MIDVALE — Strange as it may seem, Johnniebeefs Chicago Style Hot Dogs is a homegrown Utah eatery.
This new Midvale restaurant aims to be a piece of real Chicago, right down to the pictures of Harry Caray, Ditka and da Bears, the 2005 World Champion Chicago White Sox and, in the shop's nod to Utah, what I like to call "the Jordan shot."
In case you don't know what that is, it's Michael Jordan's falling-backward, pushing-off-Bryon-Russell-shot to win Game 6 and the 1998 NBA Finals over our beloved Jazz.
The infamous picture won't put you off your feed, though, not with all the tasty food there is to be had at Johnniebeefs. In addition to nine types of all-beef hot dogs, Johnniebeefs serves up Italian beef sandwiches, bratwurst, meatball subs and various other excellently priced goodies.
When we visited Johnniebeefs for a weeknight supper, our family of six had dinner, drinks, a couple sides and dessert for around $30. We also got helpful, enthusiastic service in a clean, bright dining room.
We started with an order of cheddar jalapeno poppers, crisp and hot with lots of pepper flavor — but little heat, so the kids could try them, too. Our youngest two girls, however, were pretty busy with their kids meals, which came in cardboard old-timey convertibles and included fries or fruit cup, brownie bites and a drink. One had a hot dog, and the other had the weird but tasty mac-and-cheese wedges, gooey spoonfuls of macaroni and cheese, battered and deep-fried to a golden brown (all of Johnniebeefs' fried items are cooked in trans-fat-free canola oil).
Our oldest daughter, a little too big for kids meals, had the Utah dog combo. This simple dog usually comes with mustard, but she had it with ketchup instead, and finished it off in about two minutes, remarking on how good the bun was.
The buns are good: steamed and covered with poppy seeds, they're large enough for all the toppings you'd want but tender enough that they never overpower the flavorful, meaty dogs. My husband had the chili-cheese dog, with mellow but deeply flavored chili, melted cheddar and onions, and the whole thing held together well.
He and I shared a bratwurst, and it was delicious, a juicy, garlicky sausage on a french roll with plenty of sauerkraut, mustard and onions.
I'm one of those people who believe hot dogs should never have ketchup on them (only mustard and the solid stuff, like kraut and relish), so I was primed for Johnniebeefs' Chicago dog topped with mustard, onions, mild green relish, fresh cucumbers, tomatoes, fiery "sport peppers," a pickle wedge and a dusting of celery salt.
If you've never had a Chicago dog, give it a try. This is an excellent way to eat a hot dog, with the toppings lending a fresh, tangy flavor, the pickle and cukes providing crunch and juiciness and the peppers finishing everything off with a blast of heat. I never lost the flavor of the dog, a tribute to its quality.
With our meals, my husband had a packaged salad that our server assured us was made by her shortly before we arrived, and we all had crisp crinkle-cut fries. For dessert, the younger girls enjoyed the warm brownie bites that came with their meals, while our oldest forked down a slice of Eli's cheesecake, a Chicago staple offered at Johnniebeefs in chocolate-chip and Snickers versions.
My husband and I slurped down fresh-made chocolate shakes that you could drink from a straw. I'm a big fan of our "concretes" and "over the top" shakes here in Utah, but I have to admit these frothy, thick but slurpable concoctions are pretty good, too.
Appetizers and sides $1.49-$2.29, hot dogs $1.99-$2.59, hot dog combos $3.89-$4.49, sandwiches $2.49-$3.79, sandwich combos $4.39-$5.89, salads $4.59-$4.99, family meals $14.49-$22.99, kids' meals $3.59, desserts $1.99-$2.29.Rating: ***
Where: 7194 S. Union Park Ave., Suite A (Family Center at Fort Union), Midvale
Hours: Monday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-9 p.m.
Payment: Major credit cards accepted
Wheelchair access: Easy