Hotdog safari in Chicago

Spending a couple of days in Chicago this Summer, I obviously had to spend a day going on a hotdog safari, chasing the best dog in town.



George’s Hotdogs
1876 North Damen Ave, ChicagoIL 60647

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When we swung by George’s you could see an impressive collection of press clippings being voted the best in town or among the top dogs. However, I didn’t get that - a top dog. I got a mediocre Chicago-style hotdog with the classic Vienna frank. Not bad, but not memorable either, while it was cheap at $3,50 including a side of fries. A 3 out of 5 experience.



Portillo’s
100 West Ontario St, IL 60654

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Opening his first hotdog stand in 1963, Dick Portillo has a long Chicago history which has since developed into an impressive range of locations, stretching as far as California. And when we got there, the place was packed - usually a good sign.

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I tried two of their dogs - their classic Chicago hotdog and the original Maxwell one, which is served with a polish sausage, mustard and fried onions. The chicago-style hotdog was good without impressing me. My expectations for the Maxwell dog were higher, but somehow the fried onions tasted bland. The sausage was still good and I rate Portillo’s 4 out of 5, overall.



Belly Shack
1912 North Western Ave, Chicago, IL 60647

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In truth Belly Shack isn’t a hotdog place, as they only have the Belly Dog on the menu - but good recommendations had our party swing by - and what a great move! The surprise dog of the trip, which is served with an all-beef frank, egg noodles, pickled green papaya, and a side of crispy togarashi spiced fries.

Although I missed a little kick from some mustard or chili, this is a brilliant hotdog blending different tastes and served with homemade quality ingredients - a definite 5 out of 5 hotdog!



Wiener Circle
2622 North Clark St, Chicago, IL 60614

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From my first visit to Chicago, I already knew what to expect here and Wiener Circle did not disappoint! Yet another brilliant 5 out of 5 charbroiled Chicago-style dog. And if you think the profanities are fun during day-hours, come at night. I almost cried laughing.


Now, locals and hotdog conaisseurs will ask themselves: Why the hell isn’t Hot Doug’s on this list? Well I tried, but a 2-hour long line didn’t match my outbound flight, so it’s still on my must visit list - only it’s closing next month, so I’m out of luck on this one. Dammit. The good news is that Chicago has plenty of other good dogs to offer.

Near the shores of the legendary viking bay of Aarhus - situated between a ferry terminal, train tracks, construction work, and a crossfit studio - right there you’ll find an oasis of a Danish diner: Havnens Perle!
This gravy burger - or bøfsandwich as we call it locally - was crowned in 2012 as the very best in country. And this naughty brown sandwich still ranks among the very best in the country.
Especially after the 2013-upgrade, so the bøfsandwich now includes the holy trinity of onions: Raw, crispy fried, and soft grilled. Add a perfectly pink beef patty to that, and a healthy dose of homemade gravy - and now you have one of the most perfect brown kisses of Denmark.
Halleluja and a 5 out of 5 grade. Again. I am happy. Very happy.

Near the shores of the legendary viking bay of Aarhus - situated between a ferry terminal, train tracks, construction work, and a crossfit studio - right there you’ll find an oasis of a Danish diner: Havnens Perle!

This gravy burger - or bøfsandwich as we call it locally - was crowned in 2012 as the very best in country. And this naughty brown sandwich still ranks among the very best in the country.

Especially after the 2013-upgrade, so the bøfsandwich now includes the holy trinity of onions: Raw, crispy fried, and soft grilled. Add a perfectly pink beef patty to that, and a healthy dose of homemade gravy - and now you have one of the most perfect brown kisses of Denmark.

Halleluja and a 5 out of 5 grade. Again. I am happy. Very happy.

KöD in Aarhus lacks execution and rock’n’roll

Yesterday I had the pleasure of trying one of the new popular restaurants in Aarhus: KöD - a cheeky way of writing ‘meat’ in Danish using metal umlaut. And that’s just about how rock’n’roll it got - I mean, who the hell serves a martini in a plastic glass?! 

Details aside, as the starter we shared a steak tartar which had too much egg and capers in it and too little onion. Also, I think it was a little on the fat side - this is where you want the leanest of the leanest cuts - and freshly shredded or ground. 

I asked for my steak medium rare, but got a rare steak. Since the meat quality was good, it wasn’t a problem - and you can always send it back in the kitchen if you’d like it to get an extra minute on the grill. However, what struck me as odd was that the steak didn’t have any basic salt and pepper seasoning which really brings out the flavour in the meat?! I mean, I’ve eaten enough steaks to easily rectify this, but is this how a new restaurant wants to serve their signature dish? I’m betting a lot of customers wouldn’t know what was missing…

The sides were fine - good fries but why wasn’t the bacon crispy with my corn? The bearnaise sauce creme was also good, but not on par with the best ones in town. And that’s a consistent theme here - it’s like KöD are trying too hard to emulate the #1 steakhouse in town, MASH, rather than creating their own identity. And that’s really a shame.

