Gene and Jude’s
2720 N. River Rd.
River Grove, IL
Chicago is famous for many things.
The world’s busiest airport. The country’s tallest building.
America’s first Marxist President.
And the Chicago hotdog. Of course.
Gene & Jude’s out here in the suburbs just south of O’Hare Airport was one of the earliest purveyors of the infamous Chicago hotdog.
Apparently in Chicago, it’s become a hipster cliché to shun ketchup on hotdogs.
To a Chicagoan, someone who puts ketchup on their hotdog is like a drinker who prefers Moscato. Or that tourist who won’t turn off his cell phone ringer on the “el”.
Or that Wrigley Field bleacher bum who refuses to throw back an opposing team homerun ball. Despite the torrent of drunken boos and profanity.
In other words, ketchup is for the uncouth, unhip, and unsophisticated.
Nobody wants to be THAT guy.
As a hotdog connoisseur who’s been known to enjoy a bit of ketchup from time to time, I find this “holier than thou” hotdog ideology a bit tiresome.
It’s a freaking hotdog, for cripe’s sake.
It’s not high society cuisine.
I’m a firm believer that folks should be free to put whatever they want on their processed meat. It’s processed meat you guys.
That being said, I’m still a firm believer in “When in Rome” dining.
So when in Chicago, go ahead and eat your hotdog as Chicagoans do.
Most of the famous Chicago hotdog joints serve them “dragged through the garden,” which means they’re stacked with peppers, onions, tomatoes, pickles, cucumbers, celery, and other piles of produce that completely overshadows the meat.
Gene and Jude’s sticks to a simpler (and I believe better) formula.
The toppings here are freshly chopped onion, relish, “sport” peppers and mustard.
Oh, and french fries.
But, no. You can NOT have ketchup. Not even for your fries.
Legend has it that a Gene and Jude’s employee once smuggled a few packets of ketchup into the kitchen (probably because he was tired of saying no to all those uncouth out-of-towners asking for it), and when the owner discovered the contraband of ketchup packets, he tossed them all into the dumpster out back.
Okay. I won’t make that mistake.
Definitely don’t want to be THAT guy.
Now, turns out these fries are fresh cut every day and top notch — even without any ketchup.
I’m still not sure if the fries are meant to be eaten separate or as a topping, like a Primanti Brothers Pittsburgh sandwich.
When you first unwrap your hotdog, you can’t even see it under the mountain of fries.
Eventually, I put enough of a dent into my mountain of fries that I could finally taste the hotdog.
The relish and onion add a nice, tangy crunch while the mustard compliments the salty meatiness of the freshly steamed dog.
Then every few bites you get a jolt when you bite into one of those famous green “sport” peppers.
It’s a lot of simultaneous flavor action, no doubt. But the star of the show – the famous Vienna beef Chicago hotdog – never gets lost in all the commotion.
Here at Gene and Jude’s, you can order a single or a double dog.
I got both. Of course.
The double is a bit cumbersome, but if you can manage it, it is a nicer meat-to-condiment-to-fry ratio.
Inexplicably, Gene and Jude’s also sells processed industrial corn tamales.
Even more inexplicably, I ordered one. On top of my slew of hot dogs, fries, and Chicago condiments.
Produced by the Supreme Tamale Company, Inc. here in Chicago and served in a plastic wrapper, it was barely edible.
Slimy on the outside, dry as cornmeal on the inside, it tasted like a meat-flavored hunk of dough. After a few bites, I tossed it in the trash.
Ninety percent of the business here is take out.
In fact, there is no place to sit. Just a ledge along the window facing the expansive parking lot.
But perfect for me.
I’ll be doing enough sitting the rest of the evening crammed into seat 14A on a United Express regional jet.
After polishing off my last bite of dog and fries, I felt pretty good about myself. I just consumed several genuine Chicago hotdogs. Didn’t deviate on a single condiment.
Now I see why Chicagoans get so smug about their hot dogs. They are pretty darn good done the Chicago way.
Particularly Gene and Jude’s way.
I walked out into the parking lot feeling hip. In the know. An insider.
The thought of that sweet tomatoey condiment never even crossed my mind.
Nope. I felt darn near self-righteous. No ketchup for me.
I will never be THAT guy again.
Rating: Seriously Thought About Buying Shirt.