Madison Ratings and Reviews

Although there are not an abundance of places serving Chicago Dogs in Madison, there are still many options to satisfy your Chicago Dog cravings. We are constantly searching far and wide for that perfect Chicago Style Dog and sincerely hope that our reviews are both enjoyable and insightful. We hope you have the opportunity to visit some of our top ranked places and experience some of the best dogs around.

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Mad Dog's Chicago Style Eatery (New)
309 N Henry St, Madison, WI 53703 - 608-310-4511
DogCaching: W 89° 23.415' / N 43° 04.504'
Dates: 01-23-10, 01-12-10, 11-03-09, 08-10-09

Update (November 2009): Based on the e-mail we received from Steve (the owner), we were excited to give Mad Dog's another try. They appeared to have made significant changes/improvements to their Chicago Dog, so we expected great things. The good news is that Mad Dog's has changed more than just their logo and delivered in a big way. Their Chicago Dog is now one of the best in town!

We anxiously waited as our Chicago Dogs were assembled. Mad Dog's now completes the Chicago Dog for you, so thankfully, the customer is no longer responsible for finishing the dog. Another notable change is that they now serve all Chicago Dogs with Vienna brand hot dogs instead of Hebrew National. The other dog-related items on their menu still come standard with a Hebrew National, but you can easily substitute with a Vienna if you want. We were extremely happy to see that they also switched to the coveted neon green relish...need we say more?

Our Chicago Dogs were fantastic...a welcome change from the dog we experienced on our first visit. Their DOGS score has rocketed to a 9.7 from the mere 7.9 they received from our first review. Their overall rating has also jumped from 3 stars to 5 which places Mad Dog's in the "Definitely recommended" category. This dog was so good that we're pretty sure that even Paul Soglin would love this dog.

Update (October 2009): We received the following e-mail from Steve, the owner of Mad Dogs:
Just to let you know, we have learned the error of our ways and have updated Mad Dog's to three items:

  1. We now make all Chicago Dog's to completion.
  2. We now have the neon-green pickle relish from Vienna.
  3. We now proudly serve Vienna beef hot dogs and stick to our motto "We have bigger wieners" by serving 5/1 hot dogs as opposed to the 6/1 served elsewhere.
I would like to offer my sincere apologies to the Chicago Style purists for our past mistakes and invite you to try us again, for the best Chicago dog in Madison!

Original Review (August 2009): We were excited to hear about the reopening of Mad Dogs. Our good friend, Doug Moe, gave us a heads up. He mentioned that the new ownership was going in a slightly different direction than the previous establishment. The new Mad Dogs features a number of signature dogs and sides. Pulled Pork, among other things, is prominently featured on the menu, both by itself and as a topping. The outside of Mad Dogs looks exactly the same as it previously did and the inside is very similar including shelf seating with stools and one table in the middle.

We arrived at Mad Dogs around noon. They were not overly busy, but there was a steady stream of customers once we sat down. Signature dogs (polish or brats) can be ordered, however, you can add condiments and topping for a nominal charge. We ordered a few Chicago dogs and a Harry Caray Special (a polish with pulled pork on top). The dogs arrived quickly after ordering, but we were surprised to find that the Chicago dogs needed a little manual intervention to bring them up to Chicago Style standards. We were instructed to use the self-serve area that contained mustard, a condiment which shall not be named, standard relish and onions. This was a little disappointing, since we're lazy and more importantly, there wasn't bright green sweet relish anywhere on the premises.

Mad Dogs serves 1/4 lb jumbo Hebrew National dogs, instead of the traditional Vienna Beef or Red Hot Chicago brand dogs. The dog was nice and juicy and tasted good. It didn't have the complex flavor of some of the aforementioned dogs, but it was still tasty and much better than their retail line of Hebrew National dogs. The pickle was decent size and had a nice crunch. A poppy seed bun, two tomato slices, two sport peppers and a couple of dashes of celery salt rounded out the portion of the dog that was prepared. We'd have to break a couple of rules to make it Chicago Style...mainly, adding mustard on top of the celery salt. When you order a Chicago Dog, you have certain expectations that the dog is complete and ready to eat without the need to roll up your sleeves and finish the job.

A dog, fries and a drink run under six bucks, which isn't the perfect price point in our book, but the dog is super sized and they're pretty generous with the oven baked fries.

Overall we were somewhat underwhelmed by Mad Dogs Chicago dog. It wasn't bad, but with other places such as Cocanates within shouting distance, we don't find a compelling reason to get a Chicago dog here. However, if you're craving some pulled pork, homemade Italian beef, or a funky combination of dog and toppings, it may just be nirvana to you. They also have a great slogan, "Our wieners are bigger".

Updated Photos Click for Slideshow

Original Photos Click for Slideshow
Updated Rating:
DOGS: 9.7

Overall: 5   

Recommended: Definitely

CLOSED - Signature Deli
515 Junction Rd, Madison, WI 53719 - 608-831-4449
DogCaching: W 89° 31.465' / N 43° 04.298'
Dates: 02-24-10, 10-14-09, 09-16-09, 09-09-09

Update (May 2010): Signature Deli now Closed. It's too bad. They had great dogs and they were going to start serving Italian Beef.

Update (February 2010): Signature Deli now serves fries. You can get a Chicago Dog, fries and a drink for $5. They also now serve Chicago Dogs every Wednesday and Saturday.

Original Review (August 2009): One of our website visitors pointed us towards Signature Deli on Junction Rd. Signature Deli opened in August 2009 and is located in the space previously occupied by Casa Bianca. We are glad to see another restaurant go into this space. We were excited that there was a new place in town serving Chicago Dogs, but a little skeptical when we found out that they only serve Chicago Dogs on Wednesdays.

The exterior of Signature Deli looks the same as before, but the inside has undergone some minor decor changes. Their menu includes a variety of sandwiches and there are plenty of side dish choices to please everybody. We did look at their menu and noticed that some sandwiches are only available on certain days of the week. They also serve breakfast.

We ordered a couple of Chicago Dogs, a side and a small drink. The dog itself is about $2 and the addition of a side salad and a drink still kept the cost below $5. With a price point like that, they should do pretty well.

We patiently waited as our dogs were assembled. Everything looked in order and all the required ingredients down to the celery salt looked perfect. Our first bites, told us that Signature Deli had a winner! The dogs were fantastic and of course the true test is whether you crave another. They passed that test with flying colors.

Our dogs were FANTASTIC! The natural cased dog was thick, juicy and tasted great. The sport peppers were perfect and the pickle was incredible (but we expect no less from a deli). Two ripe tomatoes, chopped onions, neon green relish, mustard and expertly applied celery salt rounded out the dog. All of this nestled on a warmed poppy seed bun.

Signature Deli indicates that all their meats are Boar's Head brand. However, their dogs are Vienna brand. We talked with the owner, Maria and she told us that originally, they used Boar's Head dogs, but switched to Vienna because of the flavor and authenticity. We also inquired about the connection to Chicago Dogs and learned that Maria is originally from Chicago. In fact, Maria's parents and Mitch's parents live in the same town...definitely a small world.

If Chicago Dogs become a popular item for Signature Deli, they may be available on more days of the week. There was also mention of the possibility of serving Italian Beef sandwiches sometime in the future and adding french fries to the menu. Give Signature Deli a try, you will not be disappointed. Can you guess where we will be next Wednesday at lunch time?

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DOGS: 9.3

Overall: 5   

Recommended: Definitely

CLOSED - Coconate's Chicago Trattoria
Cart at Charter and Johnson St - Madison, WI - 608-467-6221
DogCaching: W 89° 24.343' / N 43° 04.325'
Coconate's Website
Date: 07-13-09

Update March 2011: Coconate's is no longer in business.

Original Review: Mitch's wife was driving through campus and noticed a hot dog cart. Once Mitch got the crucial info, we decided we had to give the place a try. It was a beautiful day, we needed to get out of the office, and a hot dog and some sun was exactly what we needed.

The Coconate's cart is located on the corner of Charter and Johnson, right across from the Chemistry building and next to the Zoology building. Besides this location, they will be at various events around town as well as Badger Football games. It is probably a good idea to check the Coconate's website before heading out.

We arrived at about noon and Coconate's already had a steady line of patrons. Although the line was fairly long, it moved rather quickly and we only had to wait a couple of minutes. We were impressed by their menu and prices. They offer several hot dog specials, as well as Italian beef sandwiches. You can easily eat lunch, including tax, for five bucks. We feel that Coconate's will be very successful since they hit the perfect price point in our opinion.

Their menu consists of three dog choices (Signature, Jumbo & Veggie) and an Italian beef sandwich. They also offer chips, a whole dill pickle, cookies and either soda or bottled water. Each of us ordered one of their $5 Specials, which all include at least one of their Signature Chicago Style Dogs, and various sides. It would be tough to find greater value anywhere else.

We watched as our dogs were expertly created. Coconate's uses Vienna brand hot dogs and serves them on a steamed S Rosen's poppy seed bun. The ripe tomato and pickle were fresh and cut right before our eyes. The amount of mustard and diced onion was just right. Although our dogs contained the requisite neon green relish, we would have liked to see just a tad more on the dog. The pickle and sport peppers were excellent. Celery salt rounded out the package. It appeared that the celery salt was applied prior to putting on the pickle. We prefer adding the celery salt at the very end as it really enhances the flavor of the pickle.

Overall, our dogs were outstanding. We would recommend ordering two dogs right away since you will most likely be craving another. We were very impressed by Coconate's and will definitely be back. They have great food, great prices and are a great value.

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DOGS: 9.3

Overall: 5   

Recommended: Definitely

CLOSED - Poppa Coronofoulos Gyros & Chicago Style Deli
4426 E Buckeye Rd, Madison, WI 53716 - 608-222-0830
Dates: 05-18-07, 07-14-06, 03-23-06, 12-01-05

Update March 2011: Unfortunately, Poppa's has closed its doors.

