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The Kid in Us Loves Jimmy's Red Hots

By Chuck Sudo in Food on Oct 29, 2007 2:15PM

2007_10_jimmys1.jpgOn the subject of hot dog stands, it's the little differences that separate the ones we like from the ones we don't. Growing up on the Northwest side we had the good fortune (although as teenagers we never realized it) of living near some of the best, like Bemo's on Fullerton; the recently closed Toots Drive Thru at Central and Montrose; Duke's, just up the street at Central and Bryn Mawr; and Jimmy's Red Hots on Grand and Pulaski. A visit to Jimmy's over the weekend showed us how much a neighborhood can change in over twenty years: compared to our memories the intersection today could pass as a suburb. But the muffler man at the auto parts store on Grand still lords over all he surveys, and Jimmy's is still doing business the way we remembered. A hot dog stand like Jimmy's doesn't stay in business for fifty-five years by serving up bad red hots.

2007_10_jimmys2.jpgThe little differences that separate Jimmy's from others, like the "2 lines" sign and employees' insistence that customers heed it, are part of the overall charm of the place. Without the two lines rule, grabbing lunch at Jimmy's is a test of one's patience. Don't bother asking for ketchup at Jimmy's, either. Large signs throughout the stand let you know they won't put the verboten condiment on their hot dogs. You won't need ketchup for the fries, either. Between the oil that cooks these home-cut fries to a perfect crispness and the salt that seasons them, ketchup would just be a distraction. The two dogs pictured (with fries and the works) and a cup of lemonade ran us $5.60. If you're on a budget, a tamale only costs a dollar here, and comes with fries, to boot.

The real fun at Jimmy's is after sunset. Then, as now, some of the line cooks have been known to carry their own, um, insurance policies to protect themselves and the stand from some of their neighbors. Even with more business development around the intersection, this is still Grand and Pulaski we're talking about here. If we can make the trip from the south side to enjoy some tasty nostalgia, you can certainly brave it.

Jimmy's Red Hots is located at 4000 W. Grand Ave. They're open 10:30 a.m. - 1 a.m. Sunday through Thursday; 10:30 a.m. - 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday.