How to get ketchup on your hot dog in Chicago

September 10, 2021 • 1:45 pm

by Greg Mayer

Kim and Carlo’s Hot Dog Cart, on the plaza northeast of the Field Museum, serves genuine Chicago style dogs, and has a very specific policy about putting ketchup on hot dogs:

Kim and Carlo’s ketchup policy.

The Museum Campus (the Field Museum, Shedd Aquarium, and Adler Planetarium are all right there) attracts lots of of out-of-towners, and on a recent visit to Kim and Carlo’s I overheard a discussion among a family as they approached the cart that included the line, “I just want one with ketchup.” I did not stay to see how that went!

(One addendum to Jerry’s list of ingredients— green relish, which on a true Chicago dog is a neon shade of green not often seen outside of a Chicago dog.)

JAC: Oy, how could I forget that??? But this sign shows you how seriously Chicagoans take their dogs. Seriously, ketchup on a dog throws the whole thing out of balance!

30 thoughts on “How to get ketchup on your hot dog in Chicago

  1. I don’t like mustard. I put ketchup on my dogs. If Chicago doesn’t like it there’s a large adjacent lake they can all jump into.

      1. It’s true. It’s traditional in Chicago families to allow small children to use ketchup, but this is not tolerated past the age of 10. Basically, if you’re too old to believe in Santa, you’re too old for ketchup.

        1. When did that start happening? Was it because of the Great Ketchup Flood which devastated parts of Chicago early in the 20th century? But seriously, why all the ketchup hate? It’s just a condiment.

          1. It’s a Chicago tradition to not put ketchup on hotdogs. Apparently, the idea is that ketchup will dominate/obscure the taste of other condiments that you DO get on a Chicago hot dog.

  2. I’ve gotten a hot dog with ketchup (just ketchup) from that cart. I dreaded asking for it, but no one blinked an eye. Maybe that was before the dancing requirement (or maybe she decided she didn’t want to see me try to dance).

  3. “Seriously, ketchup on a dog throws the whole thing out of balance!”

    I guess the dancing is to replace the missing balance! Because of all the talk about Chicago Dogs, I just had one for lunch. It was good.

    1. Only one?—jeez, for me it would be agonizing whether 2 or 3!

      I cannot remember whether that hotdog vender was there in the spring of 1967 or the autumn/winter of 1968 when I lived in Hyde Park. All I remember is the little choo-choo train running around a Moebius band in the Museum of Science and Industry, and a couple of theorems, and a decrepit Chevrolet that got us back-and-forth.

  4. I say that, for all x, a person who insists on having ketchup with x does not actually like the taste of x.

    It follows that, as long as the hotdog actually exists, which scientific observation with the eyes, nose and mouth verifies, that applies to
    x = hotdog .

    Ketchup is actually a reasonably health preserving food, at least for those lucky ones like me who have never had to worry about their weight. But ketchup to me anyway has a powerful taste, obliterating the taste of whatever it’s on. I like the taste of just about everything, including that of ketchup, but a counterexample is turnips, which IMHO should be drowned in ketchup.

    The Danes and Norwegians love their ‘polser’, but not so much with ketchup, IIRC. My 2 and 4 year old just about lived on polser in Aarhus and Asker in August, 1970. Now one’s a rock drummer and the other’s a professional philosopher, so it did no harm apparently.

    1. “I say that, for all x, a person who insists on having ketchup with x does not actually like the taste of x.”

      I’m going to go full meta on you. I say that anyone who says that, for all x, a person who insists on having y with x does not actually like the taste of x, does not actually like the taste of y. In other words, you clearly just don’t like ketchup. The rest is just piling on. 😉

    2. There’s ketchup and ketchup.
      As a NZer living in the US for many years, I grew up with tomato sauce, perhaps called that, perhaps called ketchup, that was spicier and much less sweet than the usual US commercial ketchup. I’m cautious with US ketchup: I like the tomato and spice, but not so much the sweetness.

      1. Much of what is sold in the US as “ketchup” is primarily tomato and “spice” flavored high-fructose corn syrup. You have to check the ingredients. I am surprised by comments that say that ketchup overwhelms the flavor of what it is put on, as I feel that mustard does that. I can’t stand the flavor of mustard and I never get it on a hot dog. I also avoid mustard based BBQ sauce, except for Arthur Bryant’s sauce . Bryant’s is a famous BBQ place in Kansas City, Missouri.

  5. With all the flavors on a Chicago Dog, who needs ketchup?

    I grew up in northern Minnesota where our only choices were relish, French’s Mustard, and Heinz Ketchup. The dogs were boiled (and not kosher so we weren’t sure what went into the casings,) which removed all the flavor; so we really needed ketchup.

    My palate has expanded. And the dogs need to be all-beef.

  6. I grew up with ketchup on hotdogs. It was THE hot dog condiment where I lived.

    I remember when I was older a friend was putting only mustard on his hot dog and I asked what about the ketchup. He said don’t be absurd, ketchup isn’t for hot dogs. Mustard. I was baffled by this, but later found out apparently Mustard was the more popular dressing, at least in the USA.

    (I don’t know if this is a 70’s Canada thing vs the usa or not re ketchup).

    Anyway, while I now put mustard on my dog, I still insist on ketchup. And sometimes bbq sauce.
    (Just had one yesterday).

    The Chicago style dog was an odd thing for me, but I certainly came to like them very much when I stayed a while in Chicago.

  7. I actually think hot dogs are disgusting. You need to cover them with stuff to escape the bland taste. As to the pure white roll they lie in, that is hardly decent bread.

    I like a meatier sausage!

    Still, each to his own!

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