Original Review: When we walked through the door, we had a good feeling about this place. It screamed Chicago! The walls were lined with pennants from every Chicago sports team. Chicago street signs, maps, photos, and even campaign posters from notable Mayors such as Richard Daley, Harold Washington and Jane Byrne adorned the walls. They even had a classic red, white & blue "Snow Route" sign. The atmosphere was perfect and the Chicago Dogs didn't let us down either.

Poppa's proudly serves Vienna all beef Dogs. Everything was perfect right down to the celery salt. Our skinless Dogs were served on a steamed poppyseed bun. The pickle was tasty, the tomatoes were cut into large chunks and the onions were finely chopped. The sport peppers were great. They even had the bright green relish! We thoroughly enjoyed every bite. These are some of the best Chicago Style Dogs in Madison.

The ambiance made you feel like you were in Chicago. They did a great job of capturing the essence of a true Chicagoland Hot Dog joint. They have an extensive menu and we can't wait to try their Italian beef sandwich. The only disappointment is that they do not have a west side location (hint, hint). Definitely worth the drive. For $3.89, we had a Chicago Dog, a basket of fries and a drink. Although the price has increased by 40 cents, it is still a true bargain! On our most recent visit, they were a little shy on the celery salt.

DOGS: 9.3

Overall: 5   

Recommended: Definitely

Rosati's Pizza
6644 Mineral Point Rd, Madison, WI 53705 - 608-833-9300
DogCaching: W 89° 29.778' / N 43° 03.680'
Rosati's Website
Dates: 11-01-10,11-26-07, 11-15-07, 09-26-07, 08-07-07, 02-20-07, 10-14-05, 09-16-05

Update: (January 2009)
Well, Rosati's has definitely kept up their consistency over the last couple of years and still serves a dog worthy of mention. We are glad to see that they consistently serve a great Chicago Dog with all the proper ingredients. Rosati's has now expanded their dining area even more. There is ample seating for the whole family.

Update: (November 2007)
We visited Rosati's twice in November and unfortunately our Chicago Dogs didn't measure up to the perfection we saw in September. On our 11-15-07 visit, our dogs were lacking neon green relish and a pickle spear. Instead, the relish was the standard "nothing special" variety and the pickle was a thin slice. We talked to the owner and he said that it was a problem with his distributor sending the wrong ingredients, but assured us that the problem would be corrected. On our most recent visit, our dogs were still lacking the appropriate relish and the pickle spear. Despite the problems, the dog was still tastey. Stay tuned for any updates.

Update: (September 2007)
Rosati's has undergone a major face lift since our original review. Cosmetically, Rosati's has expanded their establishment to now include a dining area, which now includes traditional shelf seating (complete with round stools), as well as some tables and chairs. The exterior now boasts Vienna signage, which makes it awfully difficult for anyone to pass by without getting in line to order up a Chicago Dog.

We recently visited Rosati’s and we can’t say how impressed we are with the improvements they’ve made to their Chicago dog. The crew at Rosati’s have taken their customers seriously and have fine tuned their dog into one of the best in Madison.

Once again, we have to mention that Rosati’s uses a natural cased dog. They’re the only folks we know of in the Madison area that do this. Rosati’s also now uses the authentic neon green relish and a pickle spear, instead of slices. The chopped onions are no longer fried.

When our dogs arrived they looked fantastic. As we took our first bite we were in heaven. The dog was heated to perfection, tasted incredible, and the natural casing provided a great snap. The toppings were expertly applied and in perfect harmony with each other. The “new and improved” pickle spear had great crunch and the flavor was spot on. We’ve always loved the Rosati’s sport peppers, and they certainly didn’t disappoint on this trip. An additional tomato slice was added since our last trip, which really improved the balance. Lastly, the right amount of celery salt was applied over top. And the steamed poppy seed bun was solid as usual and easily stood up to the onslaught of ingredients without losing structural integrity.

Overall, we obviously loved our Rosati’s dog…it won’t disappoint you taste buds or your wallet ($3.49 for a dog and fries). It’s so encouraging to see that the Rosati’s management takes continuous improvement seriously. If you want one of the best and most authentic Chicago Dogs in Madison, you need to head over to Rosati’s. We promise you won’t be disappointed.

Congratulations are in order since the DOGS score for Rosati's has increased to 9.3 and their overall rating has increased to 5 stars. We hope that Rosati's maintains their consistency.

Check out our previous Rosati's reviews

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DOGS: 9.0

Overall: 5   

Recommended: Definitely

Hot Dog Cart at Home Depot
4550 Verona Rd and 2425 E Springs Dr, Madison, WI
DogCaching: W 89° 27.406' / N 43° 02.190'
Dates: 05-24-07, 07-20-05, 11-25-05 - West Side location

The Home Depot stores on Madison's East and West sides each have a Hot Dog cart. According to their signs, they serve Best's Kosher Beef Hot Dogs. Each Dog was served on a steamed poppyseed bun in true Chicago style. All ingredients were accounted for and properly placed on the Dog. They use neon green relish and include tomato wedges (our favorite). The taste was incredible and the pickle was perfect. This is probably one of Madison's best kept secrets.

You can get your Dog on either a plain or poppyseed bun. For the true Chicago Dog experience, always request a poppyseed bun. Although you can't get fries with your Dog, they do have a nice variety of chips and an assortment of drinks. There is no place to sit except for a bench outside. In our opinion, this is one of the best places in town to get a Chicago Style Hot Dog.

