Why you should never put ketchup on a hot dog.
Part 7 of a series in honor of National Hot Dog Month.
No one can account for the origins of Chicago’s frank aversion to ketchup on hot dogs, but it’s deep-seated.
Some vendors, such as Gene & Jude’s in River Grove, don’t even offer ketchup for the fries. Places like Jimmy’s Red Hots in Humboldt Park will throw you out even for asking. Others, like Superdawg in Norwood Park and Wheeling, won’t apply the red stuff for you, but will allow you to ruin your hot dog yourself.
What many Chicagoans don’t realize, though, is that the stigma against ketchupy wieners is not merely a Chicago prejudice. Even the Washington, D.C.-based National Hot Dog & Sausage Council says, “Don’t use ketchup on your hot dog after the age of 18.” (They’ll let children whose parents have neglected to teach them to know better get away with it.)
The 1983 Clint Eastwood flick “Sudden Impact” may be best known for the phrase, “Go ahead, make my day.” But there’s another fine quotation from the film:
“No, this stuff isn’t getting to me. The knifings, the beatings, old ladies being bashed in the head for their Social Security checks, teachers being thrown out of a fourth-floor window because they don’t give A’s, that doesn’t bother me a bit. . . .
“Or this job, either. Having to wade through the scum of this city, being swept away by bigger and bigger waves of corruption, apathy and red tape. Nah, that doesn’t bother me.
“But you know what does bother me? … You know what makes me really sick to my stomach? … Watching you stuff your face with those hot dogs.
“Nobody, I mean nobody, puts ketchup on a hot dog!”
There you have it, straight from Dirty Harry.
It was a Chicagoan who put it best, though. Columnist Mike Royko famously wrote:
“No, I won’t condemn anyone for putting ketchup on a hot dog. This is the land of the free. And if someone wants to put ketchup on a hot dog and actually eat the awful thing, that is their right.
“It is also their right to put mayo or chocolate syrup or toenail clippings or cat hair on a hot dog.
“Sure, it would be disgusting and perverted, and they would be shaming themselves and their loved ones. But under our system of government, it is their right to be barbarians.”
- Chicago hot dog series:
- The Chicago-style hot dog: ‘A masterpiece’
- Eat this! The Chicago hot dog, born in the Great Depression
- Know your wiener!
- Friday food porn: Seasons’ sexed-up hot dog
- It takes big buns to hold Chicago hot dogs
- Origins of neon relish and other Chicago hot dog conundrums
- Do only barbarians put ketchup on hot dogs?
- Chicago’s Schmidt the real Mr. Footlong Hot Dog Inventor
- Chicago’s Oscar Mayer has a way. . . .
- Relishing Chicago’s 10 funniest hot-dog joints