PORTAGE PARK — Fans of the popular Hot Dog Box in Six Corners will soon be able to get their fix of the stand’s signature steak hot dog to enjoy at home.
The Hot Dog Box at 4020 N. Milwaukee Ave., which opened in January to local and national hype, has released The MACDOGS — uncured beef steak hot dogs the restaurant created and uses for some of its own menu items.
MACDOGS is the business’s first trademarked hot dog to hit the market, said owner Bobby Morelli, who launched the business with his daughter, Brooklyn. The dog is named after Morelli, whose nickname is Mac Dog.
“I would never have thought we’d be here, with our own hot dog restaurant [and] hot dog,” Morelli said. “We are still a startup and are still very new and growing. I am trying my best to be innovative with this.”
The quarter-pound dog comes in a four-pack and tastes like “a steak in a hot dog form,” Morelli said. It’s an all-natural tender, buttery but lean dog that has steak trimmings and no hormones, he said.
Fans can buy The MACDOGS online or at the restaurant starting Wednesday, The Hot Dog Box’s second anniversary. They will also be available in select grocery stores, though Morelli said the logistics are still being finalized.
The hot dog launch has been in the works almost as long as the restaurant has been open, Morelli said. A variety of hot dog kits, which will include a four-pack of hot dogs and the joint’s signature sauces, will also be available, and The Hot Dog Box is working on launching sauces in the fall, Morelli said.
Morelli, a recording artist and entrepreneur with no restaurant experience, opened The Hot Dog Box in Bronzeville in August 2020 in a pandemic pivot move that proved successful. Within months, folks from all over the Midwest flocked to the joint — built inside a red shipping container — to get their taste of unusual hot dogs like the Bronzeville Bourbon Filet Mignon Dog, the Mac Maple Steak and Waffle dog and a pizza hot dog made by Brooklyn Morelli.
The shop also has vegan, salmon and turkey substitutes available and a rotating menu of hot dogs inspired by Brooklyn Morelli’s favorite foods.
The unique business move — and the business’s positive social media presence — earned The Hot Dog Box local and national media attention.
The new hot dogs are a way to expand the brand and reach customers who don’t live in Chicago or who want to eat the business’s signature dog at home, Morelli said. Fans as far as Texas and Florida have ventured to check out The Hot Dog Box, he said.
“I’m excited to ship our products across the country,” he said. “People can have a piece of us at home even if they can’t come to the restaurant.”
The MACDOGS represent a bigger goal beyond taste: showcasing more Black-owned hot dog businesses and their potential, Morelli said.
“We are making history because there are not many Black-owned brands out there, and to be able to be someone that I feel like is charting the way and to do it with my daughter is” exciting, he said. “I pray and hope it goes bonkers and that people love it.”
The Hot Dog Box is constantly whipping up new menu items, business partnerships and event ideas. Earlier this month, the joint partnered with local shops Veloria Coffee and Moonflower and held pop-up markets to reach new customers. Morelli also wants to host cooking shows, game and movie nights in the restaurant.
Last week, the stand opened its patio, which features artwork by local artist and rapper Jeff Koonz, who painted one of the store’s large interior murals.
More branded hot dogs may be coming to the market in the future, Morelli said. A second location in the suburbs is also in the works, though he is not ready to disclose the details, he said.
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