by Michael Bowen, Mike Corrigan and Ted S. McGregor Jr.
Cap'n juicy's super duper Weenies
114 N. Howard St. * 455-6750
What's not to like about a hot dog vendor whose mascot is a chubby little guy in tights and a cape? Cap'n Juicy's is located just inside the Parkade Plaza on North Howard. The yellow and red storefront has the festive feel of a carnival concession stand -- no indoor seating, you just walk right up to the window and order from an array of weenie options. Most of the menu's stripped-down and fancied-up creations can be assembled using a variety of dogs: the kosher, all-beef hot dog, Kielbasa Polish sausage, bratwurst or the zesty Longhorn German sausage. Signature creations include the Police Dog and the barbecue Dog (with spicy red or Longhorn barbecue sauce). (MC)
Mike: Reuben Classic ($2.69)
This Reuben Classic ("Reuben" in name only) was built upon a Longhorn German Sausage alongside a thick bead of horseradish mustard. It was then smothered in a blanket of sauerkraut and topped with melted Swiss cheese. While I had some objections to the positioning of the cheese (shouldn't it go dog-cheese-kraut?), my overall impression of the concoction was favorable. Those Longhorn sausages are substantial and deliciously spicy. And I certainly appreciated the sturdy yet yielding sandwich roll that did such a nice job of holding the whole (potential) mess together.
Ted: Polish Kielbasa($1.99)
You want a clue to how downtown revitalization is going? The fact that street hot dog vendors are making a go of it speaks volumes. Even though the Cap'n is in a sheltered space, it's low-rent all the way -- and that's how you can sell a dog for $2 to hungry downtown workers. People find the cheap lunches, and the key here are the add-ons. A wiener goes from a snack to a meal when you load it up with goodies. I asked for "the works" on this baby, and it came with onions, relish, mustard (plain yellow), mayo and ketchup. It was a pile of food, but the Polish dog itself was the big story here. Nothing fancy, but just a good, high-quality piece of meat. Aye, aye, Cap'n!
Bo: New York Kraut Dog ($2.69)
I will never wean myself from wieners. Try as I may to eat healthy, I just can't drop the hot dog habit. As a summer job during high school, I ran a poorly attended hot dog stand -- but my boss insisted anyway on loading up the rotisserie every day. I ended up eating way too many wrinkled, hardened hot dogs. (Mmm, the memories.) Imagine my relief, then, when I found myself munching on Cap'n Juicy's New York Kraut Dog, with the sauerkraut laid on so thick that it entirely enveloped my wiener. With a large bun, ample kraut, the mustard not overly spicy, and a particularly juicy German sausage, Cap'n Juicy makes weenies that are super-duper indeed. This one was a satisfying meal in itself.
2303 N. Ash St. * 326-5284
This soup, sandwich and hot dog joint is located in the glass and steel business block across from the Albertson's on North Ash. I whiz by it each day on my way to work, and that Snappy's sign featuring a big red wiener catches my eye ever time. Closer inspection reveals it to be bright and clean inside. Choosing from four different dogs is your starting point. Loading up your dog of choice with your choice of at least 20 toppings is similar to the drill at Subway. Real cheeses, free toppings, friendly service and four different tasty dogs are the rule at Snappy's. And we satisfied three grown men for just a little over eight bucks. These guys deliver, too. (MC)
Mike: Snappy's Original Foot-Long ($2.99)
My foot-long was custom-loaded (by me) with shredded cheddar, sliced red onions, dill relish (sweet relish was also available) and Dijon mustard. It was just the right amount of toppings for the standard -- though extra-long -- soft hot dog bun. The wiener itself lived up to its "snappy" reputation with definite "snap" to the outer skin, a firm overall texture and surprisingly full flavor. I was impressed with the flavor and freshness of the toppings as well -- they made a good initial impression from behind the glass in the restaurant, but I liked them even better in my mouth.
Ted: Smoked Sausage ($1.99)
How can you screw up a hot dog? Seriously! It's hard to do, but the actual wiener is where things can go wrong. These days, you can get fresh, designer sausages at places like Huckleberry's -- even Emeril offers the prefab kind at your local grocery store with stuff like sun-dried tomatoes in them. It's kind of like the microbrew treatment for tubes of meat. With so much good stuff out there, this smoked sausage was a bit of a disappointment -- very plain and straight-forward. "What do you want for two bucks?" you say? Good point. While no home run dog, this was yummy nonetheless, with provolone, relish and one of the many mustards Snappy's thoughtfully offers. As a quick, cheap bite, I have no complaints.
Bo: Deluxe Chili Cheese Jumbo Dog ($1.99)
Now Snappy's may be just a storefront on Ash with an Xbox stuck in the corner and misspellings on the reader board ("Hawain Salad"), but for all you dog and sausage fans out there, it offers an impressive lineup of toppings, starting with six different kinds of mustard. Disdaining the nutritional gods, I loaded up my frankfurter. 'Twas a thick dog o' considerable girth with crisp white onions, a generous amount of stringy mozzarella, fresh tomato slices and chili that didn't overwhelm the rest of the package. While wrapped in an undistinguished bun, this $2 lunch-unto-itself was tasty and filling -- enough to make any manly man proud. As I chowed down, I even felt my testosterone spiking.