The standard Chicago Dog ($3.75), is not dissimilar from what you'd get from the carts in Millennium Park.
It's hard to get too persnickety about a food that's usually sold out of stainless steel street carts or hawked from boxes at ballgames. We're not talking reduction sauces here, we're talking hot dogs.
That said, if your bread and butter is hot dogs, as it is at Mad Dog's Chicago Style Eatery, a new takeout spot on North Henry Street, you should probably go the extra mile to get it right.
Are we mad for the dogs?
The standard Chicago Dog ($3.75), is not dissimilar from what you'd get from the carts in Millennium Park. The wiener is small and the poppy seed bun is overly mushy. The accompaniments are mostly fine -- a couple slices of tomato, two hot sport peppers, a dill spear, and not glopped up with too much yellow mustard. But the pickle relish is a nuclear day-glo green that is seldom seen outside of lime suckers -- and moreover has no taste. Sadly, the sport peppers are the tastiest item in the package.
The chili-cheese dog ($3.75) is similarly without oomph. You could upgrade to the Monster Dog ($5.25), billed as a full half-pound of wiener, but I'd make the step over to the Maxwell Street Polish ($3.50), which gives more taste but in a smaller package.
I was prepared to be disappointed by the bratwurst ($3), but I wasn't -- I had opted for the day's lunch special, two brats for $4, with the idea of saving one for later, and I really, really wanted to eat them both.
Mad Dog's serves a classic Johnsonville wurst with an extremely thin casing, so you're not ending up with flaps of unchewable, you know, material. If you like the brats at Madison's annual Bratfest, you'll probably like these -- they're not as mild as a real white brat, but not as spicy as, say, the brats sold at Madison butcher Jacobson Bros. They bear no resemblance to red brats.
Mad Dog's brats come with onion, sauerkraut and Düsseldorf mustard standard on what the menu says is a brat bun, but which is awfully puffy-white-bready. As declared in The Bratwurst Pages: "Brat buns resemble hot dog buns, but are larger and more substantial and chewy, and are designed to hold a single brat." This was no brat bun, though I'm sure it could have been labeled as such by some scoundrel bakery. Mad Dog's could use upgrades on its buns all around.
Also on the menu: Italian sausage ($4.25), Italian beef ($5.50), Meatball sub ($5), veggie dog ($2.75) and a walking taco (chili over Fritos, $2.75).
It's been too long since King Street's Dog Eat Dog went out of business for me to compare dogs to dogs in detail fairly, but I do remember its excellent cheese 'n' cole slaw dog, missing here, and its French fries, also missing here (because the space is too small for frying). While there's nothing to be done about the size of the space, a cheese 'n' slaw dog would make a nice addition to the menu.
And even as it stands, Mad Dog's fills a niche needed near the Square for a quick, no-fuss snack or lunch.