One of the most impressive things about the "Depot Dog" is the consistency and freshness of the ingredients. Every Chicago Dog they create not only tastes great, but looks good too. Price: $2.00 / $4.50 with drink and chips.
Hours: 10:30 am to 4:00 pm.

Update (May 2007): Congratulations are in order since the DOGS score for the "Depot Dog" has increased to 9.3 (from 8.7).

DOGS: 9.3

Overall: 5   

Recommended: Definitely

5266 Williamsburg Way, Madison, WI 53713 - 608-271-8440
Hours: Sun-Mon 4 pm-9 pm, Tue-Thurs 11 am-9 pm, Fri-Sat 11 am-10 pm
Dates: 10-04-07, 09-15-06, 09-08-06

Update (October 2007): Consistency still seems to be an issue. We have averaged their DOGS score and it has dropped from 9.7 to 9.1. Despite their lack of consistency, we still think it is a great dog and it is still recommended.

Update (August 2007): Well, we have been receiving some positive feedback about Picasso's from our site visitors. Although we have not visited recently, it appears that their consistency problem (see update below) has been resolved.

Update (February 2007): There appears to be a consistency problem with Picasso's dogs since our last review. Based on recent feedback from our site visitors, we can no longer claim that Picasso's has one of the best Chicago Style Dogs in town (due to consistency). Overall, their Chicago Dog is still very good, but lack of consistency bumps them out of the top spot. The chief complaint centers around the ripeness and quality of the tomatoes. Other comments include an over-cooked dog, no sport peppers and a small quantity of relish. Hopefully, this is a temporary situation. We will keep an eye on this situation and let you know of any updates.

Original Review: If you lived in Madison in the '90s, you probably remember a great hot dog joint named "Presto's". At the time, Presto's was one of a few places serving Chicago Style Hot Dogs in Madison. Presto's was locally owned, well known for their incredible jumbo char dog and had the ambiance of our favorite hot dog places...kind of a dive, but with a welcoming atmosphere. Unfortunately, Presto's closed their doors in 1999 (and not due to lack of business). The only reminder of Presto's was an extremely faded sign that remained for many years. The Presto's sign was finally removed in early 2006.

Not long after Presto's closed, "Picasso's Pizza" opened up in the remodeled and expanded space once occupied by Presto's. Even though Picasso's specializes in Italian cuisine, they kept the jumbo Chicago Style char dog on the menu due to demand. About a year after opening, Picasso's was sold to a Chicago native. We recently chatted with the owner and he told us that their char dog still has a cult following.

As we pulled into the parking lot, we reminisced about the Presto's char dog. Once inside we were greeted by the owner and quickly seated at our table. We cracked open the menu and quickly ordered the 1/4 pound "Chicago Style Vienna Beef Hot Dog". The dog is available either char-grilled or steamed. Each of us ordered the char dog and a soft drink. We also split an order of fries.

When we saw our Chicago Dogs, we knew that they would not let us down. We took our first bite and both agreed that they "hit one out of the park". The dogs were incredible! Without even running the DOGS numbers, we knew we had found the best dog in Madison. In the end, the numbers confirmed what we already knew.

The quarter pound Vienna char dog was fantastic, grilled to perfection and served on a steamed poppy seed bun. The mustard was placed on the dog in a zig-zag pattern. The neon green relish tasted great and the quantity was just right. The wedge-like tomatoes were crisp and the onions were sliced/chopped. The two sport peppers were the right size, had good heat and were nice and juicy. The large thick crunchy pickle was outstanding! Celery salt rounded out the dog. All the toppings are generous and compliment each other perfectly.

In our opinion, this is the best Chicago Style Hot Dog in the Madison area and certainly one of the highest rated dogs thus far. We enjoyed our dogs so much, we could have easily had another. A complete lunch (dog, drink, fries) is a little pricey. Picasso's Chicago Dog costs $3.50 and an order of fries is $1.50. Picasso's has an extensive menu including pizza, pasta dishes and a variety of sandwiches.

DOGS: 9.1

Overall: 5   

Recommended: Definitely

CLOSED - Mad Dog's Chicago Style Eatery (Original)
309 N Henry St, Madison, WI 53703 - 608-251-0934
DogCaching: W 89° 23.415' / N 43° 04.504' - Cart: W 89° 23.892' / N 43° 04.489' (cart)
Mad Dog's Website
Dates: 05-16-08, 04-18-08 & 09-25-07

Update 12-17-08:Unfortunately, Mad Dog's has recently closed. We talked with the owners and they closed it because they are devoting their efforts toward a new business venture. Here is what they had to say: "Sorry guys, it's true. We closed due to time constraints with our other business. We're actually trying to keep it a hot dog stand and have listed it for a very inexpensive price. So, if you know anyone looking to get into the business, it doesn't get any better than this. $30k will get someone the whole business with website, new equipment and a great name.".

