Gene’s and Jude’s still great!

Every neighborhood and suburban enclave of the Chicago area has it’s own hot dog stand, sub place, Italian beef shack, or pizza joint that is a local institution. Growing up in the Franklin Park – River Grove – Leyden Township area northwest of Chicago we had Jake’s (not affiliated with the chain) or Grand Stand, both in Franklin Park, for pizza, Al & Joe’s in FP or Ozzie’s, in Leyden Township, for sub sandwiches, The Beef Joint in River Grove or Scooby’s in Bensenville for Italian Beef sandwiches. There were a bunch of hot dog stands in the area but Gene’s and Jude’s, on River Road just north of Grand in River Grove was, by far, the place to go for hot dogs. 

Gene’s and Jude’s started in 1947 at Polk Street and Western Avenue by two guys who worked for the City of Chicago, Gene Mormino and Jude DeSantis. Gene soon lost the stand in a card game. By 1950 they had saved enough money to build a new stand in River Grove. The stand is still going strong today and often time there are lines around the inside of the building and out the door, even at 2 in the morning!
Gene’s and Jude’s menu is limited to Vienna Brand Hot Dogs, Fries (fresh cut from russet potatoes in front of the customers and cooked in old fashioned lard), and the paper wrapped tamales found in many Chicago area hot dog stands. Even though they will give you an argument about it, Gene’s and Jude’s  hot dogs are not in the strictest sense, “Chicago Style” hot dogs since the condiments only include mustard, relish, onions, and sport peppers. Fries are served wrapped up with the dog and there is no ketchup for the hot dogs or the fries. The normal pickle, tomato, celery salt and other condiments usually found on a Chicago Style hot dog are for whatever reason absent as well.
The absence of some of the normal condiments does not take away from the fact they serve up a great hot dog at Gene’s and Jude’s! At this point I must add the disclaimer that I have been eating these all my life and make it a point to stop and get a couple every time I am back in town. If you grew up on Super Dawgs or some of the more places that serve up a more traditional Chicago Style hot dog you may be loyal to what you grew up with. I can see where loyalty to a neighborhood joint that has a sentimental place in your psyche might cause you to wince when you hear that both Rachel Ray and the Serious Eats blog named it the best dog in America. It is always in the top 10 of Chicago’s best quick eats. Also It may be that Gene’s and Jude’s are an acquired taste especially to somebody who is not familiar with them. 
Notwithstanding, a week ago I got the chance to get back to Chicago. I visited some of the old haunts and made the trip to Gene’s and Jude’s. The place and hot dogs were just like I remember them! My wife grew up in Edison Park on the Northwest Side of Chicago and Superdawg was the place to go up there. She makes no secret of the fact that she does not like Gene’s and Jude’s hot dogs and tamales. I do agree with her assessment of the fries being too limp. They taste great, fried in that lard, like fries should be! The problem I think, is that they never have the deep fryer hot enough and the fries cook but do not get to the desired crispness. Other than that I have no complaints. This is a comfort food from my youth and, even though I now live 200 miles away,  I am still a loyal Gene’s and Jude’s customer!

                                        Gene’s and Jude’s  

                                         2720 River Road
                                         River Grove, IL 60171

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