PORTAGE PARK — The Hot Dog Box has one of the best hot dogs around, according to a new list of America’s best wieners.
New York-based food site the Tasting Table named the Portage Park hot dog joint’s Bronzeville Bourbon dog one of the “13 Best Hot Dogs in America.” The list, published last week, featured spots from around the United States in no particular order.
The Hot Dog Box, 4020 N. Milwaukee Ave., opened in January to local and national hype.
“The Bronzeville Bourbon Hot Dog is a menu standout, which tops a decadent steak dog with bourbon barbecue sauce, a fresh cabbage and carrot medley and hickory-smoked bacon,” the outlet wrote about the Portage Park dog. “As if all that weren’t indulgent enough, it’s served in a chewy and rich pretzel bun.”
Bobby Morelli, owner of The Hot Dog Box, said he at first didn’t believe his business had landed a spot on the list. He was made aware of it when a customer came into the shop and showed him a few days ago, he said.
“Honestly, I was like, ‘What? For real?'” Morelli said Monday. “Food is subjective to the person but I feel really good about it. … It goes to show that there will be people who are not for you, but then there are people across the country who enjoy what you are doing.”
The Bronzeville Bourbon hot dog is a Hot Dog Box signature and was the first creation Morelli and his daughter made, he said. Before the business moved to Portage Park, the duo opened in a Bronzeville shipping container in 2020 and folks from all over the Midwest quickly flocked to the joint — mostly to try their trademark dog.
“That one changed the game for us,” he said. “It surpassed the Chicago-style [dog] because of the special bourbon barbecue sauce.”
The recipe has evolved, the owner said. When it was first made, it only had sauce, bacon, onion and peppers, but Morelli thought “that wasn’t enough.”
Morelli added the cabbage and carrots medley, the bacon strips and sport peppers. It’s been a hit ever since, he said.
The steak dog is for sale at the shop and online. Last month, The Hot Dog Box launched the MACDOGS, the business’s first trademarked hot dog to hit the market and the same uncured beef hot dog used to make The Bronzeville Bourbon Hot Dog.
Morelli has sold the dogs at farmers markets and hopes to sell more at city markets and grocery stores in the future.
Making the national list is a testament to the business’s growth, the owner said. When The Hot Dog Box opened, it received local and national media attention for its creative dogs, unique pandemic pivot and the business’s positive social media presence.
Since opening, the spot has been listed in several local hot dog guides and summer lists.
Listen to “It’s All Good: A Block Club Chicago Podcast”: