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Doggie style

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Hot dogs are my go-to food. If I've got 10 bucks, I've got lunch for nearly a week. They're not glamorous — or even nutritious — but it's hard to argue with an item you can tastefully top with nearly anything. Hot dogs bear up through smothering, and downright love being loaded down. And when it comes to mobility, let's just say there's only one food I want to burn my mouth on from the side of the road.

So it's no small pleasure to announce that downtown dogs are back — not to mention cheap, and huge. At Dick's Dogs and Diner, co-owners Kevin Mac Donald and Josh Simpson are dishing all-beef Nathan's Famous hot dogs on rolls from Wimberger's Old World Bakery and Delicatessen, and they're doing it with style and gusto.

Example: The Bean-Town Bruiser ($3.99) comes on a chewy potato roll drenched in Boston baked beans, big chunks of onions, brown mustard and loads of Swiss cheese, not to mention the hot dog itself which, like all things Nathan's, tastes great. It's like an entire picnic plate in one receptacle.

Gooey goodness goes on with the Bronx Bomber ($3.79) and Mountain Man ($3.99) dogs. The two are nearly identical, both covered in homemade chili — though the Mountain Man goes beef and bean, while the Bronx is solely beef — yellow mustard, cheese and onions. The Bronx is a bangin' chili dog, while the Mountain Man goes a step farther with a covering of oyster crackers. (Going too far is the Trailer Park Trash Dog, a remnant of Mac Donald's childhood: The Wonder Bread-rolled, $1.50 dog topped with mustard, American cheese and potato chips is as gross as it sounds.)

Various tattoo-style artwork from Mac Donald's son, local ink-flinger Paes164, dots the dining room, which otherwise attempts an odd balance of football memorabilia, autographed NASCAR photos, fishing statues and other random knickknacks. The space has a refinished basement feel, complete with cute familial sayings around the room like, "Friends are the flowers that bloom in life's garden."

Paes164 gets in on the food act, too, as the hot dog-free breakfast menu credits him for a creation called the Original 420 Friendly Dog ($3.99): a French toast roll stuffed with sweet sausage, covered in hash browns, cheddar cheese and powdered sugar and served with maple syrup. And though we ordered one, we instead received the Mucho Grande breakfast burrito ($3.59), a swimming mashup of beans, beef, homemade green chili, sour cream and a fried egg — perfect hangover food, and cheap.

For crime enthusiasts, the Chicago Gangster ($3.99) brings the typical Chicago dog with killer spicy sport peppers and a slathering of sweet relish that causes liquid disintegration of the bottom of the bun. The Moscow Mafia ($3.79) offers an oddly satisfying blend of sauerkraut, Russian dressing and Swiss, while the Italian Mobster ($3.79) dishes a great Italian sausage covered in marinara, mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses and red peppers.

Besides a good cheesecake from The Cheesecake Factory — including a chunky homemade strawberry or blueberry topping — Dick's also offers sandwiches, subs and soups. The Chicken Brochen ($4.29) tastes decent, like a standard grilled chicken sandwich, while a foot-long Philly ($5.99) measures shorter than advertised, but is no less flavorful for it. Lastly, skip the over-seasoned broccoli cheddar soup ($3.49) which runs a little thin.

But since thin's not in almost anywhere else on the menu, fear not: If you've got 10 bucks, you've got lunch for nearly a week.

bryce@csindy.com

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