Another Season Ends and Plan for the future.

Wow, I can’t believe another season of Mack Dawg’s Chicago Style Hot Dogs is coming to a close. I also cannot believe it’s been a year since we shared anything on this blog.

We spent most of the year selling Chicago Style Hot Dogs from the southeast corner of the Chatham, IL square. It was a great summer but we’ve seen how much more exposure we get in our season ending location in front of the old Chatham firehouse, across the street from the Post Office.

We’ve seen a small uptick in traffics during September and October that we can honestly say we will be back to the general area along Walnut next season.

Now, the plan for next year is to eventually have Mack Dawg’s Chicago Style Hot Dogs open for lunch and dinner. We may open the season with dinner service only if we can open as early as March 2019!

Rest assured, by June 2019, we will be open for lunch and dinner in Chatham, IL. We will also debut two new menu items and a new look to the cart in 2019. Stay tuned!

We will share cart modifications on the blog over the winter as well as continue to promote our Facebook page @Mackdawgs

Chicago Style Hot Dogs

T-shirt front

Don’t forget you can purchase eGift Cards to use at Mack Dawg’s and we are also selling t-shirts with a share of the proceeds to benefit charity. Head on over to our shop now page and see what we have to offer.

Chicago Style Hot Dogs

T-shirt back

As always, we want to say thank you to all who have supported us this summer in any way. We know you share our posts, but lunch from us, and have come to our events and spread the word to family and friends. For that, we THANK YOU!

Mack Dawg’s Chicago Style Hot Dogs looks forward to next season as we continue to bring you delicious Chicago Style Hot Dogs, Polish Sausage, and Italian beef sandwiches. Oh, and our two new menu items for 2019.

Chomping at the Bit: Tales from the Dog Side

Wow, it had been almost five days since we had been out with the cart.

Between the wait for a new stock of buns, and having to work at my day job, it has been one crazy week.

Apparently, our little operation had caused quite the stir at the distribution center where Mack Dawg’s Chicago Style Hot Dogs gets its products.

First, there was a bun shortage. They had the buns allocated wrong in their system, but we like to believe we ran them out of stock as a new customer. lol

Then, we learned that we could not get any Polish Sausage as they hadn’t any left. Again, could this be our popularity has caused another problem. We will continue to believe it was us.

Finally, we were able to get back out on Thursday and Friday and had two, hot, but productive days. Two great days to be slinging hot dogs around Chatham, IL.

This past week we experimented with adding chili to the menu as a hot dog topping. We haven’t got that one down yet, so as of right now we still do not have chili. Please be patient with us.

We can, however, put a nice char on your dog or Polish if you’d like! Just ask.

We will definitely be back out there next week: however, we will be out Wednesday as well as Thursday and Friday. We will also move closer to our goal of getting on the square.

We will be setting up in the parking lot of the Chatham Tap Room all next week. So, you can find us at 104 E. Mulberry Street

Make sure you stay tuned. Friday we received a phone call that has us a little curious to say the least.

That phone call led to a meeting scheduled for Tuesday morning. We are not quite certain where this phone call may lead, but we are certainly going to tell you about it once we know.

A Move, some free t-shirts and/or Hats, and a possible addition to the menu.

Wow, things seem to be moving pretty quickly. When we envisioned Mack Dawg’s we always saw us setting up on the square.

We hadn’t heard from the city until after we had our grand opening. We were extremely lucky to have the spot across from the post office and we want to say a huge thank you to RP Lumber for their generosity.

We will be closed Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday and anticipate re-opening on Thursday on the south east corner of the square in Chatham, IL

WE will also roll out the prize alarm. If you’re order is being made or paid for when the alarm bells ring, you’ll win your choice of hat or shirt.

We can’t wait to see you out next Thursday at our new location.

Tales from the Dog Side: Finding a fit for the Dogs

When it rains it pours. If we didn’t have bad luck, we wouldn’t have any luck. If it can go wrong, it probably will. You can’t please everybody all the time. Murphy is an asshole, and any other cliches I can think of to describe life in the hot dog cart business.

We originally started this crazy ride with the intention of bringing another dinner option to Chatham, IL.

We got the idea because we spent many nights eating out last fall. Generally, we spent our regular dinner hours trucking the girls to all their practices, games, and events. Throw in a night of Sunday School (on a Wednesday) and we ate out a ton.

It was always an ordeal that took a minimum of an hour if we were lucky. The kids weren’t getting to homework until late.

Fast forward and dinners just haven’t worked out. We did four nights. Four nights that saw a total of forty hot dogs being sold. That’s a ten Dog a day average. Dinners were not good to us.

