Pete’s Famous Hot Dogs Review – Lily Lake, IL

Pete's Famous Hot DogsLiterally in the middle of nowhere (no offense, Lily Lake, but you’re a highway intersection) – Pete’s Famous Hot Dogs may not actually be famous, but they deserve to be.

Open seven days from 7AM thru the dinner hour, this small eatery is manned by “Pete” and his daughter? Companion? Wife?

Pete is affable and the other is terribly competent cooking food to order as expeditiously as possible in terribly small confines.

And altho it will take a few minutes to get your food, (Pete tells you when he rings you up – “cheeseburger? Six minutes.” Or whatever) It’s well worth the wait. The food is fresh, hot and delicious.

Hand pattied burger, quality beef, and fresh cut fries. Too cold to eat outside the day I was there, but I could see lingering at the outdoor table on a hot summer day.

Pete’s is located at the intersections of Illinois highways 64 and 47, a few miles East of Sycamore, a few miles West of St. Charles, and a few miles North if I-88 (Reagan Memorial Tollway – the Chicago – Kansas City Expressway that stops a mere 370 miles short of Kansas City). (Oh well, maybe completing it will be part of Infrastructure Weed #4 coming up soon, probably).

Breakfast, burgers, dogs, pork chops, chicken and a few specialty entrees. Worth the drive.

Pete's Famous Hot Dogs Review

Cheeseburger and fresh cut fries


Petes Famous Hot Dogs Review

Breakfast menu


Petes Famous Hot Dogs Review

Lunch and dinner menu –  click to enlarge

Pete's Famous Hot Dogs Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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PJs Moon Doggies Review Glenview IL

PJ Moon Doggies ReviewI don’t think anybody knows exactly how many hot dog stands there are in Chicago. It’s a well known fact that there are more than the total McDonalds, Wendys and Burger Kings combined.

Estimates vary between 1500 -2000.

In Chicago, a “hot dog stand” can take many forms, from street cart to brick and mortar carryout only, to full service restaurants, with most  having remarkably similar menus, hot dogs, burgers, sausage, Italian beef sandwiches, and gyros, and a majority of those items coming from just a few local suppliers: hot dogs and beef from Vienna Beef, gyros from Kronos.  Buns from Turano or S Rosens.

OK, so all these places have virtually the same menu and many use the same suppliers – what sets one apart from another? Well, geography is obvious, but also (to me) cleanliness, method and care of preparation, and attention paid to other contributing factors, like condiment suppliers.

Like I was at one the other day who offered “char-broiled” burgers. Nothing could be farther/further/more distant from the truth. The burger seemed like had been simmered in grease. Truly awful. Two bites.

But today I’m writing about one of the more distinctive ones, PJ Moon Doggies in Glenview, IL.  In addition to the aforementioned menu items, Moon Doggies also has ribs and chicken. Decor is 50s diner with a fully-loaded replica Wurlitzer jukebox. Counter service and daily specials.

I had their burger and fries and it was excellent. This one was actually char-broiled, was a very flavorful meat patty, great bun and fabulous pickle (an important thing for me).  Hot, crispy fries. Here’s their full menu.

I find myself in that part of the city about twice a year for one thing or another.  I’d stop again, for sure. You should think about it too.

PJ Moon Doggies Review
PJ's Moon Doggies Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
PJs Moon Doggies Review

PJs Moon Doggies Review

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Wrigley Field Smokies Review

Wrigley Field Smokies ReviewIn a nostalgic mood a couple years ago, the Chicago Cubs commissioned world famous Vienna Beef to bring back the Wrigley Field smokie sausage, using the original 1893 family recipe.

These puppies are pure beef with a secret combination of spices, and hickory smoked (Ingredient and nutrition panel below). They are substantial, and in the groceries, they are packed four to a 12 ounce package.

The smokies join the exciting menu of both traditional and local favorites at Chicago’s Wrigley Field.

I like my sausages (that don’t have natural casings), with a little bit of char, either on the grill or in a cast iron skillet.  Adds a little more “bite” to the tactile experience. Most smoked sausages (Vienna’s included) are so flavorful, I don’t dare dilute the taste with tons of condiments, so I go with yellow mustard, and occasionally, kraut. And that’s how I adorned the Wrigley Field Smokies.

The sausage has a nice texture, it’s a very fine grind, and is mild but flavorful at the same time. It will remind you of the taste of old-fashioned franks. In other words, a bit stronger in flavor than most mass-market hot dogs, really delicious.  The sausages could probably use a more substantial bun than the usual hot dog bun, which is what I tried to get away with. They deserve quality Chicago rolls, like Rosen or Turano.

