When I ventured out in search of something interesting for lunch today, browsing sidewalk placards advertising daily lunch specials, I was suprised to find that a long-closed Wendy's Hamburgers location on Vine Street between 6th and 7th had reopened as a fast food hot dog\burger\fries place named Dinks.
Mind you, there are very few fast food places in town that are independently owned and not parts of a chain, but this one definitely is
Noting the special (4.50 for a dbl cheeseburger, fries, and a drink shown on the sidewalk placard on the lower left) I headed on in and checked the simple but very
Lots of cool roadfood-ish stuff!
Chicago style all beef dogs (need to get the brand before John Fox quizzes me)
deep fried twinkie
home made onion rings
I didn't get a good pic of the burger and fries, but it was decently good for the price, and definitely cooked when I ordered it rather than from a bin, and presented in a wax-paper lined basket. Grilled onions were available, and at no extra charge. The fries are shoestring, and were hot and tasty.
I saw someone else with an order of onion rings, and these were of the very large, hand breaded variety. They looked absoutely great.
I was told on inquiry that the chili is bean-less (yeah yeah, I know, someo of you feel chili should never have beans, but that's just it, some places do put beans in there, so sue me) and thicker than cincinnati-style chili.
I will be back again soon to try more things and get some non-blurry food pics. Update 4/11/206
: I have been back to Dink's several times since my original report, and have found that in general, we have a good idea here that is still a bit rough around the edges, but I think - and hope - it gets worked out by the omnipresent owner/manager
(oh, and no....I didn't eat this all in one visit, hehe)
The regular burger (is very thin and preformed but tasty, and grilled onions are available and free. Unfortunately, whatever method they are using to store hamburger buns is leaving them dry and crunchy on the edges, and usually concentrated on one side. I intend to speak to the manager about this. Still, a good looking burger. Pricey at 1.75, 1.99 with cheese, for the size. Oh - and the cheese is a swiss/american blend.
I had noticed on every visit that the onion rings looked fabulous, so I had to get an order myself. These are the real deal; large whole ringlets of yellow onion batter dipped and fried golden brown. Very, very tasty. But despite the quality, I still argue with the 2.00 price tag.
Because of the packaging, I can't show you much more on the Frito pie other than it is as genuine as it gets - chili and cheese dumped into a real honest to goodness bag of Fritos. Got to love it :-) The chili is not Cincinnati style, but rather a much thicker, much meatier beanless concoction that reminded me to an extent of really good (americanized) taco filling. Tasty.
The weirdness continues with the fried twinkie. I swear, if I eat here again tommorrow I think my oil to blood ratio will approach 1 to 1 :-) Anyway - it's cheap (a buck) and interesting and worth a try. The folks at CinWeekly agreed -[url='http://cinweekly.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/a1/20060524/ENT01/605240359/']Link[/url] . Dink's batters a genuine twinkie, then they deep fry it, then drizzle it with raspberry sauce and sprinkle on a bit of powdered sugar. Reminds me of something one might find at a food vendor at a state fair, only doesn't taste quite as good.
Of course, the focus of the menu here is on the dogs. I asked the owner(Ken - a very friendly and always-there owner, a good sign for any startup business), and he says he uses a Best brand dog and a Vienna Beef polish, but I didn't get the weights - sorry JF :-). He grills the dog, and he deep fries the polish. I think I'd prefer it the other way around, but decided to check them both out in their normal configurations. I like the dog with the chili and cheese - kinda like a really big, more substantial,meatier cincinnati-style cheese coney. The polish, less so - the dry hoagie bun is too large and doughy and kinda overwhelms the taste of the sausage itself. I'll have to ask if I can get this grilled and on the regular bun next time.
They make their shakes (1.90) on one of those old fashioned mixers ( that sound almost exactly like the drill at your friendly local dentist's office) one at a time, not from premix from a spigot. Oddly, no malts, just shakes. Thick enough to keep my straw from moving, and much more a rich chocolate flavor with less sweetness. I'd like to see them pick up some malt powder, tho, as I certainly prefer malts to shakes, the powder is fairly shelf-stable, and would add little to food costs. Heck, it could even be a 5-10 cent upcharge :-)
The cheesesteak is the highest priced item on the menu at 4.99, and is unfortunately pretty nondescript and a bit small for the price. For some reason, many vendors selling cheesesteaks out this way seem to think that green bell peppers are something automatically included. Dunno why, but it's true here as well. I'm all but certain they are just one of many optional toppings you can request (and sometimes pay extra for) in Philly. It's not bad, but it needs more cheese (it's barely visible under the meat - this is a CHEESE steak, you know?) and less cooking time for the crisped-edge and dry shaved steak. I should add that I am almost certain the cheese is the same swiss-american blend sliced cheese used on the hamburger (pictured above). In a conversation I had with Ken later, he indicated that he has cheese wiz available on request in place of the swiss-american slices. He also said he's considering slicing his own steak meat on premises, with the hope of providing a bigger and better sandwich (as he puts it "I want to have a really BIG cheesesteak"), but is weighing the feasibility of it for now.
Ken tells me he is going for the look, feel, and taste of a retro 50's dog and burger type joint, much like what one might have found at a drivein back then, and I think he is on the right track but needs to rework some of his pricing and get a few quality issues under control. I have high hopes, and will be visiting again in the near future. Update 5/17/2006
: I knew Ken was going to offer a half pound dog called a Homewrecker at some point, but I guess he has it on the menu now....the following snippet appeared in the local Cinweekly free newspaper
from http://cinweekly.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/a1/20060517/ENT0105/605170352/1047/rsscin13 DOWNTOWN
"Cheap, fast, fun, good."
That's what you'll get at Dink's, according to owner Kent Vandersall. The new restaurant (located in a former Wendy's on Vine Street) is a retro 1950s-style eatery specializing in hamburgers, hot dogs and milkshakes. Dink's also carries treats like cherries jubilee ($1.88) and deep-fried Twinkies ($1).
Vandersall says customers enjoy Dink's hot dogs - the Chicago ($2.49) and half-pound "Homewrecker" ($4.99) varieties in particular. "If you can picture a half-pound hot dog, you can imagine why we call it the Homewrecker," he says.
Dink's is located at 628 Vine St., downtown. Hours are 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday-Friday. For more information, call (513) 621-1461. Update 5/30/2006
: I had to stop by when the board out front said the special was a filet mignon sandwich with fries and a drink for 5 bucks. FIVE BUCKS! Great sandwich, good tender beef cooked medium, and of course an excellent value. My only complaint is that the flimsy standard hamburger bun Dink's uses dries quickly and has little body to it, so it falls apart quickly. I'm hoping they'll switch to a bun with a little more substance to it - not larger, just a stronger body - although I realize that food costs have to be kept minimal.
I also noted today that the menu has some new additions: the aforementioned "home-wrecker" half pound hotdog, a grilled cheese, and a tossed salad. I imagine the menu will be in flux for a while as this fledging enterprise finds it's footing at a location where two chains.....Wendy's and Empress....have both failed. Update 6/2/2006
: Our local dining reviewer, Polly Campbell, concentrates most of her efforts on very pricey restaurants where the chefs are minor local celebrities, but this week she stopped by Dinks and gave him some love. The article includes a picture of Ken (the owner/manager) at the pick up counter with a couple ofhs specialities.
Here's the link: http://news.enquirer.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/AB/20060602/ENT01/606020306/