Close is an experienced businessman, having run his own business for 28 years. He got his expertise honestly. His dad had his own restaurant, where Close and his brother also worked learning the trade.
Matt Puckett also has experience running a restaurant for 13 years.
They bought the restaurant a couple of months ago and re-opened its doors after a short closure.
“It’s a relaxed, casual atmosphere,” Matt Puckett said.
But area fans of the largely hot dog specialty restaurant expressed concern — at first — that the menu might change.
Rest assured. It hasn’t.
“It’s the same good food,” Close said. “It’s the best hot dogs — hands down.”
“It’s the same menu and the same staff,” Matt Puckett said. “Quality is what we’re focusing on.”
He’s talking about serving only Vienna Beef hot dogs — a name brand known well in the Chicago area.
“These hot dogs are all beef,” Matt Puckett said. “No by-products. Only prime cuts are used.”
In fact, all the favorites are still available — from the Chicago-style dog (made with sport peppers, green relish, a pickle, tomato, onions and celery salt on a poppy seed bun) to the Mayor Tom Rowland (made with hot slaw, jalapeno peppers, mustard and onions, also on a poppy seed bun), from the Sears Tower dog (also known as the footlong and made with your four favorite toppings on an amoroso bun) to the Build Your Own Dog (with a choice of toppings including chili, cole slaw, hot slaw, sport peppers, hot giardiniera peppers, tomato, jalapenos, banana peppers, pickles, diced onions, kraut, green relish, shredded cheddar cheese, and/or Hannah’s nacho/jalapeno cheese.
“Anything can be made custom ordered,” Elizabeth Puckett said.
Plus, all hot dog dishes are made with Vienna Beef sausages.
Both combo platters and single sandwiches are available, as are bratwurst, polish sausage, an Italian-style beef platter known as the Harry Caray, tortilla chips smothered in chili, nachos cheese and jalapenos, chicken salad, and even big hot pretzels.
But wait — the new owners said — the restaurant is also offering something new to tempt the taste buds of area diners. The current new item on the menu is an area favorite. It’s the traditional dish of a fried bologna sandwich.
“A quarter pound,” Close said. “Extra thick cut ... I just love fried bologna sandwiches ... and a lot of people around here do too.”
And it comes with mayo, lettuce, and tomato on toasted sour dough bread.
“With cheese and onion slice too,” Close added.
Another big change is that the restaurant now serves beer.
A special children’s dish is available, as are chips and Grandma’s Homestyle cookies for dessert.
Seven flat-panel TVs allow diners to not miss a minute of their favorite team.
Free Wi-Fi is also included.
“It’s kind of like (the TV show) “Cheers,” said Elizabeth Puckett. “You know people. Everyone talks to everyone else. It’s kind of a community within a community.”
Additional plans already available include free non-alcoholic drinks for all military, first responders and police with a meal; a discount for footlong hot dogs on Fridays; the Wrigley Field hot dog will be discounted on Wednesdays; On Mondays, kids can eat free with an adult combo meal; on Trivia Tuesdays, come in, answer a trivia question correctly, and get a non-alcoholic drink for free with a meal.
Future plans might include adding a catering menu.
Coming soon will be a standing challenge to anyone who can eat three footlong hot dogs — all three with four toppings of the diner’s choice — in 30 minutes. Not only will the diner eat for free, but also get a T-shirt as an additional prize.
On Aug. 11, Mark’s Dog House will be part of the third annual Rolling Thunder fundraiser that helps provide a Merry Christmas for the children of deployed American troops. For more information on this event, call Kenney Hensley at 423-488-8614 or e-mail him at email@example.com.
The restaurant is located at 3443 Keith St. and can be reached at either 790-7142 or at www.MarksDogHouse.com. It is open Mondays through Thursdays from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Fridays and Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. It’s closed Sundays. Folks can call in orders ahead of time to be picked up. Order over $100 and free delivery is available. And the dining area can also be reserved for parties, with the same foods available, especially on Sundays, when the restaurant is normally closed to the general public. Diners can also “like” Mark’s Dog House on Facebook to receive notices of specials.