Uptown Underdawg, serving hot dogs and ice cream, opens on Wilson Avenue

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UPTOWN – The neighborhood has a new hot dog and gelato stand – under one roof.

Uptown Underdawg opened in mid-June at 1122 W. Wilson Ave., taking over the former Uptown Donuts storefront.

Uptown Underdawg owner Viet Cao also owned Uptown Donuts, which opened in 2018. The donut shop lasted just under a year. Cao believed that a business with a more diverse offering would work well in a busy, transit-friendly location near the Wilson Red Line stop.

This is how Cao landed on Uptown Underdawg, a hot dog and hamburger store that also offers smoothies, pastries, and over 20 flavors of ice cream.

“When we opened Uptown Donuts, my mind was already thinking of a hot dog joint,” Cao said. “When you’re heading for the red line, you want to eat as quickly as possible. Around here, there isn’t much like that.

Credit: Joe Ward / Block Club Chicago
Uptown Underdawg is supposed to look like a cafe as much as a hot dog stand, owner Viet Cao said.

Uptown Underdawg has a classic menu that includes burgers, veggie dogs, pizza puffs, and corndogs. But Cao said he wanted his business to be more than a hot dog and burger restaurant.

Inside, Uptown Underdawg looks like a cafe. It has a wireless internet connection, sofas assembled around a TV, a library of board games, and plenty of four-tray tables with outlets for studying and going out.

The company still owns the Uptown Donuts awning. Obtaining a new canopy has been delayed due to manufacturing constraints caused by the pandemic, Cao said.

With the business next to Truman College and the Red Line, Cao said he wanted to make sure Uptown Underdawg provides people with a hangout and space to work or study remotely.

“I wanted a welcoming space,” he said. “It’s a place where you can spend a few hours.”

Cao, from Uptown, said he was happy to be running a neighborhood business again. With a new business concept and renovated space, Cao said he hopes his business will be a staple in the neighborhood for years to come.

“It was awesome,” he said. “Uptown, they still want to support local businesses. I want to be one of those places people can come for the next 30 years.

Uptown Underdawg is open 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday at 1122 W. Wilson Ave. The business is closed on Mondays.

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