For many Chicagoans, ketchup on a hot dog is taboo. Some hot dog stands and restaurants won’t even serve it; others hand customers ketchup packets because the staff won’t put the stuff on the dogs themselves. A proper Chicago-style hot dog has onions, tomatoes, relish, a full pickle spear and a dash of celery salt, all on a poppyseed bun. The formula offers a mix of flavor profiles: not just savory, and certainly not just sweet.
Or so you’d think. Some hot dog spots in Chicago and elsewhere in the Midwest aren’t just upping the sweetness, they’re turning hot dogs into bonafide desserts, adding elements like chocolate, Froot Loops, even gummy bears (into the meat itself). I had a chance to chat with the creators behind five of these very strange flavor combos.
Ice Cream Hot Dog
Hot dog variety: Ice cream hot dog. Actually, it’s hot-dog-flavored ice cream in a pink poppyseed bun with mustard and pickles. And no ketchup, of course. An even sweeter version — with pink vanilla ice cream, strawberry sauce and sprinkles — is also available, alongside a special vegan pumpkin soft serve with graham crackers and sprinkles for Halloween.
Available at: Museum of Ice Cream, in Chicago only. The sweet and savory versions are standard, but the pumpkin soft serve is only for Halloween.
Why: It’s an homage to the Chicago hot dog, says Manish Vora, co-CEO of the Museum of Ice Cream. “We wanted to take this classic and put a spin on it to make people think about the Chicago dog in a whole new way,” he says, adding that the Museum has seen a variety of responses from people who love it and those that don’t. “But everyone who tries it leaves with a truly unique culinary experience.”
Price: Ice cream hot dogs are included as part of general admission: $36 weekdays, $44 weekends
Churro Kong Dog
Hot dog variety: A corn dog coated in sweet potato and cinnamon sugar. Note that the original Kong Dog and the Potato Kong Dog can also be rolled in sugar. The Rainbow Kong Dog, which is covered in fruity rice puffs, can be made even sweeter with powdered sugar.
Available at: Kong Dog. All the corn dogs are available at every location including Lincoln Park, University of Illinois at Chicago and Chinatown in Chicago, and Glenview, IL.
Why: “It’s common to have a savory corn dog and it’s been around for so long,” says Emily Han, Kong Dog’s marketing coordinator. “By adding something sweet, it makes our flavors unique and [it’s] something different for people to try.”
Price: $5 to $7
Apple Pork Sausage and Chocolate
Sausage variety: Apple pork sausage with pear mustard and chunks of Vosges Bacon Chocolate on top.
Available at: Doug Sohn, owner of Hot Doug’s, created this incredible concoction. Hot Doug’s closed several years ago, but you can DIY this one by purchasing Vosges Bacon Chocolate (dark or milk) for $9, and apple pork sausage at Paulina Market.
Why: Sohn says he wanted to try using locally made chocolate on a sausage. “Yeah, I’m not sure this works,” he says, “but I really couldn’t stop eating it.”
Price: $9 for Vosges Bacon Chocolate, $11.50 for apple pork links
Gummy Bear Brat
Sausage variety: It’s a bratwurst infused with gummy bears and topped with even more gummy bears, as well as honey mustard and relish, all in a brightly colored hot dog bun. The gummies in the sausage melt when cooked, so you don’t get a mouth full of meat and raw gummy. The final concoction was put in a blue or red bun from a local bakery.
Available: Leadfoots Race Bar & Grill at the Wisconsin State Fair Grounds. The Wisconsin State Fair is over, but Leadfoots Race Bar, near the Milwaukee Mile, will be selling the Gummy Bear Brat through September at events like Harvest Fair.
If you miss your chance, you can try to get some gummy bear brats from Grundhofer’s Old Fashion Meats in Minnesota.
Why: Each year, the Wisconsin State Fair encourages vendors to make “crazy food” [Editor’s note: This happens in Texas as well] and this fit the bill. “As much as it was a crazy food, we really still want it to taste good,” says Patti Immekus, co-owner and manager of Leadfoots Race.
Hot dog variety: A hot dog topped with bacon, pimento mac and cheese, and Froot Loops.
Why: When asked why it worked so well, Executive Chef Vishwatej Nath at Progressive Field said, “It’s a fun take on a regular hot dog that is out of the box.” He said the Froot Loops not only add sweetness but color and crunch, if that’s what you’ve been missing.
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