"Dragged through the garden” (or “run through the garden") is hot dog lingo for a hot dog with everything on it (also called “the works"). New York City hot dogs usually don’t have that many additional ingredients, but Chicago hot dogs always do.
“Run it through the garden” is cited from at least 1966, referring to a “hamburger with everything” order at a drive-in. “Run it through the garden” is cited again for a hamburger in 1971, and the same writer used the term in a Chicago hot dog context in 1972. In 1973, Atlanta’s famous Varsity drive-in’s owner Frank Gordy stated that “run it through the garden” was original Varsity slang for a “hamburger all the way.”
Wikipedia: Chicago-style hot dog
A Chicago-style hot dog is a steamed, boiled, or broiled all-beef hot dog on a poppy seed bun, which originated in the city of Chicago, Illinois. The hot dog is topped with mustard, onion, sweet pickle relish (usually a dyed neon green variety called “Nuclear Relish"), a dill pickle spear, tomato slices or wedges, pickled sport peppers, and a dash of celery salt; sometimes, but not always, cucumber slices; but never ketchup.
The complete assembly is sometimes called “dragged through the garden” because of the unique combination of condiments. It is taboo to put ketchup on a Chicago hot dog; some hot dog stands don’t even stock the condiment.
Drag It Through The Garden - Chicago Hot Dogs!
So, what makes a proper Chicago hot dog? First of all, the dog itself should be a bright red color, should snap when you bite into it, and should have a bit of spice to it - the kind of dogs that are sometimes called “red hots.” The dogs should, traditionally, be steamed, not boiled or grilled, and served on a doughy poppyseed bun, with the following condiments:
- chopped onions
- tomato wedges
- “sport peppers” (to be either eaten or thrown at cars - your choice)
- bright green relish (the proper kind should look almost neon)
- a whole pickle spear
- celery salt
Some places add might add cucumber slices, green pepper or lettuce, but any place that adds ketchup when you ask for “everything” is not serving up a Chicago hot dog - period. The best places make you add ketchup to the dog yourself, and some of the truly hardcore places don’t have ketchup on the premises at all - and will laugh at those who request it.
19 May 1966, Galveston (TX) Daily News, “Teen Talk Tuff On Adult Trees” by Kitty Kendall, pg. 8B, col. 1:
When Karen Breland and her friends order a hamburger at a drive-in, “the waitress goes out of her tree because we ask for a hamburger and tell her to run it through the garden.”
Translation from Karen, 15, a ninth-grader at Lovenberg Junior High: “The waitress goes out of her mind when we say a hamburger with everything.”
28 July 1971, Tucson (AZ) Daily Citizen, “Maybe She Can Sew” by Don Schellie, pg. 17, col. 3:
The cheeseburger had been grilled, bunned, and run through the garden for tomato, lettuce, onion and pickle, and the fries were ready, too.
21 June 1972, Tucson (AZ) Daily Citizen, “Ptomaine Ptony” by Don Schellie, pg. 25, cols. 1-2:
Ptony did business out of one of those carts you used to see all over the streets of Chicago. He spread his particular kind of gustatorial joy at various street corners on the Northwest Side.
By day he operated in the vicinity of Schurz High School; night found him a few miles away, hard by Portage Park.
For 20 cents you could get a plain hot dog on a plain bun. A nickel more and Ptony would “run it through the garden,” and it was that garden trip that made it special.
It was a work of art.
I don’t know where Ptony got his hot dogs. it was the sort of thing you’d rather NOT know. But they were plump and juicy and always steaming hot.
With a practiced motion he’d lay open a long, fresh bun with his fierce-lloking knife, then coat one side with mustard, the other with spoonsful of pickle relish. On that spicy bed he’d gently place the hot dog.
Wedges of tomato came next, slipped in one after another the full length of the bun. Over this, chopped onion. Piles of chopped onion. With a no-nonsense flip of his wrist, he’d add salt and pepper—exactly the right amount—from a pair of large, buttered tin shakers.
A hot pepper—thin, wrinkled, yellowy-green—laid lovingly on top, and the green and white and pink and yellow and red creation was complete.
24 August 1973, Naples (FL) Daily News, “The Varsity Sells 22M Burgers Daily” (22,000—ed.), pg. 8A, col. 1:
ATLANTA, Ga. (AP)—The man who calls himself “the grandaddy of the fast food business” says business is better than ever despite rising prices and the specter of food shortages.
“I run this place like Paderewski plays the piano,” grinned Frank Gordy, millionaire owner of The Varsity, a 2 1/2-acre landmark near the Georgia Tech campus. Gordy calls it the world’s largest drive-in restaurant.
Generations of customers have learned the short-order jargon Gordy said his curbhops invented. “Coffee with cream is Joe Ree,” he explained. “Two hot dogs with mustard, two yellow dogs. A hamburger all the way? My boys say, ‘Run it through the garden.’”
By Robert Olmstead
Published by Vintage Books
He tells her he wants french fries and two hot dogs with mustard, relish and onions. “Two dogs,” the waitress says, “run ‘em through the garden.”
12 April 1989, Chicago (IL) Daily Herald, “Japan: Hot dog on its way,” section 4, pg. 2, cols. 2-3:
‘The hot dog business has its own special language—like ‘Run it through the garden’ means everything on it,” Portillo said. “Did you know there are 256 different ways to fix a Portillo’s hot dog? It can be a nightmare.”
You Know You’re in Illinois When...:
101 Quintessential Places, People, Events, Customs, Lingo, and Eats of the Prairie State
By Pam Henderson and Jan Mathew
Guilford, CT: Globe Pequot
The complete assembly issometimes called “dragging it through the garden,” but the more common term is “the works.” To be frank, Chicago hot dog eaters are fine with putting anything on a dog except catsup.
Chicago Cooks: 25 Years of Food History with Menus, Recipes, and Tips from Les Dames D’Escoffier Chicago
By Carol Mighton Haddix
Published by Agate Publishing
CHICAGO CHEDDAR DAWGS
In the city that loves hot dogs, the Chicago dog reign supreme, A Vienna Beef frank is served on a poppy seed roll and “dragged through the garden,” as true dog connoisseurs say. For the uninformed, that means your dog will be topped with yellow mustard, sweet pickle relish, chopped onion, fresh tomato, a pickle spear, peppers, and a dash of celery salt. The Chicago Cheddar Dawg featured here is a variation on that theme that appeals to cheeseheads everywhere!
-- Elixabeth Karmel