Breakfast at a Hot Dog Stand? UB Dogs Does it Right in The Loop
Let's cut right to the chase: The Loop is largely a hot dog stand wasteland: most places serve insipid, skinless wieners topped with past-their-prime produce—at downtown prices, nonetheless. As Nick pointed out last year and Dennis reiterated this summer, UB Dogs rights these wrongs, serving a well balanced Chicago dog, good fries, and a damn fine Italian beef, to boot.
But did we mention they serve breakfast? I noticed as much on a recent combo run, and I couldn't help stopping in the next morning to give it a try. This is no McDonald's saved-by-nostalgia breakfast schlock: the same attention to detail that makes UB Dog's lunch so great is present in their early morning offerings, with everything I tried well above the average fast-service offerings.
Ordering an omelet ($3.99) is like spinning the breakfast roulette wheel. Depending on the place, you may be getting a runny, half moon French version; an American fat cigar-looking parcel; or some sort of bastardized frittata-ish jumble of meat, vegetables, and cheese that should frankly be ashamed of itself. I prefer the middle option, which is on offer here. The egg wrapping is crepe-thin, pepper speckled, and neatly folded around your choice of filling. Both because I chose to eat breakfast at a hot dog stand and because it's fantastic, I went with an only-in-Chicago combination of Italian sausage, giardiniera, and mozzarella. With both fatty sausage and oily pickled vegetables at play here, this could have easily gotten out of hand, but it never did: the kitchen exercised a level of restraint most often forgotten this time of day.
This isn't my first rodeo with a Build Your Own Breakfast Sandwich ($3.99), so I specified over medium eggs, which provide the sandwich with plenty of creamy richness without it running down your arm. To that, I added ham and Merkt's cheddar (because why the hell not), all of which was stuffed into a French roll with sautéed peppers and onions and a drizzle of chipotle aioli. Brick heavy without ever feeling so, my only complaint is that the ham is cut into batons; served in a slab, the sandwich would be much more manageable.
A "breakfast skillet" is a state of mind more than anything: some places go literal with actual mini skillets arriving at the table, while others just slap the jumble on a plate and call it. Here, the Breakfast Bowl ($3.99) is served in a jumbo to-go styrofoam soup container stuffed with as much x, y, and z as they can fit. In this case, said variables are hash browns, bacon, aforementioned peppers/onions/aioli, a runny egg, and a slice of cheddar that could've used a little more melt to it. No harm, no foul: I'll just go with Merkt's next time instead.
I'm not a fan of shredded hash browns: I prefer griddled rounds or oven roasted hunks of potatoes to oily, flaccid shoestrings any day of the week. But I'll make an exception for the Bacon Fat Hash Browns ($1.75) here, which are so finely shredded and crisp that they approach "potato floss" territory. The best part: the bacon flavor comes through without bogging them down. An order of these, topped simply with a pair of over-easy eggs... I'd head downtown early for something like that.
Like Chicago dogs, breakfast is easy to mess up: too much grease, not enough salt, assuming your diners are too asleep to notice you broke one of their yolks—I could go on forever, baby. But whether you stop in from 8-10:30 a.m. for breakfast or later in the afternoon for lunch, you can rest assured that UB Dogs will do you right, all day long.