The Great Hot Dog Project: Mustard’s Last Stand, Plush Pup, Goodi’s
[This is the fifth in a running sequence featuring one of my favorite street foods: The Chicago Style Hot Dog. A snappy sandwich which can be considered a 400 calorie snack or the cornerstone of a typical Chicago lunch from 1983: two hot dogs, a basket of fries and a Coke. Check out the first installments here.
Chicago Style Dog Official Ingredients: Poppy Seed Bun, Steamed Hot Dog, Yellow Mustard, Chopped White Onions, Mint Green Sweet Pickle Relish, Tomato Wedges, Dill Pickle Spear, Sport Peppers and Celery Salt.]
Mustard’s Last Stand
1613 Central, Evanston, IL
Ah, yes, a trip to another Hall of Fame stand. Nestled next to Northwestern University’s Ryan Field sits a true gem of a hot dog stand. Of all of the hot dog stands I’ve been to, this one feels most like home–if my home were a 1980’s hot dog stand. The place screams 1983: the golden age of the Chicago dog. It’s kind of dumpy, in a perfect Chicago Hot Dog kind of way. When I buy a Chicago dog, I don’t want to pay for the owner to operate a nice restaurant. I do want at least 30 years of history. Without checking, I’d say there’s a 90% chance of a signed photo of Bill Murray from Ghostbusters on the wall.
The dog is a tad pricey at $3.00, but that probably reflects gameday pricing in the fall for Wildcat Football… over-nostalgic drunken alumni waxing on about the greatest hot dog around. The dog was a classic, however. The bun was a bit soggy and it seemed as though a good portion of the poppy seeds had fallen off, but the dog was healthy and the tomato was memorable. The relish wasn’t neon green, but it was delicious nonetheless. The chopped onions were notably irregular, as if grandma had just chopped them with a kitchen knife.
The dog doesn’t stack up that well when one prioritizes price, as is done in the Hot Dog Quotient, but Mustard’s Last Stand is probably the first place I would recommend as a counterpoint to my equation. Sometimes there’s just more to a hot dog stand than a quality dog at a good price and that’s worth paying for. I’d cough up a couple of quarters for the atmosphere and nostalgia. It’s not the prettiest dog, but it gets the job done in style.
Mustard’s Last Stand
Hot Dog Score: 6.5
Restaurant Experience: 9.0
Hot Dog Quotient: 5.5
5344 N. Cumberland, Chicago, IL
Plush Pup is a decent place. Nothing too memorable, just a solid hot dog that costs about a quarter or two too much. The most notable thing about the Plush Pup hot dog is that it’s available as a Char Dog. Technically, a Chicago dog is boiled, but I really like the char-grilled flavor, so there it is. Call me a fraud. There aren’t too many places that grill the hot dogs, so if that’s your thing, keep Plush Pup in mind.
The hot dog came with a poppy seed bun, yellow mustard, pickle, neon relish, onion, a great tomato and the always confusing cucumber. No sport peppers and no celery salt. Disappointingly, most of the poppy seeds had rubbed off of the bun. Probably the worst bit is that Plush Pup suffers from “skinny weiner” syndrome. I gotta say, it’s a little small. Considering the blunders above, you may be surprised at my rating. I guess that’s the power of char-grilled flavor. The bottom line is that Plush Pup is a little overpriced but worth it if you like char dogs.
Hot Dog Score: 5.5
Restaurant Experience: 5.0
Hot Dog Quotient: 4.7
9645 N. Milwaukee, Niles, IL
Goodi’s isn’t your traditional hot dog stand. They’ve got a pretty big menu for fast food, with a lot of Greek options like kebabs and gyros. For me, this was a quick grab-n-go with absolutely no complaints. It was a simple, clean place with good, low-priced fast food.
The Chicago Dog came with all of the proper ingredients, but the bun was fairly dry and had a wheat bread-like hard crust. My favorite part of these dogs was the healthy dose of celery salt, which came as a very pleasant surprise. I judged a book by its cover and presumed the dogs would come without celery salt. Thank Goodi’s for reeling my hot dog ego back in.
Hot Dog Score: 5.0
Restaurant Experience: 4.0
Hot Dog Quotient: 5.0
Here are the updated rankings. Currently the Hot Dog Quotient is HDQ = (Score ^1.5)/Price. Let me know if you have any feedback.