Update 05-16-08:Well, we finally had a chance to try a dog from the Mad Dog's cart located in Library Mall. Unfortunately, we were underwhelmed. The dog itself was good, but we think it may have been over cooked since it lacked flavor. There were way too many onions and our dog came without any tomatoes. We had to go back and ask for some. Based on our experience with the Mad Dog's cart, we currently recommend that you stop by their store instead. We will try them again soon and report back on our findings. Click Here to View Cart Photos.

Update 04-18-08:There have been many updates at Mad Dog's since our original review. Two of the most notable changes are that they now serve fries and that they have added seating. To accomodate seating, the big counter on the side wall was moved to the back of the store. This change opened up some space for the addition of tables and shelf seating complete with classic round stools. Due to some logistic issue with a fryer, Mad Dog's was unable to serve fries. They solved this issue by serving oven baked fries. We were skeptical, but they tasted pretty good. As expected, our dog was fantastic! They are now regularly operating a cart on Library Mall. Check their website for location details.

Original Review:We have been anxiously awaiting the opening of Mad Dog's for quite some time. A while ago, we received an e-mail informing us that there would be a new hot dog place coming to Madison. Well, wait no longer, Madison has a new dog in town!

Mad Dog's Chicago Style Eatery is now open on Henry, just off State Street. Their slogan, "Hot Dogs That'll make Ya Drool!" is catchy, but is it true? We put their Chicago Dog to the test.

The red and white brick building that Mad Dog's calls home is very welcoming. The outside of the building has a southwestern look and a Vienna Beef neon sign in the window. There is also a red awning with the words, "Chicago Style Carry Out". When you walk inside, you will be surprised by the size of the place. It is very small and there is no seating. True to the words on the awning, Mad Dog's is carry out only.

We ordered our dogs and watched as they were carefully created and wrapped. We quickly headed outside, found the nearest available bench along State Street and unwrapped the dogs. Each dog looked fantastic and we were optimistic that they tasted as good as they looked. Every ingredient was carefully placed on the steamed poppy seed bun to create a visual masterpiece.

Our first bite confirmed what we already knew...the Chicago Dog was fantastic. All the required ingredients were present, and in the right proportions. Each topping perfectly complemented each other and blended nicely to create a great tasting dog. The neon green relish was excellent and so were the two large sport peppers. The bun-length pickle tasted great and had a nice crunch. Two tomato slices, chopped onions and the right amount of celery salt completed the package. The dog itself was good, but did not have the typical beefy flavor characteristic of a Vienna dog. We’re guessing this had more to do with the heating of the dog than the dog itself.

Overall, we loved our Chicago Dogs and definitely recommend Mad Dog's. The owners are graduates of Hot Dog University. Based on their training, we expected a great dog and they certainly did not let us down. A Chicago Dog runs $3.50 (including tax). They do not offer fries, but do offer several chip choices. Mad Dog's has a limited menu, but focuses on typical dogs, Maxwell Polish and Italian beef sandwiches. They feature Vienna and Scala brand products.

Although Mad Dog's specializes in Chicago food, they have not forgotten where they are located and also serve a nice Brat. They also operate several hot dog carts in the Madison area. Look for their carts on Library Mall, off the Capitol Square and at special events. Check out their website for schedules and locations.

View Photos Click for Slideshow
DOGS: 8.9

Overall: 5   

Recommended: Definitely

FIB'S - Fine Italian Beef and Sausage
Library Mall, Madison, WI
DogCaching: W 89° 23.911' / N 43° 04.488'
Date: 05-16-08

FIB'S is a creative name for a place that serves Chicago fare in Wisconsin. This obvious play on words actually stands for "Fine Italian Beef and Sausage". For those not in the know, "FIB" is a derogatory term often used by Wisconsinites to refer to "flatlanders" (people from Illinois). Being a former "flatlander" himself, Mitch never minded being called a "FIB" (Fantastic Illinois Bunch).

FIB'S is a recent entry into the Madison landscape of Chicago Style dogs. We're happy to see Madison embracing the Chicago Dog, and new businesses (such as FIB'S) focusing on serving Chicago's best to the hungry people Madison.

FIBS'S is located in Library Mall, which is well known for its lunch carts. The FIB'S cart is very cool and unique. Although it's just a trailer, it actually looks like a building with a brick facade. It definitely stands out from the rest and is very inviting. The top of the cart has photos of many Chicago icons including John Belushi and Bozo. Speaking of Bozo, it's a little known fact that Mitch was selected by the "Magic Arrows" and got to play the Grand Prize Game on Bozo's Circus.

The owners of FIB'S e-mailed us several months prior to opening. Based on what they told us, we expected great things from their Chicago Dog and they certainly delivered! The dog was assembled with care and all the ingredients were expertly placed on the dog. When we got our first look at the Chicago Dog we could tell we were in for a treat. Unfortunately, Mitch's taste buds had to wait while he took some photos. The poppy seed bun was steamed to perfection. The right amount of mustard was applied to the dog and the neon green relish looked the part and tasted great. The right amount of diced onions were on the dog. The pickle spear was excellent and the sport peppers had the right amount of heat and tasted great. Two thick, ripe tomato slices were piled on top and celery salt rounded out the package. Overall, FIB'S did not let us down and we highly recommend their Chicago Dog. As a comparison, we also tried a dog from a competitor's cart parked a mere 30 feet away from the FIB'S cart. There was no comparison between the two. The FIB'S Chicago Dog looked better and also tasted better. Round 1 of the "cart wars" goes to FIB'S.

