“Nobody beats our wiener.” That’s Chicago Dawg House’s slogan.
Owner Kelly Keegan said he brought his business to Midtown Crossing last month because he wanted to have a good family restaurant where families could eat and not go broke.
Keegan had never owned a restaurant before but after 23 years in the corporate world, he was suddenly told his services were no longer required. He did receive a severance package and that was the money he used to buy Chicago Dawg House from its former owner, a friend of Keegan’s.
“He is a great guy but not a good businessman. My friend tried to do too much without having a good support staff,” explained Keegan.
When Keegan’s friend first told him he wanted to open up a hot dog stand he admits he thought his friend was nuts. But after Keegan tried the food at the former location, 108th and Maple, he said he was impressed. Keegan had had a little experience with Chicago cuisine, having spent a year and a half in the Windy City in his former life.
He laughed as he said he ate and drank his way through that town, putting on 40 pounds in the process.
Everything Keegan and company sell at Chicago Dawg House is shipped in from Chicago from the neon relish and pickles to the hard rolls and mustard and yes, the dawgs themselves. He admits there is one item they buy locally and that’s a brat they get from Stoysich. Other than that though, it’s all Chicago fare.
The menu leads off with the Traditional Chicago Dawg. Keegan said they dress the dawg by dragging it through the garden.
“We take an all-beef hot dog and load it up with tomatoes, a dill pickle spear, neon relish, two sport peppers, onions, natural celery salt and mustard. That’s a true Chicago dawg. And if the garden is too much, we can make your dawg with chili or chili and cheese,” Keegan explained.
All of the menu items are named after people and places in Chicago.
In addition to the dawgs, the restaurant offers polish sausages, brats, Italian beef sandwiches and hand-cut French fries. Popular daily specials include Sandberg Monday, featuring the Italian Beef sandwich and Footlong Friday.
The restaurant seats 75 and has two grills, one in front, so customers who want to may watch their food being prepared, and one in back. He said that means food gets out quickly, making it possible for the lunch crowd to come in, order, get served, eat and make it back to work in 45 minutes.
According to Keegan, the décor inside the restaurant is meant to make customers think of the ball field.
“I’ve got two green baseball stadium seats from Wrigley field, courtesy of the Ricketts. The red seats are from the Cincinnati riverfront, when they tore that stadium down. A neighbor of mine had them in his backyard and I convinced him to give them to us.”
A self-admitted Chicago Cubs enthusiast, Keegan also has a mural painted on the walls of the restaurant that features every member of his family as well as well-known announcer and legend Harry Carey singing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.”
Keegan is a huge fan of Carey and actually does an impersonation of him in the ads for Chicago Dawg House.
He said he plans to install a flagpole outside the restaurant so he can fly the big “W” flag each time the Cubs win a game. It’s a tradition that goes back to the ‘30s in Chicago. If the Cubs won, a “W” flag could be seen flying over the stadium so those who were on the train could see if their beloved team won.
“Chicago Dawg House is a fun place to hang out, eat and get away from your cube for an hour. I really wanted a cozy atmosphere. When it’s full, there’s a nice vibe to it, making you feel like you’re at the ballpark,” said Keegan.
Chicago Dawg House, 3157 Farnam Street, Sunday 11 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and Monday through Saturday 10:30 a.m. to 9:00 p.m., visit chicagodawghouse.com or call 402.504.1234.