Fast Times

The Chicago Dog at Sonic: A Passable Imitation

Understanding that the mere headline alone may cause cringes and howls among Chicago dog connoisseurs, I'm going to come swiftly to the point on this one: The Chicago-style hot dog that Sonic is currently serving for $1.99 is not even in the same league as a true Vienna beef dog on a steamed bun. It is, however, a passable imitation.

By passable imitation, I mean that it tastes good for what it is: a fast food hot dog way out in the wilds of Texas, far far away from Morrie O'Malley's or Ziggy's Red Hots. And considering that there are only a couple of places in Houston serving a really great Chicago dog -- BB's Beef & Hot Dog being my personal favorite -- it's kind of nice being able to grab a passable imitation when the craving hits and Missouri City seems like a pretty long drive for a hot dog.

While the dog itself isn't Vienna beef, it is at least 100 percent beef. Although the bun isn't steamed, it is covered with a poppyseed sprinkling. And although it's coming from a drive-thru at a Texas fast food joint, it's still impressively topped with sport peppers, neon green relish, red tomatoes, a pickle and spicy mustard.

The effect is one of a regular ballpark-style hot dog that's been "dragged through the garden," Chicago-style: sweet and fresh and altogether pretty remarkable considering its origins. I'll keep making the drive to BB's, mind you, when the cravings for Italian beef and Chicago dogs hit. But if BB's happens to be closed, Sonic's Chicago dog will make a passable replacement in its own right.

Plus, you can always get it with an order of tots and a vanilla Coke for about a buck more. And you can't beat Sonic's tots.

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Katharine Shilcutt