One of the great remaining classic hot dog stands in Chicago is Jimmys (not to be confused with Jims, formerly on Maxwell Street). This is a no-nonsense place, in business since 1954, that serves a basic Vienna dog plus fries better than just about anywhere in the city. Its very similar to Gene and Judes in many ways but has more of a gritty Chicago character.
Its a nondescript brick building on the corner of Grand and Pulaski with garish signs advertising Vienna hot dogs ("Give us a test. Ours are the best."). These signs are relatively new but there are several very old, round Coca-Cola signs that must date from the 50s. A small parking lot surrounds the building. Inside theres a narrow concrete-floored space with 2 wide ordering windows. A long standup eating counter lines the street-side windows. The menu is short: hot dog (w/fries; 1.63), Polish sausage (w/fries; 2.31), fries (1.07), Supreme tamale (0.83), hot sauce (0.40), and drinks. Hot dogs are the thing to get (the Polish is a not-so-special boiled Vienna and even the hot sauce cant redeem those tamales). Condiments are limited to mustard, relish, onion, and sport peppers (on request). There is an ancient sign reading "No ketchup. Never, ever. Dont even think about it." The guys who work there are no-nonsense too. One huge fellow behind the counter carries a large pistol on his belt. Make any ketchup jokes at your own risk.
The seedless bun is properly steamed and holds a perfectly cooked Vienna hot dog (yes, of course it snaps). The hot dogs are simmered in ancient white crocks set into the stainless steel counter. Condiments are just the basics, not overdone. The fries that come wrapped with the hot dog are outstanding. Clearly freshly made, they are slightly greasy, slightly moist yet crispy. More along the lines of Als than Gene and Judes. The sign says "served with a load of fries" and theyre not kidding; the portion is huge. Its all served in an old Burger King bag or whatever they happened to get a good deal on.
It always seems to be busy and the patrons are a true cross section of Chicago. Last time I was there much of the eating counter was taken up with a display of videos for sale that some guy had unloaded from a beat up suitcase. Notable were tapes of Monsters, Inc. that had opened in theaters less than a week before.
Jimmys is the real deal, the last of a breed. I doubt everyone will like it as much as I do but its a special place. For a $2, 10 minute lesson about Chicago its tough to beat.
Jimmys Red Hots
4000 W Grand Av (Grand is 1400 N at Pulaski)
Sun-Thu 10:30am-1am; Fri-Sat 10:30am-2am
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