Chicago Hot Dog Memories
Updated: Apr 10
If you’re from Chicago, the gold standard for hot dogs is Vienna Beef. If you are not, when you taste our Jonny’s hot dogs, I’m sure you'll understand why. In my first DogBlog, I would like to share why biting into a Vienna Beef hot dog evokes my memory of going to the Vienna Beef store by the old Chicago Stockyards at Pershing and Morgan on the south side.
For a bit of history, Vienna Beef hot dogs were first introduced at the Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893. They were such hit that the founders set up their business at the stockyards. That factory store is still there today, even though the stockyards are long gone.
But there was a time when the stockyards and packing plants occupied over 500 acres in the heart of Chicago. Just think, you would drive along Pershing Road passing normal city businesses, factories and warehouses and suddenly you are surrounded by the sight, and the smell, of cattle pens. “Hog butcher of world” Carl Sandburg wrote in his 1914 poem Chicago. Another stockyard literary reference is The Jungle by Upton Sinclair.
The stockyards didn’t just produce meat. It also produced presidents. The International Amphitheater next to the stockyards was the site of many political party conventions. Both Kennedy and Nixon stayed at the Stockyard Inn (said to have the best steak in America) awaiting their parties’ nomination in 1960.
I grew up on the city’s southwest side five miles from the stockyards. On the playground at recess, when the wind blew from the northeast we got a strong whiff of that pungent stockyard smell. Ironically, when it blew from the southwest, we got the sweet smell of the Nabisco cookie factory three miles away. You can guess my preference.
My first taste of Vienna Beef hot dogs came when my mom and I took the CTA bus to the Vienna Beef factory store on Pershing Road. In addition to her meat order, we always got a string of hot dogs. Not hot dogs in a vacuum-sealed plastic package. But strung together, the way they came out of the hot dog machine. The same hot dogs that Jonny’s gets from Vienna Beef in Chicago today.
So when you enjoy a Jonny’s Vienna Beef hot dog, remember that a Vienna Beef dog is not just another brand name. It’s a bite of Chicago history.
Wishing Good Food, Good Memories,
Please share your own hot dog memories in the comment section below.