A warning: If you're a cat person, or if you're allergic to canines, Gold Coast's Downtown Dogs may scare you. This is an establishment that truly believes in its "dogs" theme, producing sweet, plump hot dogs and pummeling your eyes with a bazillion images of puppies. The front of the counter doesn't spare an inch – every single centimeter is covered by hundreds of doggie photographs (most cute, some ugly, others frightening). There are two television screens, rotating through pictures of – yep, dogs. Dogs wagging their tongues, wearing medieval jousting costumes and frolicking around the backyard. On the wall, a giant dog seems poised to obliviously terrorize the Chicago skyline.
Once you shake out of your canine-induced trance, you can check out the menu, highlighted by "da dogs of Chicago." Thankfully, we're talking about hot dogs this time, with downtown dogs, cheddar dogs, and bratwurst all coming in around the $3-$5 range (including the incredibly sinful cheddar bratwurst), and each coming with all the fixin’s you would expect.
Burgers check in at $4.55-$5.45, but offer up some fairly unique tastes: the German burger, topped with warm sauerkraut and melted Swiss cheese, and the Swiss olive burger, for those who like their beef with chopped green olives. Chicken tacos, quesadillas and tamales help diversify things from just an American affair.
Aside from all the dog pictures, Downtown Dogs has one other defining feature: lite-rock radio, so you can enjoy your burgers and fries with Michael Bolton. There are a few stools for window-watching, if you'd rather watch humans walk by than puppies on the TVs. But why would you? The dogs are cute and the franks are delicious – I'd say that's a win-win.
Average cost: <$10
Centerstage Reviewer: Andy Seifert