I think I’ll start discussing options for stops now, giving you some brief descriptions of the places under consideration, plus some pros and cons for each. I’ll try to group them in categories and we can narrow down the final choices over the next four months.
Despite Des Plaines' pedestrian existence, when it comes to quality fast food, we have an embarrassment of riches. We have four top notch Hot Dog Stands, plus a new high end Burger Joint, American Wildburger, that will open in the next few weeks (Report on that to come). The Hot Dog options include the aforementioned Paradise Pup, Mr. Pup, Rand Red Hots, and Happy Dogs. I’ll try to give as honest an account of each without showing any personal bias.
Here’s the breakdown: Paradise Pup Why we should go:
The Pup has one of the best Cheeseburgers in the entire Chicagoland area. Char grilled to order and served on a challah bun with Merkt’s cheese and all the toppings; it is spectacular! Also, great Char Dogs and seasonal shakes. Why we should think twice:
Long lines, limited indoor seating (a big consideration for February), and they serve a frozen institutional variety of fries. HOWEVER
…You can get those fries layered with Merkt’s Cheddar, sour cream, and crumbled bacon. Mr. Pup Why we should go :
They have an extensive fast food menu including my fave, a great Grilled Chicken Sandwich. Also, while they serve frozen institutional fries, they use a “steak fry” cut and cook it up absolutely perfectly. Crispy, slightly chewy skin yields to a steaming hot fluffy/creamy interior that is French Fry Heaven. Why we should think twice:
Although the menu is extensive, and the Hot Dogs are good, it is still a fairly ordinary experience overall. Sometimes it’s better to do less stuff and do it really well. Rand Red Hots Why we should go:
A brand new Hot Dog Joint in a refurbished classic Drive-In. Rand Red Hots has chosen to go the “Gene & Jude’s” route on a number of levels:
They offer a very limited menu and put out an excellent product. Steamed Dogs, Char Dogs, Polish, Maxwell St. Polish (The Maxwell is char-grilled and served with mustard, grilled onions, and sport peppers. The standard is served with mustard, raw onion, and relish), and Tamales; plain or on the bun. That’s it. No burgers, no Gyros, no Fish Sandwich, no Chicken Nuggets.
They also follow the G&J model by wrapping fresh cut fries right up in the wax paper with the Hot Dog. I like their fries better than G&J because they are less greasy and cooked a little more well done, giving them a firmer, crisper texture and better flavor. Also, unlike Gene & Jude’s, you can get ketchup for your fries and no one looks at you like you just committed a murder.
Very good milk shakes, too; but not as many specialized flavors as Paradise Pup. Why we should think twice:
No reason at all. Good food, easy parking, reasonable prices, and good service. Happy Dogs Why we should go:
as good as Paradise Pup, plus a full fast food menu. I tried a Burger here a few weeks ago and was genuinely surprised at how good it was. Fresh, hand packed beef served on a bun similar to PP’s version, plus it was griddled on all four sides! They even managed to cook a ¼ lb. Burger to medium rare! Also, fresh cut fries, a missing element at Paradise Pup Why we should think twice:
Parking can be tough around this place. There are “No Parking” signs on both sides of the side street Happy Dogs is located on. Very limited parking on the busy man street. If we can overcome that issue, this might be a better alternative to Paradise Pup’s limited seating problem. American Wildburger Why we should go:
They’re not open yet, so I’ll need to post info as it becomes available. They have a good concept: 100% organic, grass fed beef with fresh toppings, served at a reasonable price. Also, Turkey and Chicken Burgers. Fresh cut fries, too. As business develops, they may follow “Hot Doug’s" path, offering gourmet and wild game meats, but in Burger form rather than encased meats. Why we should think twice:
Same as Paradise Pup; limited seating in a very small space. More on American Wildburger once they’ve opened up.
That's it for the Fast Food entries. I think we should pick two of the five; one for Burgers and one for Encased Meats. Looking forward to the feedback and reasoning for your picks.
Next up, I'll start laying out some of the Ethnic Food options. As I said before, just off the top of my head, we have multiple Mexican choices, Salvadoran, Eastern European, and Vietnamese. More to come as I do my research.
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