Chicagoans cherish hot dogs, specifically their hot dog — the familiar Chicago-style dog dragged through the garden Vienna Beef sausage with all the fixings — and preferably without ketchup. An LA-based chain, Dog Haus Biergarten, is vying to win over these encased meat enthusiasts when the company opens its first Chicago restaurant on Saturday. A media invite to sample Dog Haus’s food touts the arrival of “Chicago’s first gourmet hot dog restaurant concept.”
The invite forgets Hot Doug’s, Chicago’s Dog House, Frank’s N Dawgs, Hot “G” Dogs, and more. See the invite below.
See, that’s not a misprint. While the invite reads like a marketing misstep, Dog Haus’s ownership is certainly familiar with the history of Chicago’s hot dogs. A Chicago-style hot dog will be an off-menu item. However, Dog Haus will sit the wiener on a King’s Hawaiian roll instead of the traditional poppyseed bun from S. Rosen or Turano Baking Company. One gourmet hot dog stand owner — only a scant three-minute walk away — rolled his eyes when told about the substitute rolls. Chicago’s Dog House has been around for eight years in Lincoln Park. Not only is there a gourmet hot dog stand nearby, but it’s got an easily confused name.
“I was a little shocked, actually,” said Chicago’s Dog House owner Aaron Wolfson when he saw a similarly named restaurant was opening close by. “But maybe they will bring more people into the neighborhood for sausages.”
Wolfson doesn’t run a typical hot dog stand. He serves buffalo, alligator, and other gourmet sausages. That just makes the LA chain’s invitation that much more egregious.
Chicago certainly doesn’t have the patent on gourmet hot dog concepts. Across the country, fans will find stands like Criff Dog in New York and Biker Jim’s Gourmet Hot Dogs in Denver. The crew at Eater LA certainly enjoyed their trip to Dog Haus. The West Coast chain opened its first restaurant in 2010. Famous LA dogs include Pink’s, the infamous late-night hangout. Dodger Dogs are part of the city’s fabric while taking in a baseball game. However, while Eater LA’s list of essential tube steaks includes a Chicago-style hot dog stand, LA-style dogs haven’t found a following in the Midwest.
One of Wolfson’s hot dog heroes was Doug Sohn, who ran Hot Doug’s, the famous gourmet stand in Avondale. At one point, Wolfson served a tribute to Sohn — a foie gras dog that Sohn made famous at his restaurant. Sohn, the “dogfather” to many in Chicago, gave Wolfson his blessing to put the item on this menu.
Sohn notes out-of-town restaurants don’t normally find success. For example, a Lakeview location of Leo’s Coney Island was short lived. “Chicago can be tough territory for non-Chicagoans,” Sohn said.
While Chicago is welcoming to innovators, Sohn didn’t like how he perceived that the invitation thumbed its nose at his city. He wishes them luck, but said Dog Haus has a big challenge in front of them.
“I think the sausage history of Chicago runs a little deeper than LA, but we’ll see,” he said.