Although the FIB'S hot dog was good, the dog seemed a little small. We talked with the owner about this. FIB'S usually serves a 6:1 dog (6 dogs to a pound), but unfortunately, they received a smaller dog from their supplier. They apologized for the problem and ensured us that if we come back again, they would have the proper sized dog. We will try them soon and post our findings.

View Photos Click for Slideshow
DOGS: 8.9

Overall: 5   

Recommended: Definitely

CLOSED - Dog Bites
540 University Ave, Madison, WI 53703 - 608-255-5355
Located inside Milio's Sandwiches
Dates: 01-09-06 & 05-17-06

Update (02-18-07): Unfortunately, Milio's/Dog Bites is no longer serving Chicago Dogs. Our guess is that their location and lack of advertising probably hurt them.

"Dog Bites" is located inside the Milo's Sandwich shop on University Ave. Milio's is well known in Madison for their great subs so we were excited at the prospect of a great Chicago Dog.

"Dog Bites" proudly serves Vienna Beef Hot Dogs. Besides serving Chicago's finest, their menu also offers a plain hot dog, a Cheese Dog and a couple of Chili Dog choices.

Our Chicago Dogs arrived on a steamed poppyseed bun with all the expected toppings. The pickle spear was tasty and the tomatoes were thin round slices (like the tomatoes found on subs). Our Dogs each contained 4 sport peppers. In our opinion, they should have only put on 2 sport peppers since their taste was slightly overpowering due to the pepper's intensity. We are happy to report that they use the traditional bright green relish. Our only recommendation is that they add more relish since our Dogs were a little light on relish. Unfortunately, we only had the opportunity to review "Dog Bites" once so the amount of relish may be a factor of who happened to be assembling the dogs on the day of our visit. Update: On our most recent visit, our Dogs were topped with plenty of relish and only 3 sport peppers.

Overall, their Chicago Dog was excellent and ranks among the top Chicago Style Dogs in Madison. We certainly hope that "Dog Bites" will expand to more Milio's stores. We are anxious to try their Italian Beef Sandwich. A Chicago Style Dog costs $2.75. They do not serve fries, but they have a variety of chips. "Dog Bites" is open 10 am - Midnight Sunday through Thursday and 10 am to 3 am Friday and Saturday.

DOGS: 8.3

Overall: 4   

Recommended: Definitely

Bagels Forever
2947 University Ave, Madison, WI 53705 - 608-231-2427
Bagels Forever Website
Date: 08-08-06

One of our co-workers recently mentioned that Bagels Forever, a Madison institution (since 1973), served Vienna beef hot dogs. We thought this was her idea of a cruel joke, but she assured us that they had the appropriate signage and the dogs were authentic.

Obviously, Bagels Forever is known for their bagels and not their Chicago Dogs...although "Hot Dogs Forever" would be a catchy name. Since they don't move a lot of Chicago Dogs, they cook them as needed. Check out the little Vienna hot dog/bun steamer machine behind the counter. We were told that it's best to call in your order in advance since it can take 10-15 minutes to cook the dogs. We didn't call ahead of time and did wait about 15 minutes, but it was well worth the wait.

It's important to note that you'll need to specify all the ingredients when you place your order. "The Works" consists of all the traditional Chicago ingredients and may possibly include sauerkraut, ketchup, and brown mustard. You will also need to ask for celery salt, since it is not listed with the hot dog toppings.

We absolutely loved the dog! Bagels Forever serves a jumbo, skinless Vienna beef frank. The dog was juicy and had a great flavor. Neon green relish was present and tasted great, but the quantity was a little light and didn't quite cover the entire dog. The onions were coarsely chopped and tasted fresh. Two thinly sliced fresh tomatoes blended well with the rest of the dog. Three sport peppers topped the dog. We thought they were just a little too hot, but not enough wipe the smile off our faces. The kosher pickle spear tasted great, but would have been perfect if it was long enough to span the length of the bun. French's yellow mustard was applied on top of the condiments, but the amount was just right. The steamed poppy seed bun was great and held up surprisingly well, considering the jumbo dog put some serious stress on it. There is no seating available which is too bad since they do have room for a few tables. We did make ourselves at home by using the employment application table.

Overall we really enjoyed our Bagels Forever dog. The jumbo beef dog was definitely the star of the show, but the rest of the ingredients certainly didn't do anything to disappoint. The dog sells for $2.50 and there's a wide variety of chips available. Just remember to call ahead if you don't want to wait.

DOGS: 8.1

Overall: 4   

Recommended: Yes

CLOSED - Real Chili
449 State St, Madison, WI 53703 - 608-442-9732
Hours: Mon-Wed 11:00am-2:30am, Thur-Sat 11:00am-3:00am, Sun 11:00-8:00pm
Date: 07-28-06

Update (11-28-07): Real Chili has closed its doors. Unfortunately, we have lost yet another establishment that served Chicago Dogs.

