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

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.

Finally, a decently located local distributor.

From the minute we decided to take this journey we’ve been on a hunt. 

A hunt across many websites and google searches looking for a place to get the best possible products for Mack Dawg’s Chicago Style Hot Dogs. 

Now, as you’ve probably read, I grew up in the Chicagoland area and the absolute best is a Vienna Beef hot dog. 

Chicago Style Hot Dog

Look, there are hot dog stands spread throughout the city of Chicago and, sadly, not all of them use the best dog. 

One of my favorite joints was just down the street. It was a place opened by a Greek man in an old stand alone Tastee Freeze. He offered a 3 dog and fries special. He gave a lunch sack full of fries and used generic dogs probably loaded with fillers. But, the price was right. 

We began looking online for Vienna beef and could find them in Amazon, but the price with added shipping wouldn’t make their use feasible. 

Had we lived in a suburb just outside of Chicago, we could have obtained them in bulk for a decent price at Sam’s Club, but alas, we’re bringing Chicago Style Hot Dogs to Chatham, IL, a quaint suburb of Springfield in Central Illinois. 

We then went to the nearest wholesale food distributor and inquired about the brand of all-beef hot dog they carry, and soon learned it wasn’t Vienna beef. 

While driving in town one day, I noticed a place known as Country Market and found they sell eight packs of the beloved frank made in Chicago, but, again, the price was not feasible. 

Thankfully, I decided to ask the woman working the register if they order the dogs from the Vienna Beef website. 

“No,” she said, “we get them from a place in Decatur, Illinois.” 

At last, we may have found a decently located local distributor. A short fifty minute drive later and we soon learned we can get every item we need from food stuffs to paper stuffs, and crap to clean any messes we make. 

And with a minimum $200.00 order, they’ll deliver.