Occupation: He and business partner Paul Frautschi are the Mad City Hot Dog Kings
Why you should go: If you're not hip to Chicago hot dog culture, check it out. The mere thought of a Vienna dog wit' da woiks is enough to kick-start a Pavlovian reaction in any bona fide homey from the Toddlin' Town.
Hizzoner Paul Soglin implied on his blog that your place is too hygienic to evoke the great hot dog stands of the Windy City. Can you vouch for your dogs' authenticity? Paul knows a true Chicago hot dog, unlike some reviewers, and we thank him for writing about us. We're tidy, but I absolutely can vouch for our dogs' authenticity. We get them fresh from Vienna Beef every week. We use the same buns and condiments every true Chicago stand uses. We researched Chicago dogs for six months before we started. We went on a tour with the vice prez of Vienna and another with Pat Scala of Chicago's legendary Scala's Beef, where the city's legendary Italian beef and sausage were invented.
We also attended Hot Dog University in Milwaukee, which, though it's in Wisconsin, is all about Chicago dogs. We learned some tricks of the trade that would have taken us months to pick up on our own - like how hot dog stands need to be run by characters with a little grittiness and toughness, plus the ability to really relate to people. We look for that in our employees.
Did you model this joint on a favorite Chicago dog shack? No, but we took in a lot of the esthetics we saw there, like our checkerboard counter and the setup. In Chicago, hot dog stands are just that - stands. One thing we've realized is that in Madison, people just don't get that concept. Even though we have curbside delivery, we've lost customers 'cause we don't have seating. We're gonna give in a little bit and move the counter to the back and put three bistro tables up in front. We'll be closed this Thursday and Friday (Jan. 10-11) to do the remodeling.
The other thing we're changing is fries. We just had chips, and people were walking across the street to the Parthenon to get fries to go with their dogs. So we're putting fries on the menu. We'll put 'em in a paper bag with the salt, shake 'em up, put the dog in and let 'er rip, in the great Chicago tradition.
You've got the requisite Maxwell St. Polish, and the Italian beef. Is the veggie dog legit? When we started we said we were going to be a true Chicago beef stand - we weren't going to do veggie anything. We love beef - the combo, with Scala Italian beef and sausage and hot giardiniera peppers, is my favorite, for sure. But this is Madison. We sell four cases a week of veggie dogs. I've never tried one, but people say they're the best they've ever had.
Madison is so diverse - we get people from all over the country who request the dogs they love, so we've added a whole section of regional dogs to the menu, like slaw dogs and bull dogs from the South, and a Wando Dog with bacon in honor of Wando's bar right here on University Avenue. You'd never see dogs like these in Chicago, but we like to keep our customers happy.