It almost seemed as if the town got quiet. A quiet only rivaled by the darkness of midnight. The town seemed deserted. Many reasons exist for this. Maybe many out of town era just want to get home and don’t want to stop. Maybe parents, like us, were racing home to pick up their children so they could be shuttled from event to event. Maybe dinners would best be served later. We don’t know and we can’t seem to predict.

We do know that lunches have been pretty decent and with a mobile, one person operator, cart it’s hard to stay out longer for far fewer sales. Nature does sometimes beckon. What’s a guy to do?

We would love to serve the public both lunch and dinner; however, dinner just hasn’t been friendly.

Here at Mack Dawg’s we do not give up so easily. In fact, we’ve written a few posts about the obstacles thrown our way.

We are, after all, mobile so we are planning a move, a possible reduction in days, but an increase in actual hours we serve delicious Chicago Style Hot Dogs to the fine folks of Chatham.

We are currently awaiting word if we can set up again in the Family Video parking lot. We had to submit an application.

We do know, however, that we can get a permit from the city of Chatham to set up on the square or Center Park. This is a location that we feel would be a good fit. There is more parking. There are picnic tables, and plenty of lawn to have an impromptu picnic when you come get a Chicago Style Hot Dog.

We feel we would be more visible and easily accessible. We are hoping that this exposure and ease of access will allow us to serve you better and longer. This may help us stay open into the early evening hours. Plus, we can advertise as Mack Dawg’s on the Square in Chatham. That just sounds cool to us.

So, please keep spreading the word and visit Mack Dawg’s Chicago Style Hot Dogs. You don’t have to come every day, but we’d love to see you once a week!

Tales from the Dog Side: The Dog Slinger vs. the Wind.

Well, it’s been quite entertaining. I’ve let it settle in for a few days and I’ve come to the conclusion that this thing we’ve put together is gonna be huge.

We had just about gotten everything working at an acceptable level when Mother Nature decided it was her turn to join in the fun that is throwing Mack Dawg’s Chicago Style Hot Dogs curveballs that drop out of the sky.

So far, we’ve been embarrassed and frustrated all to hell, but we’ve pulled through these minor setbacks. However, Mother Nature was brought in from the bullpen and threw us an unbelievable curve ball. She has claimed three umbrellas.

The first was remarkable to witness. I was wiping down the cart and talking to my daughter last Friday while riding out our first really windy day.

When we rebuilt the cart, we installed an umbrella in the middle of the cart. We neglected to install a cotter pin. The umbrella shot out of the cart. I dropped my rag and grabbed the umbrella. Has someone snapped a pic at that moment, I probably would have looked like Mary Poppins ready to take flight.

The shift in momentum from grabbing the umbrella caused it to slam to the ground and snap a rib. Ugh!!!!!

I took the other umbrella from its stand and, stupidly, places in in the same hole, while the cart was in the same spot, while the winds weren’t getting any weaker.

I didn’t catch the second umbrella as it flew out of the cart. It snapped a rib as well. We were done for the day. Apparently, regulations require a cover to keep random things falling from the sky getting in the food.

We bought two brand new umbrellas for Monday. One was purchased two hours before its demise. Yes, we lost a brand new umbrella yesterday. We were not happy.

Thankfully we survived Wednesday without a broken umbrella. Things are looking up. On Thursday, we used our 10 x 10 tent in preparation for a gig we have on Sunday.

We will be providing n Chicago Style Hot Dogs at a benefit on Sunday, September 10th at Soccer World in Springfield. Just come find the awesome cars and bikes on display.

With all the challenges that have arisen, and with the success being greater than the sum of failures, we can only see huge things for Mack Dawg’s. In fact, we have some plans in the works and we have set our sights high.

We did add another item to our menu.

Stay tuned.

Tales from the Dog Side: The Dog returns.

Well, you’ve read how we had a few little bumps and bruises happen, but we are happy to say the dog has returned to the corner of Walnut and State in Chatham, IL. (Down state, not the Chicago one)

Anyhoo, we finally got the weenie wagon all back together and started a late lunch service on Wednesday of this past week.

On Friday evening we had another first. We set up for our first dinner service. Originally, we were going to begin with dinners but so many had asked for lunch, we began there.

Unfortunately, haha, we have to keep our day job for now and this past Friday dictated we begin dinner service. We will continue with dinner service next week.

Mack Dawg’s has been invited to do a couple special events so we will be bringing the weenie wagon into town. We will keep you posted with the when and where.

After we’ve had a full week of dinner, we will decide whether lunch hours or dinner hours will take us through the end of the season.

