Last month, Foxtrot, the chain of high-end Chicago convenience stores, launched its own Chicago-Style Hot Dog Potato Chips. “The mustard. The onion. The toppings. It’s all there,” the bag declares. The bottom of the bag also makes one thing certain: “Definitely no ketchup.”
The kettle chips are a curious cross between salt and vinegar with a hint of barbecue, the latter probably due to the dehydrated tomato, emulating the “dragged through the garden” wieners. There’s even a hint of heat, which will make sport pepper fans happy. There doesn’t appear to be any meat or pork involved, though a disclaimer warns the chips were made in a factory that processes fish and shellfish. Foxtrot won’t say too much about who made the chip, other than it’s a private-label manufacturer.
Foxtrot, seemingly a modern White Hen Pantry with plenty of investor backing, knows Chicagoans delight in being pandered to — they induced social media posts by a few local writers and sent story pitches to some, including this one, along with samples. Locals do cherish “Chicago-style” hot dogs, pizza, Italian beef, popcorn, and the potato chip is no different. Foxtrot is putting out a quality chip that could star at the cookout, paired with chops, burgers, and Green River. It took “months” to perfect the recipe, a rep tells Eater.
“This has been a conversation in the Foxtrot Chicago office for over a year,” the rep continues. “They wanted to pay homage to one of the best food cities in the world and to their beloved native city of Chicago.”
Foxtrot is certainly not the first to put its stamp on fried spuds in town. Many locals will reminisce about the days when Jays Potato Chips reigned. The Chicago company, which debuted in 1927, at one point actually outsold Lay’s. Must have been the twin packs sold in those attractive white cardboard boxes.
After 50 years of operation, the Jays’ South Side plant closed in 2007 on 99th Street, and the company was sold to Snyder’s of Hanover. The chips are still readily available including its kettle brand, Krunchers, which was introduced in 1988 and has a crunch that rivals the Foxtrot chip.
Salty snacks are big in Chicago, which was the home to the Sweet and Snacks Expo (it’s moving to Indianapolis in 2024). The city’s snacks are seeing a revolution as international grocers strike deals with distributors to import chips from other countries. Shops on Devon carry bags of Lay’s Magic Masala, a South Asian blend of cumin, coriander, and chili. Phodega, Wicker Park’s Vietnamese restaurant, carries honey butter chips from Korea. Joy is walking down the fully-stocked snack aisle at Gangnam Market (formerly Urban Market) in West Town. The Tribune covers some of these Asian flavors, which include takoyaki and lobster. Also of note is when Jays unveiled its “Hot Stuff” line of snacks. The red-dusted snacks brought the heat in the ’80s when they were especially popular at corner stores in the South and West sides.
Back to the present day and these “hot dog” chips — a rep wouldn’t say how long supplies would last. Does this mean Foxtrot will further pander to the Second City with other flavors? Is a Malört-flavored chip on the horizon? A rep pondered the possibility: “The Foxtrot private label team is hard at work developing a number of delicious and innovative snacks they can’t wait to share with customers bursting with fall and holiday flavors, and while they don’t have immediate plans for a malört chip — never say never.”