Daughters. 

When it came to hot dogs, Bourdain loved New York-style dogs with mustard and sauerkraut from Gray's Papaya. However, he stated his opinion that NYC hot dogs are actually not the best in the world. For that title, he credits Chicago. As reported by Eater Chicago, the globe-trotting food enthusiast called a traditional Chicago dog "the finest hot dog on the planet. There, I said it, and I meant it." 

A true Chicago-style hot dog is unique, colorful, and bursting with toppings. An all-beef frank is placed in a poppy seed bun and topped with yellow mustard, neon-green sweet pickle relish, chopped white onion, tomato slices, a dill pickle spear, pickled sport peppers, and celery salt. None of these components can be changed or excluded if the frank is going to count as a classic Chicago-style hot dog.

Chicago has a better dog than New York

Anthony Bourdain visited Chicago several times when he hosted his most famous TV shows, including "No Reservations," "The Layover," and "Parts Unknown." He enjoyed Chicago-style dogs at the lauded but now-closed Hot Doug's Sausage Superstore, alongside the shop's decadent duck fat fries. He also sampled franks at Jimmy's Red Hots. On the "No Reservations" episode where Bourdain visited Hot Doug's, he admitted that it can be difficult to hold and eat a Chicago-style dog that basically has a salad bar in a bun. That didn't deter him from polishing off the dog, along with a duck sausage covered in truffle mustard and slices of foie gras.

During the Hot Doug's episode, Bourdain stated, "I love few things more than meat in tube form and especially in, like, local, mutant forms of hot dogs." This was not only abundantly clear during his jaunts to Chicago, but all around the world. In another episode of "No Reservations," he visited Sweden and experienced the dish Tunnbrӧdsrulle, which contains a hot dog, mashed potatoes, and shrimp salad wrapped in a large flatbread. And in Hawaii, Bourdain visited the spot Puka Dog, where he enjoyed a Polish sausage stuffed into the middle of a warm, sweet Hawaiian bread roll, doused in garlic lemon sauce and a tropical relish.

The no-frills appeal of a Chicago dog

Like most iconic American foods, the Chicago hot dog has a complex history. A Chicago eatery called Fluky's claims to have invented the Chicago dog, which it called a "Depression Sandwich" in the 1930s. Five cents would get working class folks a hot dog topped with mustard, relish, onions, a pickle, peppers, lettuce, and tomato. As Bill Savage, an English professor at Northwestern and hot dog historian, explains, "Before, during and after the Depression, hot dogs were the food of working people" (via Block Club Chicago). He notes that Chicago-style dogs were affordable even during the Great Depression, and helped American citizens get some extra calories, given the plethora of toppings and condiments.

Anthony Bourdain adored local, authentic, affordable foods wherever he was in the world, so it's no wonder why he sampled hot dogs so many times on his TV shows. His many ventures revealed how food can reveal so much about a specific culture, not to mention bring people from all backgrounds together. The Chicago dog may have been Bourdain's favorite, but it was easy to see why he appreciated a great frank, no matter where he was on the global map.