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.

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

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.

From coast to coast, a Chicago Style Hot Dog has to be made with Vienna Beef.

You read that correctly. From coast to coast, a Chicago Style Dog must be made with Vienna Beef. 

So far, I’ve asked three friends to name a place in their area that uses Vienna Beef to make Chicago Style Hot Dogs. 

A friend in Orlando, Florida told us about a place called Hot Dog Heaven, and from the results of a simple google search we found locations in Amherst, Ohio and Buffalo, Ney York. It’s looking more like a good Vienna all-beef hot dog is the best way to go. 

Our friends on the West Coast, San Diego to be exact, let us know about a place called Lefty’s Chicago Pizzeria who also serves a Chicago Style Hot Dog on their menu

Before you even get into California, depending the route you take, you can even get Chicago Style Hot Dogs at a place called a Taste of Chicago Restaurant and Tavern in Reno, Nevada. 

There’s a unique taste about a hot dog made in the style of Chicago. It’s a taste transplants crave, a taste tourists from Chicago find comforting, and it’s a taste you locals will come to enjoy. 

Hot dogs have been known to bring people together, after all, they’re as America as apple pie and baseball. And Vienna Beef has been proven to be the best there is when making a yummy Chicago Style Hot Dog. 

If you have a favorite place and want to share with us, just drop us a comment and send a few pictures. 

It’s Countdown Time.

Thursday was the day. The one day in the last two and a half months that would determine where we stood. 

Would we be back to the drawing board? Would we begin (really continue) our journey and move on to the next step. 

We pulled into the large parking lot at the Sangamon County Public Health building and began our setup for our first qualifying inspection. 

Before we could even unload anything from the truck we were asked if we were serving food. Once the guy realized we weren’t, he still had to have a look at the cart and actually asked if I could build him one and what I would charge him. It was looking to be a good day. 

I had agonized over last minute details the day before. I was making sure things worked properly. I really wanted to pass that inspection and move forward in our journey. 

We got it set up and I went in to summon the inspector I had been in contact with over the last two months. He came out and went to work. 

We are proud to say we passed the inspection and submitted our payment and application for the food service license. 


We are now ready to move on to the next phase of the plan. Finding a location. 

We will continue working behind the scenes to finalize a few other aspects of the business and will keep our customers informed as we go. 

It’s looking, once again, the we can expect an August 1, 2017

Stay tuned! 

Well, it’s funny now!

I guess I can look at it now and laugh. It’s not a hearty, full-belly laugh yet. And until the problem is actually fixed it’s still more of a small haha chuckle. 

Last weekend we were all set to test every major function of the cart. We had everything ready to go for this major milestone, or so we thought. 

When I was ready to purchase the hot water tank, the recommended tank was out of stock; I bought what I thought was a comparable tank. 

The tank promptly arrived and I was more pleased than ever since this heater was silver and it matched the cart perfectly. 

Here, see for yourself…


That’s the heater on the front of the cart. Looks great, doesn’t it? 

So, back to last weekend and our big test. I first filled the fresh water tank, and I connected the propane regulator to the heater, and then to the propane tank and turned it on.  After installing two D cell batteries I was ready to fulfill the hot water requirement for the health inspector. 

I flipped the switch to the water supply after hooking up the 12v battery I will use for power. My wife flipped open the hot water tap for the sinks and within seconds we had a good water flow. Time for the heater to work it’s hot water magic. The heater will automatically ignite to provide the needed hot water once the water flows through. 

We should hear a few audible clicks and then the heater should light….nothing. We shut the water off and double check all the connections. We out en the hot water tap and try again, still no ignition and clod water running from the hot tap. Well, crap! 

I immediately bust out the instruction booklet and hand it to my wife. She pours through the troubleshooting section while I triple check all connections. We find out it needs a minimum 25 psi, from the water pump, to ignite.  We soon learn the pump I purchased only puts forth water at 20 psi. 

Now, it was that me to test the heater to see if it was the heater or water pump causing the issue. The instructions said to hook it up to the garden hose to see if it was, indeed, a pressure issue. 

The garden hose produced enough pressure to ignite the heater and, ahhhhhh-angels signing-we had hot water. We now knew it was the pump. 

A little mad but somewhat relieved, I head off to purchase a pump that’s rated a little higher in the psi department. I picked up a 12v 1.0 gallon per minute (GPM) pump that uses almost 30 psi to deliver water. 

About 15 minutes later I had the new pump installed and I was ready for hot water. At this point, I’m jacked up like I’m waiting on a gold strike. 

A spin of the hot water tap and we wait, and wait, and wait. Still no hot water. The frickin new pump, with a 30 psi, still would not ignite the water heater. Son of a b…… 

We soon found that not only does the heater need a pump that delivers of 25 psi, but this heater also needs a MINIMUM 2.5 GPM WATER FLOW. 

So, the new heater is on order and we’ve had to push back inspection until we make sure the new heater will work with a 1.0 GPM water pump. 
Stay tuned Murica, we will keep you posted. 

Welcome to Mack Dawg’s Chicago Style Hot dogs

Beginning late last summer and right into this early spring, we have been a family on the go. We have been living the fast paced lifestyle many of us with careers and children, or any combination of anything that causes you to live an on-the-go lifestyle, and I realized something was missing.

A great, fast dinner was missing from the equation. While we dutifully tried to prepare crock pot meals for our busy nights, we often found the need for a quick dinner. Now, our town has many big named fast food places, but let’s face it, these places aren’t really fast anymore and they aren’t always budget friendly. We’re a fa,ily of four and two are growing like weeds. We soon tired of waiting twenty minutes for food and either getting it home and eating or eating inside, we always wasted an hour or more depending on where we went.

I knew what was missing. I grew up in Chicago and there are always plenty of hot dog stands providing a quick, inexpensive meal. Our town needs a good hot dog to fuel its residents at an affordable price.

As of this posting, the journey is not even begun. The cart is coming along nicely despite the shed blood and tears. Once the cart has been completed it;s on to the county inspector to make sure everything meets codes.

Chicago Style Hot DogsMack Dawgs Chicago style hot dogsMack Dawgs Chicago style hot dogs

We are aiming for an August 1, 2017 grand opening with a location to be determined. The site will be updated regularly.

We are asking you to subscribe to receive grand opening updates via email and also get alerts for specials and celebrations.