My experience with Memphis Roadhouse is the perfect testament to giving a new restaurant a fair chance to get their act together - and given that KöD seems to have their heart in the right place, but lacks the execution, I’m definitely going to give them a second chance to up their current grade from 3 out of 5 and rock me. Average, but with lots of potential.

2014’s gourmet hotdog champ is Jeppe Foldager

In the gourmet competition it was a pleasure to see so many young chefs taking on the challenge of a creative and inspired gourmet take on a hotdog. And Jeppe Foldager from Alberto K in Copenhagen didn’t fail to deliver with an impressive hotdog which won him the honours.

In a cheese-filled choux bun, he served a sausage made from forest hog, forest ox, snails, and porcini - and damn that thing packed some very distinct flavours and some snap. Impressive.

Of course, not limiting the creativity to the bun and sausage, Jeppe chose to top the dog with an onion compote, mustard, tarragon, black winter truffles from Australia, pickled onions, ramsons, capers, crispy veal thymus, Indian cress, and vinegar powder.

In the end the voting was a very close race with the runner-up and last year’s winner, CanBLAU, who served an extremely tasty, but not very hotdog-like tartar-dog.

As rumour has it that the originator of the gourmet hotdog, Thomas Herman, is going to be in the 2015 competition, things are looking very interesting when Mr. Foldager has to defend his title next year.

Photo credits and copyrights to Anders Tvede.

Denmark’s best 2014 traditional hotdog is from PølseMageriet

Last year PølseMageriet won the coveted title for making the best traditional hotdog in Denmark. They didn’t rest on their laurels, so this year they showed up with version 2.0 of their TopDog - and it aced the competition, simply being in a league of it’s own.

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One of the key elements to success is of course the sausage, because that is really the heart of the hotdog. And since PølseMageriet from Silkeborg is a family business built on making sausages since 1965, it’s natural for them to know this trade to perfection.

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This year’s improved sausage consisted of 40% prime veal, 60% free range pork, with crispy bacon bits added, as well as ramsons, sun-dried tomatoes, and various secret spices. And let me tell you - it was damn good! Once you took a bite out of it - snap - and you could even detect the structure of the meat and spices - not just a grey mass of meat and whatever else you find in these bad boys. Unbelievably good.

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But it wasn’t just the sausage - it was served on a bed of warm pan-fried onions in a perfectly baked brioche bread. The dog was dressed with all homemade dressings - mustard, ketchup, and an extra coarse remoulade with lots of pickles. Last but not least it was topped with raw and roasted onions, as well as homemade chili-and-vinegar pickled cucumber dies, and red onions pickled in red wine. Yes, no less than 4 different kinds of onions. As the very last touch it was perfected with a nifty bacon crumble.

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I don’t believe in God, but I might reconsider after this truly divine hotdog which I gave the absolute top grade. Thank you for this experience, Brian and crew from PølseMageriet!

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Photo credits and copyrights by Anders Tvede


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YUM!

The 2014 Hotwings champ of Aarhus is…

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Broad of shoulder, full beard, wide of chest - and stomach after competing at the annual hotwings competition in Aarhus at Memphis Roadhouse. The fearless chicken-eating viking, John Larsen, inched out the win after psyching everyone before the competition with a one-man battle hymn.

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Unlike the competition last year, this year was very close - and nothing was decided among the top three until the last two minutes - and the top four contestants were all in the same territory:

  1. 26 wings: John Larsen
  2. 25 wings: Peter Emil Højlund
  3. 24 wings: Lasse Thomassen
  4. 23 wings: Andreas Bach Hougaard

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It was great to see the overall performance although no one managed to break the 2013 record of 32 wings in 20 minutes. Important to remember though is that the competition was slightly changed this year, with the wings getting progressively hotter for each batch of 5 five wings served - an extra challenge, especially coming through in the final batches. Some contestants found the wings RATHER hot…

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Every Wednesday Memphis Roadhouse has an all-you-can-eat hotwings frenzy and the current record-holder of 49 wings in an evening, Lasse Thomassen, was also running to see how many he could devour in 20 minutes and took home a very respectable third place with 24 wings.

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Honorable mention goes to Lasse Riishøj who was the only competitor from the 2013 competition to run again and he upped his tally from 16 wings last year to 17 this year. At this rate he has a shot at winning once he retires…

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Not many people can claim to have majored in law, have a pizza named after them, work as a bouncer, as well as being the newly crowned hotwings champ of Aarhus - congratulations to you, John!

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Photo credits and copyrights to Anders Tvede - thanks, champ!

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