Stay connected to the blog as we will begin having special events where we give away t-shirts and free meals.

The dog is back, baby!

Tales from the Dog Side: The Dog Bites

Wow, what a week we’ve had at Mack Dawg’s Chicago Style Hot Dogs! At the moment of this writing it isn’t even over yet.

There were more than a few times I wanted to cry this week. This past week was the furthest from what we had planned for its outcome, and it all began last Friday morning.

At some point early during Friday’s lunch shift, I noticed a great deal of water pooling near my battery box. We had hot dogs in the steamer and customers walking up. We had to serve on.

We made it through a few customers and had time to check in our issues. We soon discovered we overfilled the fresh water tank and had a little overflow, but that didn’t really account for the sizeable amount of water in the cart. There also was a leak at the pump where the water flows to the heater and sinks.


We noticed a weird bubbling of the hose right where it clamped to the pump. We were clueless. We spent the weekend replacing the damaged water hose and prepared for the new week. (Oh, did I mention we still hadn’t had an on-site inspection yet, so water leaking from anywhere had us in a near panic).

Monday arrived and we were ready to rock and roll for a new week. Week number two. It was gonna be a good week.

It wasn’t a very good week.

I had just noticed a couple of customers walking up to the cart and proceeded to wash my hands to ready myself for preparing their hot dogs.

I had just shut off the sink and was drying my hands when I heard a small pop! The pop was followed by a long hisssssss–followed by a loud sizzling sound. The hiss and sizzle was soon replaced by large amounts of steam that billowed like a smoking hay field. Next came the sound of the pump running.

I freaked just a tad. I quickly shut off the stove and shut down the pump. I then located the fire extinguisher and hoped I would need it. There were no flames just more water in the bottom of the cart. Arghhhhhhhhhhhh!

The newly run water line seems to have gotten pretty hot and the pressure from the pump burst the line, which shot into the bottom of the stove causing to steam rush. Once pressure was lost, the pump kicked on and aged me ten years if a day.

We spent Wednesday evening putting in a much more heavy duty, braided water line and were extremely excited about Thursday.

Thursday was the defining moment at this early stage of business. We had the van loaded and were just finishing the cart hookup to the hitch, and that’s when I saw it.

At this point, had I been in the desert I would have cried at the sight. Not tears of joy but tears of disgust at seeing more fr$&@”!? water. There was another leak.

A frantic inspection lead to the discovery of a loose clamp at the pump. Whew, a few turns of the nut driver and we’d be off! Oops, one too many turns of the nut driver and the beginnings of a tear.

I remembered I had bigger clamps of the sink and went to the rear of the cart to switch it out with the smaller one that didn’t fit the bigger water line.

I’ll probably remember the day as vividly as I do the births of all my children. It’s a day that will soon be looked upon with a smile and a big hearty burst of laughter, but, at that moment, I knew Thursday was broken beyond repair and there would be no hot dogs this day.

THE SINK WAS LEAKING FROM THE DRAIN!

On the hunt we went for a replacement sink. There is a restaurant supply store in Springfield called Serv-U, in fact, I’ve gotten a couple of great ideas from the guys over there.

Unfortunately, the sink they had that would fit needed to be ordered and shipped from the manufacturer. A minimum of three weeks.

Thankfully, my father-in-law came through yet again and mentioned sinks at Lowe’s. We found one and got the sink finished late Thursday evening. We were back rolling on Friday.

Friday was great; Monday was horrible. We had a small fire that forced us to have to go back to the drawing board.

That was a week ago and we’re just about ready to rock-and-roll again.

I cried some this past week. I wondered what the hell was going on and, of course, why were these things happening?

I learned something about myself in the process and about those around me.

I learned I can overcome many obstacles in a little time.

I learned my support group is top-notch and I couldn’t do this without them.

I learned to keep going or you’ll never get where you want to go!

Tales from the Dog Side

We made it through week one at Mack Dawg's. It's been an interesting week to say the least.

Tuesday morning came around after very little sleep and many, many thoughts of the future.

We had decided to put a hitch on the Impala to get us around town slinging delicious hot dogs.

The girls decided they wanted to help out and that's where things began to get interesting. I had to drive the girls out to the sight and go back home to load the car since a tiny Impala won't hold them and all the gear.

It took some maneuvering to fit everything into the car but I got it all in and set out to set up to serve Chicago Style Hot Dogs to the fine folks of Chatham, IL.

We've never experienced a grand opening of our own before. We were able to advertise some and build a small following before launch. Obviously, we were hopeful it wouldn't be a complete bust.