Check out Vienna Beef online to find a store near you or order direct. BTW?  They make the best deli counter corned beef and pastrami anywhere.


Wrigley Field Smokies Review


Wrigley Field Smokies Review











Wrigley Field Smokies Review

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Red Hot Chicago Brand Hot Dogs

In 1893, Samuel Ladany arrived in Chicago and started a small sausage making company, using old world recipes and techniques.  Ladany’s effort blossomed into the Vienna Beef company, by far and away the most popular hot dog manufacturer in Chicago.    How popular?  There are hundreds and hundreds of hot dog carts and shops that carry only the Vienna dog.  Anecdotal evidence says that in 2000, Vienna’s revenue topped $180 million.

Grandfather’s beget sons in the business, who beget their sons, and such was the case with one of the grandsons of the founder, Scott Ladany, who, after learning the family business, struck out on his own in 1986, and started the Red Hot Chicago Hot Dog company, which manufacturers a wide variety of franks, sausages, and related products for consumers and the trade.

I’m picky about which hot dogs I like.  I prefer a natural casing, all beef dog, with flavor coming from the beef, spices, and smoke.   At present, out of the midwest manufacturers, I’d say Usingers of Milwaukee tops my list, with Vienna a close second.

I sampled the skinless all beef dogs of Red Hot.  The package claims “That Great Hot Dog Stand Taste.”  I think they are selling themselves short, the pups are better than your average hot dog stand.  It’s an ample (14 oz) package, and the product is generally priced less than Vienna.

However.   It doesn’t have a whole lot of  ‘old-world’ flavor, and I was disappointed to see “corn syrup solids” on the ingredient list, even tho it’s a small amount.

Would I buy them again, tho?  Yep.  You bet.  I’d like to try their NC dogs and maybe their Polish, and Italians.

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Cary, IL – Bambino’s Beef

Just like in the Pacific Northwest where you’ll see innumerable small restaurants with the word “Teriyaki” on them, in Chicagoland, you’re apt to see countless outlets with the word “Beef”, which is a reference to “Italian Beef”,  thin sliced, slow-simmered, seasoned roast beef served on a roll.   Make it a “combo” and they add an Italian sausage.   Usually dressed with your choice of sweet or hot peppers, and the roll is slightly wet from the au jus.   If you want it ‘wet’, ask them to dip it.

Bambino’s Beef is one such place in the Northwest suburban community of Cary, an hour plus on the Metra train from downtown.

Bambino’s features all the Chicago favorites, Chicago style hot dogs, Italian beef sandwiches, and gyros.  The suppliers of the latter in local Devanco foods, which manufacturers gyros, sausage, beef, and burger patties for the trade and retail.

Hot dogs come from Red Hot Chicago, started in 1986 by a grandson of the founder of legendary Chicago hot dog giant “Vienna Beef”.

Bambino’s uses an all beef skinless dog from Red Hot, which is fairly indistinguishable in taste in texture, in my opinion.  I always personally prefer a natural casing dog, with stronger flavoring.

But the beef by Devanco really stands out.   It’s very flavorful and tender, tho one must acknowledge that although this product generally comes to restaurants pre-cooked, requiring only a warm-up, it’s easy to goof up that process, and many establishments do.

If you’re heading out of Chicago on highway 14, bound for Wisconsin, and feeling a might puckish, stop in Bambino’s for a beef.   The 10” size will give you enough for a meal and more.

Bambino's Beef Cary Illinois


Bambino's Beef Cary Illinois

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Vienna Beef

Received this great card in the mail from Vienna Beef, the preeminent hot dog manufacturer in Chicago, or maybe even the world!

I love Vienna Beef hot dogs, and their Italian beef, and their polish, and and and…. so the very least I can do in return is a few shameless plugs for them!

To learn about Vienna’s history, click here

To order truckloads of Vienna’s product, click here

To find your nearest Vienna beef outlet, click here (coming soon)

To find an outlet on your iPhone, click here

To learn about opening a business featuring Vienna Products, click here

To buy spiffy Vienna Beef merchandise, click here

If you are planning on being in Chicago and want to take a tour, click here

To sign up or Hot Dog University and learn everything about going into the hot dog business, click here

Thanks, Vienna!  Happy 117th birthday!  May the next 117 years bring you more accolades and continued success!

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Portland, OR – Wayne’s Chicago Red Hots

“Someone” dropped me an email last week saying I should visit Wayne’s; the mail probably came from an insider since it included a bevy of photos, as well. Some of the pix were really great, unfortunately, they have people in them, so I couldn’t use them w/o permission.

