Profile

John Carruthers

Writer, occasional caterer, co-head of grilling and social club ManBQue.

  • Website
  • Location: Chicago
  • Favorite foods: Hot dogs, skirt steak, gyoza, cheddar, pretzels, all the mustards.
  • Last bite on earth: Braised beef cheeks with birdseye peppers.

Mustard and Dreams: What It Takes to Run a Hot Dog Stand in Chicago

@adam42 - Moving to Chicago? AWESOME. I hope you really enjoy your city. I'd love to see what you think of all the dogs when you get settled here. My Twitter info's connected to my account and I'd love to hear from you.

Mustard and Dreams: What It Takes to Run a Hot Dog Stand in Chicago

@adam42 - It's a mixture of tradition and economics. Hot dogs are fairly finicky. The natural casings have to be stuffed partially by hand, and the dogs have to be smoked over sawdust. Most places wouldn't have the time, space, or inclination to make their own dogs. Plus, it would cost a great deal more to the customer on the end. So the places that make sausages in-house instead do something like a boar or elk sausage that they know customers will pay $6-$11 without thinking "for a hot dog?"

It's not just Chicago - it's New York, LA, and so on. Where have you been that you assume places are making their own dogs? I'd be excited to try a stand that was making their own franks.

Mustard and Dreams: What It Takes to Run a Hot Dog Stand in Chicago

@OMFS88 - The cheese fries with bacon were from Wiener and Still Champion. They're not on the menu, but he was making them for a regular and I couldn't resist a picture. I bet he'd make an order for you.

Mustard and Dreams: What It Takes to Run a Hot Dog Stand in Chicago

@BBQ Lover - Most of what you're paying for already is the dog and the bun. You probably wouldn't see much savings. Most hot dog places that do have special, more expensive ingredients have a different pricing tier for those dogs.

@Ocean - Roy Choi actually has a ketchup-fried rice recipe in LA Son.
http://www.seriouseats.com/2013/12/roy-choi-cookbook-la-son-review.html

Mustard and Dreams: What It Takes to Run a Hot Dog Stand in Chicago

@Brew.Drink.Repeat @RealMenJulienne - I think you're both right. The whole ketchup thing is mostly a non-issue, except when a) a stand tries to make it a big part of its identity or branding, or b) travel and food writers need a ready-make issue to turn into an article. Hot Doug's had ketchup available on the side, which settled it for me pretty well. Live and let live.

That being said, I'd never put ketchup on my hot dog.

What It's Like to Work at a Hot Dog Cart

@SeriouslySuzanne: Sure thing! in order:

1. Kind of a tricky question. The Mayor's office has changed things up a bit. It's $700 for a two-year license, as well as a $100 fire safety permit. And at least $350,000 worth of general liability insurance per occurrence.

2. Nada. It's handled through Parks, and they don't really pay attention to or try and hoard prime spots. Will and Marci stumbled on to Oz Park (great location) just because there was nothing there yet. They got to walk right in and start selling once they were licensed with limited fuss.

3. $0. But I did get to go to Hot Dog University for free, which is definitely something. I also love Vienna Beef dogs, but I already did before all this.

What It's Like to Work at a Hot Dog Cart

@healthytouch101: You seem fun. We should hang out.

What It's Like to Work at a Hot Dog Cart

@RealMenJulienne I'd totally work at an Italian beef stand. You know a guy?

@joe.distort I sort of alluded to it, but when Will and Marci left their jobs, they were giving up benefits, insurance, and all the security that comes with that. Corporate success or no, that's a huge leap. Most corporate people tend to live fairly close to their paychecks like everyone else. It's not like they started the business with a pile of trust fund money. They took a gamble, and I'm glad it's paying off for them.

What It's Like to Work at a Hot Dog Cart

@efato8: First time I've been told my writing could stand to be more tedious. I could tell you stories about slowly making big batches of molé that will put you to sleep, if that's your thing.

How I Got My Degree From Hot Dog University

@jwardell: I'd love to, but that's the one part of the whole deal where they don't allow photography. Rest assured, it's etched in my mind - but for factory floor images, I'd have to draw you a stick figure landscape of the scene.

How I Got My Degree From Hot Dog University

@dFresh - I agree that the laws are in critical need of updating, but you're a bit off on the assertion that it hurts hot dog carts. I actually run a hot dart cart in next week's installment. Hot dogs are cured and smoked at the factory, so in essence they're all "pre-made." It's a different class of vending than the food trucks you're talking about.

How I Got My Degree From Hot Dog University

@DzhokharDudayev: PR/Advertising. The hot dog diploma will probably get that spot on the wall when it comes.

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