For more than 25 years, people have been flocking to “the hot dog man in the park” in Yorkville. And the Mystery Diner is no exception.
Jeff Hahn is a teacher at Cross Lutheran School in Yorkville, but during the summer and on occasional weekends during the school year, he slings hot dogs and brats from his Home Plate Hot Dogs cart in Yorkville’s Town Square Park. His wife, Pam, and others help him out or sub for him when he can’t be there.
The Home Plate Hot Dogs cart has always been an affordable lunch option. On most afternoons during the summer, there is a generous crowd patiently waiting in line for a dog or a bratwurst, served up to the customer’s liking.
Catch Jeff on an afternoon where the crowd is light, and he’ll chat with customers about the various goings-on in the community. Remember, like a bartender or a barber, when you’re the hot dog guy, you know all the town gossip!
The price is right, too. It costs $2.25 for a dog, $2.75 for a bratwurst, 75 cents for a bag of chips and $1 for a beverage. Patrons can also order the hot dog special: two dogs, a bag of chips and a pop for $5.75. Home Plate serves Red Hot Chicago brand hot dogs and Johnsonville brats.
My recent trip to the hot dog cart was similar to past visits: there was a good crowd, but the line moved quickly. I grabbed a bottle of water from the cooler, which was filled with a variety of beverages.
Customers have a choice of plain or poppy seed buns, and there are a variety of fixings available: cucumbers, tomatoes, onion, sweet pickle relish, sport peppers, pickles, and even the obligatory Chicago-style celery salt.
I kept it simple, ordering a bratwurst with brown mustard and onion, and a dog with yellow mustard and relish, as well as a bag of Lay’s potato chips.
There is no wrong way to eat lunch in the park. On the day I visited, many of the picnic tables were occupied, and it was sweltering, so I chose to eat in my car. I’ve eaten Home Plate hot dogs on my car’s trunk, at any one of the number of picnic tables in the park, or even just sitting on the ground in the park and taking in nature while I scarfed down tasty meat treats.
The sausages were cooked perfectly – they are steamed and kept in a hot water bath – and the toppings were generous without being too messy.
All in all, it was another successful trip to the “hot dog guy in the park” – one of several I plan on making this summer, just as so many have done for more than a quarter of a century.
• The Mystery Diner is a newsroom employee at the Record Newspapers. The diner’s identity is not revealed to restaurant staff before or during the meal. The Mystery Diner visits a restaurant and then reports on the experience. The Mystery Diner is not intended to be a restaurant critic but does highlight the parts of a dining experience that he/she can recommend.
IF YOU GO
WHAT: Home Plate Hot Dogs
WHEN: 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. seven days a week, May through September (hours may vary)
WHERE: Town Square Park, 301 N. Bridge St., Yorkville
INFORMATION: Visit www.facebook.com/Home-Plate-Hotdogs-89340671249.