I like hearing from restaurants, actually, it gives me the impression that people have the impression that these posts actually account for something. (pause while the writer laughs hysterically).

But as a frequent reader, you know I love Chicago dogs and Chicago beef sandwiches, particularly from the godfather vendor of all such things, Vienna Beef Company in Chicago.

So I wondered over to Wayne’s to scarf down a Chicago beef, and a side of “Wrigley” fries (chili/cheese). I have noticed the place on the few occasions I drive up or down MLK. Usually the only time I am in that area is when Mrs. BDB is feeling nostalgic for the Big Easy and barks “I need Popeye’s Red Beans!” And the MLK Popeye’s is the closest (3 days drive) to our house in SW.

As I approached Wayne’s, I remembered one of the reasons I had not stopped by. Parking is dear in that neighborhood, tho I am not sure why. Be prepared to either get lucky and get a spor right away, or circle the block a few times, if you are not arriving by Tri-Met.

I walked in shortly after opening, placed my order and waited. And waited. And waited. About 25 minutes. My guess at first was that employees don’t arrive with ample time before opening, but in fact, my food was delivered shortly after I saw a guy leave with a huge take out order. Inked up girl behind the counter, you could have politely told me “it’ll be awhile,” and I would have been happier.

The beef sandwich comes w/ your choice of any or all of the following: grilled onions, sweet peppers, mozzarella cheese, or giardiniera. I passed on all, preferring the taste of the beef all on its own. Inked up counter girl did ask me if I wanted it “wet or dry,” and that’s a nice Chicagoism. I went with wet, meaning the roll was dipped in the au jus prior to assembly. One other nice touch I liked was there was a pool of jus in the bottom of the paper tray, with the sandwich split in half and perched vertically. So I had a juicy end to bite into, or a little extra for dipping, if that was my want. It was.

The sandwich was as good as any – from an authorized Vienna vendor, and it had some subtle differences between it and the same sandwich served by Chicago Windy City Hot Dogs in SW Portland.

I won’t compare either to Michael’s Italian Beef, which is good for what it is, he cooks his own beef, which he says is “better than any in Chicago,” but for me, that’s kind of like saying “Wow, that Frank Sinatra Jr concert was amazing! It was just like listening to his old man!” And then there’s that old personality thing, which I won’t get into.

Subtle differences – only a persnickety guy like me would care about. Chicago’s sandwich is slightly bigger than Wayne’s; the rolls at both places are great, but Wayne’s has a definite edge, it’s very reminiscent of Leidenheimer”s bread in New Orleans, which is arguably the best sandwich roll outside of any Francophone country.

It would appear to me that Wayne warms his beef in the au jus either longer than Chicago Windy does, or at a hotter temperature, which produces a slight variation in the texture That’s neither good or bad, just depends on your personal taste.

I didn’t have fries at Chicago Windy, the chili cheese fries at Wayne’s are pretty darned good. I assume the chili is from Vienna as well, and the shredded cheese, well that could have been anybody’s from anywhere. Serves the purpose. The fries themselves were hot, crisp, slightly thicker than shoestrings, and had a little peel on them. Nice.

About “snap.” I read a couple of other reviews after I wrote mine, initially, one guy was griping about the dogs didn’t have “snap.” He must have had a Vienna natural casing in Chicago, which they also make. I prefer them, too. But less than 4% of the hot dogs sold in the US are natural casing dogs. Wayne’s is smart to go with Vienna skinless, which will appeal to the largest number of people.

The decor is pure Chicago, sports jerseys, photos, memorabilia. Some very nice b/w pix taken by the owner himself. Or hisself, as they would say on da nort side of Chicago. I loved looking at these photos. Especially the one of the Billy Goat! (Chicagoans will understand the reference, all other think John Belushi and cheezbooger bit.)

If you’re from Remulak and hungry for mass quantities, Wayne’s will sell you 30 dogs, buns, and condiments for $105. That’s a weekend of grazing for me, but you might like it for a party. He also has a little Vienna adorned cart for rent (see below).

I’ll be back. Wayne’s has apparently been spawned from a hot dog cart somewhere north of the Columbia River, which in turn became a story in Warren, wherever that is. Not sure if this is location #2 or replaced Warren.

Menu online, don’t judge Wayne’s by their website, tho! Menu.  The good news?  No matter which side of the river I am on, I can get a Chicago dog or beef!

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Wayne's Chicago Red Hots on Urbanspoon

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