Alas, our first customer pulled up shortly after 11:30 am and we were officially in business.


Photo courtesy of Barbara Ruckman Soppe

The forecast had called for rain most of the day and we did muddle through two small showers and pulled off our first day, an eight hour day to boot.

The day gave us much hope and a few insights.
In fact, we did two late days and two lunches. The week went better each day we set up.

We were able to streamline our set up and break down process and work our stove and inventory a little better.

I had tremendous help from two of my girls and we decided to let them come out a little later in the day on day three. It was time to let dad do it all on his own. Heck, school will be starting soon and I'll be all by myself then so it was good practice.

Wouldn't you know it, we had our busiest hour of the week during the hour I was alone. It was quite comical.

Sometimes, I get so excited chatting with customers that I make their hot dog the wrong way and have to start over. Every time I did this the customer was quick to say don't worry about it and they said they'd take it the way I made it, but I couldn't have that. It's awesome for them to be forgiving, but we have to get YOUR order right.

We have decided to use poppy seed buns for all our hot dogs. If you want a plain bun, just ask. We will have some on hand every day.

More folks tried the Chicago Style Hot Dog and we thinks the tide may be turning. LOL

A big thank you to all who joined us this week. We will be back on Monday morning ready to serve the hungry people of Chatham.

Don't forget to tell your friends and don't be afraid to share our stuff on Facebook

The Journey is almost complete (not really, it’s just beginning)!

Wow, we can’t really believe that we are three days away from our grand opening.

There have been a few setbacks along the way, and for a brief minute I almost doubted an August 1 grand opening.

Once the cart malfunctions were addressed and we got the thumbs up from the health department, we set out to look for a location.

Our first choice was the parking lot of a local gas station. We had seen other’s selling their goods in that spot; we felt confident we could get it if the town didn’t let us operate on the square.

We soon learned why people set up to sell, but don’t often stay long term. We felt the rent the owners wanted was a tad steep for a mobile cart operation. Hey, if I wanted a big rent, I would have just rented a spot.

We had kind of been put in hold by the town. They really weren’t sure what the legalities were since no one had ever requested to open a mobile food cart long term in town.

But alas, the actual brain trust (my wife and business partner) knows things and she definitely knows people.

She knew of a prime location to begin operations, she spoke to the people in charge of said location, and they quickly agreed to let us set up. For that, we are extremely blessed, humbled, and thankful.

So, it appears as if it’s time for us to let you know where we are going to be and when.

We started this business with the sole idea of providing good quality food extremely fast and totally affordable. We guarantee we will feed a family of four for under $20.00.

However, many expressed an interest in having something this awesome available during the lunch hours.

So, we got to thinking and it didn’t take long for us to amend our plans.

We will officially be open for lunch at 11:30 am at 211 N. State street in Chatham, IL.

If you’re not sure of the address, just go to our locations and hours page or look for the yellow and red umbrellas.

Or look for this sign.

I remember when I got the hot dog itch!

I was a young newly wed living at my then mother-in-law's house.

My first experience in a hot dog stand as a worker came in the early morning hours after drinking and watching the Holyfield vs. Foreman fight.

My one and only task for that day was to prepare the potatoes and make the fresh cut fries for the day.

The kitchen gods make this large ass machine that peels potatoes and in all its karma glory it was loud.

Once those giant potatoes came out the bottom missing a good portion of its winter wear, they had to be washed, stabbed with a big fork and stuck upright in a hand operated French fry slicer.

I think I had to peel and slice one hundred pounds of potatoes for the day. I was miserable and couldn't wait to get back in bed and sleep off that nasty hangover.

That was my first small foray into the hot dog business. I was also once tasked with helping out at the hot dog stand during one particular lunch rush.

Photo from Hot Dog Profits

My former mother-in-law didn't like they way I wrapped the hot dogs for to go orders. I apparently didn't do it exactly the was she did. I know this because every time she saw me wrapping the hot dogs my way, she had to stop me and show me how to do it again, her way.

I'm pretty sure I could have easily done it her way, but it was so much more fun doing it my way and antagonizing her in the process.

While I was often upset in those days watching my former wife slave away at her mother's hot dog stand, I did see the potential in owning a successful stand.

There have always been two places I frequented in my youth that led to this fairy tale that involved me in the restaurant business. My former mother-in-law's hot dog stand and a tiny diner located across the street from my childhood home known as Christ's grill ( pronounced like Chris not like Christ).

We are now getting closer to fulfilling one of those fairy tales.

Soon we will be bringing Chicago Style Hot Dogs to Chatham, Illinois.