Will Harry's Hot Dogs Go Cold?

Beloved stand under threat

When an article begins with the statement that “The Daley administration and a major developer are promising a makeover for one of the oddest corners of the Loop,” you know you're in for bad news.

Odd corners of the Loop are, sadly, an endangered species.

This time it’s the northwest corner of Randolph and Franklin, set to be cleared for a plaza - subsidized by the city to the tune of $7 million – that will serve two office buildings in the works by mega-developer John Buck.

The corner is currently the home of the Showman's League of America, the trade group for circuses; the building dates back to the 1870s and, as PeteLitwrote when plans first bubbled up a year ago, “is one of the few quirky buildings left downtown, replete with carved elephants above each of the 24 upper-floor windows and a vividly-colored painted depiction of the league's logo.”

“The last thing Chicago needs is another windswept plaza, another vacant lot,” Jonathan Fine, the executive director of Preservation Chicago, told the Sun-Times. "It sounds like a stupid way to go about urban planning.”

The Showman's League is one thing, but what about Harry’s Hot Dogs, which has called the building home for more than 50 years?

“Oh Harry’s Hot Dogs, how I will miss thee!” samantha212says on StumbleUpon.

“I like Harry's because something about the place feels so . . . genuinely old-school,” Ji Pwrites on Yelp. “It's small and a bit dinky, but that's what gives it its character. Harry has been running this place for YEARS -  and despite the fact that he's well above 90, he still spends the day here - eager to take your order, ring you up (albeit slowly and gingerly), clean up your table, and ask you if everything was good.”

And it's not just hot dogs. For example: Grits!

“Salty, just a bit chewy, and with enough lumps to establish them as the ‘genuine article’," saysJimInLoganSquare on Chowhound.

“The ancient Harry himself has come around to talk to me/take my tray both times I've eaten there, which I thought was pretty cool,” writes Jason L. on Yelp.  “I would have given it 4 stars, but the last time I was in there I was asked 4 times if I wanted everything on my hotdog, to which I said ‘yes, everything except mustard’ each time, but got mustard anyway.”


Harry Heftman – that’s Harry – isn’t saying much. Maybe he’s ready to retire anyway. But his customers clearly aren’t.

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