This past weekend, my friend Amanda was back in town from her job in California, and a bunch of us were going out for her birthday. Since her boyfriend is from the western suburbs, we hit up one of his favorite spots, Hala Kahiki. So we're out in the River Grove area on Grand and Des Plaines River Road at this knock off Hawaiian bar for most of the night (actually it was a pretty good place for cheap, tasty, and strong drinks) when I bring up that I saw this hot dog stand a block over. Before I knew it, my local hosts were raving about the greatest hot dogs in the world which just so happened to be served up in their backyard at Gene and Jude's Red Hot Stand (sorry, there's no website).
Gene and Jude's is a free standing hot dog stand in the middle of a pretty large parking lot. For all practical purposes I'd say that Gene and Jude's is in the middle of nowhere (unless your from the western suburbs, and in that case... no offense). There aren't any tables, so you can either eat in your car or somewhere along the counter. There's one large counter where you order at one end and pick up your food at the other. Behind this counter seems to be a variety of employees ranging from teenage to some pretty old guys who I guess have been working there since the beginning.
It's important to note that this place is super cheap. A dog and fries was $2.10. Supposedly it used to be $1.60, and the town was in an uproar with the price hike. Also, even though it's cheap, you don't get shorted on the food in the least.
Finally, you need to know how to behave while you're there. I'd say there are two keys to fitting in: 1) be a White Sox fan (or keep quiet about baseball) and 2) don't even say the word KETCHUP. To the first point, I don't think they'd do anything to you if you said you love the cubs, but some of those grumpy old men in baseball caps didn't seem to friendly in the first place. As for the ketchup thing, they will ask you to leave if you order ketchup on your dog. Not only that, but they make quite a show out of the whole ordeal with the cooks chastising you for some time. If you really must have it, there's a McDonald's down the road that will sell you just ketchup packets. In my opinion, getting ketchup on a dog should be seen with as much social disdain as things like not covering your mouth when you cough, not giving up your seat to an elderly passenger on the train, or not taking your hipster crap off the seat next to you, and it's about time that some restaurant took it upon themselves to impose this.
The menu at Gene and Jude's is pretty basic. They've got dogs, fries, and tamales. Upon further inquiry, I found out that the tamales are microwaveable, so I wouldn't get those. I went to the standard order of a dog with everything and fries. In a matter of seconds I had my order.
The dog was clearly vienna beef and was on the smaller side. There wasn't really too much of a crisp snap when biting through the casing, which I find an essential aspect to a dog. The toppings were perfect. There was a sweet neon green relish as well as peppers, onions, tomatoes, and seasoning salt. The untoasted poppy seed bun was in typical Chicago dog style. Really it was a pretty standard dog.
To get to the dog, you had to dig past the real reason people keep coming back to Gene and Jude's, the French Fries. They come all wrapped up along with the dog, and there's a hefty portion. They were universally crispy, without one overly soggy example. I can't really describe how or why, but when I took a bite, I was immediately reminded of Walker Brother's hash browns. The same oily and crispy flavor seemed to have been magically compacted into these fries.
First off, if you live in the city, this is an awfully far way to go for a dog and fries. If you happen to find yourself in the River Grove area, then why not stop by. Even if you don't like it, all you'll lose is two dollars. I do however think that you will like it. The hot dog won't blow you away, but the fries just might. Also, if you're as lucky as I was, you'll get a show when some rube asks for ketchup on his dog. If you're wondering how it compares to The Wieners Circle, I'd say that the dogs are not as large or as good at Gene and Jude's, but the fries are much better. Also, both have an interesting atmosphere, but Gene and Jude's is definitely more appropriate. Overall I'd call them equivalent based on different counts at 3 out of 5 Pearls.