We were surprised to find out that Real Chili offers a "Chicago Style" hot dog on their menu, since this restaurant has made it's name serving a variety of chili in Milwaukee and most recently the State Street area. Anyway, curiosity got the best of us, so we headed downtown to do a little research.

When we walked through the door, we were greeted by a wonderful chili aroma. If we weren't on a mission, we could have been easily swayed towards the chili. Once we got our focus back, we ordered four Chicago Style Dogs with fries and drinks.

Our dogs arrived in baskets and the presentation was great. All the classic Chicago Dog ingredients were there, with the exception of a poppy seed bun (they use the plain Mary Ann's). The skinless all beef dog was juicy and had a nice flavor, but different than a true Vienna beef. Neon green relish and finely chopped, fresh onions were present, but the amounts were a little skimpy. Two thin, fresh, tomato slices were nicely wedged into the bun. One of the bright spots was the peppers. The three sport peppers were nice sized, had a good heat and tasted great. Mustard was applied to the condiments and not the dog, a small error, but forgivable since it didn't detract from the overall taste. The pickle spear was good and had a nice flavor. It was great to see a decent amount of celery salt, topping off the dog. Too often, this vital ingredient is misunderstood and under utilized.

Overall, the dog was pretty good. It wasn't the best Chicago Dog we've had, but considering that it's not their feature item, it held it's own. Real Chili offers a variety of fries (we tried the waffle and chili cheese and both were great), chili, burgers, dogs, beer, wine and some specialty items. This location had plenty of seating, offering a choice of bar, booth, or high rise tables with stools. The Chicago Style Dog runs $2.25 and just about everything on the menu is under five bucks. We can't wait to try some chili on our next visit.

DOGS: 7.4

Overall: 3.5   

Recommended: Yes

Sonic Drive-In
6413 University Ave, Middleton, Wisconsin 53562 - 608-831-2633
DogCaching: W 89° 29.54' / N 43° 5.64'
Sonic Drive-In Website
Date: 03-15-11

Sonic has introduced four new premium beef hot dogs: The Chicago Dog, New York Dog, All-American Dog and the Chili Cheese Coney.

Prior to our visit, we checked out pictures of Sonic's Chicago Dog on their website. From the looks of it, we were enthusiastic and had high hopes that a fast-food chain just might deliver a decent Chicago Dog. Although the photo showed the dog with standard relish, we were hopeful that the dog might actually come with neon green relish. Why the optimism? Well, the owners of this Sonic franchise are the same group that originally opened Mad Dogs (off of State Street). Mad Dog's served one of the top dogs in town. Although franchised restaurants tend to adhere to a rigid corporate standard, we hoped that this Sonic would take some creative license and use neon green relish.

We ordered several Chicago Dogs and waited anxiously for our food. After a short wait, our dogs arrived. The Chicago Dogs looked the part, but unfortunately contained standard green relish. The relish was watery and had a very sweet taste. The combination of the mustard and relish made the poppy seed bun a little soggy in places, but the bun still held up quite well. The sport peppers were excellent! The pickle had a nice crunch, but had a sour taste. There was a perfect amount of chopped onions and the tomato slices were good. They even managed to remember the celery salt. The biggest disappointment was the dog itself. Their 100% all beef dog was flavorless and unremarkable. That was a deal-breaker for us despite a decent showing on the DOGS score. Overall, our Chicago Dogs were good, but nothing special. If their hot dog had some flavor, we would recommend Sonic. Kevin also tried the New York Dog and he liked it better than the Chicago Dog.

Sonic, is a drive-in restaurant and there is no place to eat inside. The expectation is that you eat in your car or at the outside tables. Sonic has great burgers and excellent shakes.

View Photos Click for Slideshow
DOGS: 7.9

Overall: 3   

Recommended: Better Options Exist

CLOSED - The Dawg House
505 State St, Madison, WI 53703 - 608-256-5050
DogCaching: W 89° 23.645' / N 43° 04.470'
The Dawg House Website
Date: 01-05-09

Update July 2009: The Dawg House is no longer with us and has officially closed their doors. It's not too surprising since their prices were way too high and their Chicago Dog was below expectations. To survive, dog places need to serve a quality product at the right price point.

Original Review: The Dawg House is the latest hot dog eatery to appear on State Street. With the unfortunate recent closing of Mad Dog's, we were hopeful that The Dawg House would fill the void.

The Dawg House is located toward the west end of State across from the Pipefitter. The outside of the building has a red and yellow awning bearing the name of the place. Inside, the seating is limited. There is only one table and some shelf/stool seating along a wall and the front window. There is a painted mural of two dogs (the barking kind), each wrapped in a bun and heading toward a dog house with the name "Frankie" on the side.

Their menu contains five different dog options, but we found their menu a little tricky to navigate since their version of the typical Chicago dog is listed as "Maxwell St Chicago". Whenever we hear "Maxwell Street", our first thought is of a Polish, not a dog.

We ordered a Chicago dog ($3.75), fries ($2.50) and a small drink ($1.50) which set us back about $8.00. Definitely pricey for a dog joint and especially given their location in the heart of campus. I never had that kind of money to spend when I was a student at UW.

The Dawg House serves Red Hot Chicago brand dogs. We really like this brand, so we figured we were in for an enjoyable experience. When our dogs arrived, our excitement turned to cautious optimism. Right out of the gate there were some obvious issues. First of all, the bun had no poppy seeds and the relish was not the neon green variety that we really love and expect on the perfect Chicago dog. On first glance, we did not see any sport peppers or onions, and the yellow mustard was excessively applied on top of all the other ingredients. The relish had a strong dill flavor and was applied in such a large quantity that it was spilling over the top of the bun like water over a dam. Fortunately, we did eventually locate the sport peppers and onions buried under the relish. The pickle spear and sport peppers were good and the dog itself had nice flavor. The Chicago dog was messy and difficult to eat...mainly due to the combination of the watery relish and the excessive mustard which oozed out with every bite. Unfortunately, the dill relish overpowered the flavor of everything else. The relish might have worked if less were applied. On the plus side they did a nice job with their generous application of celery salt. The fries were good, but very salty.

They are open very late on the weekends. Our guess is that the bar-time crowd is just satisfying their late-night munchies and not in pursuit of the perfect dog. They also offer brats, burgers, Gyros, Italian beef sandwiches. Overall, we were not impressed by our Chicago dog experience at The Dawg House and better options definitely exist.

View Photos Click for Slideshow
DOGS: 7.1

Overall: 3   

Recommended: Better Options Exist

CLOSED - Griff's Restaurant
1233 McKenna Blvd, Madison, WI 53719 - 608-276-7466
Date: 10-05-05

Update September 2010: Griff's has closed it's doors.

In true Chicago Style, Griff's proudly serves Vienna Beef Dogs. Their Dogs come standard with mustard, relish, pickle, onion, tomato and celery salt. Ketchup and Sport Peppers are available upon request at no extra charge. The yellow mustard was cleverly applied to the Dog in a zig-zag pattern. The Dog had two sliced tomatos, sliced onions and five sport peppers. I would recommend that they put on fewer peppers. Even though the Dog was not served on a poppyseed bun, their bun tasted great and was very fresh. Overall, this was a good sandwich. The only ingredient that didn't do it for us was their pickle spear. The pickle had a sour taste that was so overpowering, it interfered with the overall taste and had to be removed before we could fully enjoy our Chicago Dog. Griff's has ample seating. Price: $3.59 / $4.39 with fries.

DOGS: 7.1

Overall: 3   

Recommended: Better Options Exist

Madison/Verona, Wisconsin - Store Locations
Date: 06-22-06 - 2531 Monroe St, Madison
Date: 05-16-07 & 09-30-05 - 5602 Schroeder Rd, Madison
Date: 08-05-05 - 407 W Verona Ave, Verona

Their menu displays several Hot Dog choices including a Chicago Dog. All Hot Dog menu items are Vienna all beef Dogs, but are topped with different ingredients. The Chicago Dog comes standard with mustard, relish, onion, tomato, pickle and celery salt, but they ask if you want sport peppers. On our visit to the Verona location we asked for sport peppers, but our Dogs arrived without any. Our Schroeder Rd visit proved more successful since the peppers were not forgotten.

Their buns are uneventful. They are not steamed and have no poppyseeds. Their pickle spear was good. The tomatos are cut into chunks and the onions were sliced. Their relish is not very exciting and tastes like a dill pickle. They are a little skimpy with their toppings.

Although not the best Dog around, in our opinion, they will do in a pinch. There is definitely some room for improvement. Their fries are excellent, but chips are the only choice at the Monroe St location. Don't forget to try the award-winning frozen custard that made Michael's famous. Price: $2.89 / $5.14 with fries and a drink.

Update (06-22-06): Michael's now serves "Red Hot Chicago" dogs instead of Vienna brand. There has also been a price increase. On our Monroe St visit, the skinless dogs were excellent, the tomatoes were sliced and the onions chopped. The sport peppers were great, and as usual, we loved the pickle spear. Although the relish was still uneventful, we were disappointed at how "wet" it was. There was so much liquid in the relish, the bun became soaked and easily fell apart. The dogs were heavy on sport peppers and light on celery salt, but we were happy to see that the other ingredients were not skimpy. Take a look at the photos and you will see that our latest dogs look more like a typical Chicago Dog. For comparison, we calculated the DOGS score specifically for this visit and the number did not significantly change. Michael's Chicago Dog could easily move up the ranks and become recommended with a few simple upgrades such as authentic neon green relish and bit more celery salt.

Update (05-16-07): Our latest visit to the Schroeder Rd location was pretty bad. The dog was horrible and certainly did not look or taste like any Red Hot Chicago dog I ever had. The dog was completely flavorless and the outside of the dog was brown in color. This dog was so bad, I couldn't eat it. I asked the person working the counter about the dog and she insisted it was a Red Hot Chicago. I still doubt that and will probably never have another Chicago Dog at the Schroeder Rd location anytime soon.

DOGS: 6.9

Overall: 3   

Recommended: Better Options Exist

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