Chili-Cheese Dogs: Good Chili is KEY

I like hotdogs. I know there are folks who say “but they’re made from lips and a**holes”.  Well apparently I love lips and a**holes because hotdogs are delicious.  I don’t eat them often – maybe at a ball game or a few times during a summer cookout – but every once in awhile, I crave a chili dog. We ended up doing a four-tasting this go-around instead of our usual three for Take Three Tuesday, but more on that later.

Coming in at number 4…

Caesar’s Frozen Custard 2721 Douglas Ave, Racine

There was nothing inherently wrong with this chili cheese dog ($3.09). It tasted like an Oscar Meyer hot dog with Hormel chili on top. I like Oscar Meyer hot dogs and Hormel chili – that’s what I use when making a quick chili dog at home – but I wanted something BETTER than I could do at home.  I did like how they split the hot dog down the middle and grilled it. The nacho cheese sauce on top did have a nice little kick of heat, and the bun was soft on the outside and slightly toasted on the inside.

Now, numbers 3 and 2 could go either way, in my opinion. There were things that I liked and didn’t like about both that make it kind of a toss-up for me.

Trolley Dogs 5501 6th Ave, Kenosha

This is a hot dog place, so expectations were high. I appreciated the Vienna beef hot dog used in this chili-cheese dog ($3.99).  It was served on a steamed, poppy seed bun with homemade chili. (Unlike the other two Hormel chili dogs, this one had kidney beans.)  And it was topped with a nacho cheese that had a little kick. But the chili had beans… I don’t care for beans on my chili dog. The chili also lacked flavor; it was there, I could see it, but when you closed your eyes took I bite, you couldn’t even be quite sure you were eating chili.   I left somewhat disappointed.

Martino’s Italian Beef 1215 Layton Ave, Milwaukee

Another hot dog place, more high expectations.  I liked that, again, this chili cheese dog ($3.99) was made using a Vienna beef hot dog. It was served on a steamed poppy seed bun and nacho cheese sauce.  Because the price includes french fries, this is a very good deal. However, the chili wasn’t anything special – it tasted very Hormel-like. The picture may not look like there’s much chili and cheese, but Martino’s placed those toppings under the dog. Overall, I was underwhelmed.

After visiting those three places and not feeling as though there was a clear standout, we decided to add an additional location to our usual Take Three Tuesday. Man, am I glad we did, because coming in at number 1…

Real Chili 419 East Wells Street, Milwaukee and 1625 West Wells.

Menu Marquette real Chili

This was the chili cheese dog ($4.25) I was looking for! First, I liked the finely shredded cheddar Real Chili uses better than the nacho cheese sauce at the other places. The hot dog itself was good – I’m uncertain if it was a Vienna (there was no signage in the restaurant), but it definitely wasn’t an Oscar Meyer. But the key – the chili. What would you expect from a place named Real Chili, right?  It was spicy and, because the ground beef is so finely chopped, it was thick and hearty. There are no fries at this place, but I didn’t care one bit – I was so satisfied with the chili cheese dog alone.

Real Chili is a classic chili joint with a u-shaped counter/bar.  Its never too late to strap on feed bag here; the place is open until 3am.   

Chili Cheese dog marquette location

Yes, it was the most expensive. Yes, it was the farthest drive. But it was totally worth it.

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