“Meaty” Hot Dogs at Budacki’s Great for Vegetarians

Under the tomatos, onions, pickles, mustard and celery salt, there is a hot dog, I swear.

By Gulnaz Saiyed
Hapless Intern


Despite its bright, barn-red exterior, Budacki’s Drive In is somehow easy to miss.  In Ravenswood, a run-of-the-mill hot dog joint isn’t exactly what you’d expect to find, tucked in among the antique dealers, a throwback candy store and a few sit-down Thai restaurants.


It was the smell of deep-fried potatoes that lured me in after hopping off of the Damen Brown Line stop, just a block away.  I’ve been ordering the same thing there ever since: a Chicago-style dog, split lengthwise and “dragged trew da garden,” with relish, pickles, onions, tomato, celery salt, mustard, sport peppers and, of course, no ketchup. Ever.


The only thing different about my “meaty” tasting dog, however, is that it’s vegetarian.  Yes, I said it: Budacki’s Drive In has meatless Chicago-style hot dogs.  To a hardcore vegetarian like me, it’s the best thing since mapo tofu.


My dreams pretty much look like this mural outside of Budacki's.

It’s hard for anyone to find a really good Chicago-style vegetarian hot dog, and Budacki’s are better than most.   But I’m an intern here and not sure if I can get away with making such a  ballsy claim and leaving it at that.  (Not even sure if I can use the word “ballsy,” Steve?) – sure, go ahead Gulu..


So, here are some other things you might want to know about Budacki’s veggie preeminence:


The veggie dog tastes just like I remember a real hot dog tasting like.  They are made by Yves, and deep down I find it kind of terrifying that faux-meat could look and taste so much like the real thing.


The veggie dog, for $5, comes cooked-to-order with fries and an ice-cold canned soda.  You can pay less for just the dog, with bun and condiments, but the deal and the fries are really too good to pass up.


There are also veggie burgers, which come with fries and a soda – Budacki’s “tree hugger special.”


Other options for tree huggers include crispy onion rings, fried mushrooms and mozzarella sticks.  Just because you don’t eat meat doesn’t mean you can’t eat junk, right?


Budacki’s also serves the four pillars of Chicago fast food joints: hot dogs, sausages, burgers and tamales.  I can’t vouch for them, but my friends can; those long lines are there for a reason.  No worries, though, the food always comes quickly.


All this for $5! Even an intern can afford it.

They also have milkshakes.  You can drink half of a vanilla shake and then pour the root beer you got with your meal into it (trust me). Or save yourself the mess and just order a root beer float.


In the summer – or during a freakishly warm winter – you can sit outside in the parking lot (free parking!!!).  You can’t, however, actually drive through and pick up your order from a window.  There’s also some limited indoor seating.


Budacki’s is cash-only, so make a stop at the ATM first.  It’s worth the effort.  This hot dog stand is a must-visit for vegetarians in Chicago.  It’s not the epitome of what our city is capable of when it comes to veggie cuisine (hello, Mana Food Bar and Green Zebra), but it does always manage to hit the spot.


Budaki’s Drive-In
4739 N. Damen Ave.
(773) 561-1322 ‎


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