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When I went to impresario Dion Antic's new hot dog stand Rockstar Dogs on Saturday afternoon I brought along a devotee of recreational pole dancing to help out (all the professionals I know were still in bed). While I have strong, defensible opinions about hot dogs, and pretty firm views on rock 'n' roll, I know little about what makes a fine stripper pole. At the very least, I knew readers would need a semiqualified judgment on the matter before deciding whether it's worth attempting a pole dance for a free hot dog after 10 PM, or just coughing up $6 or $7 for a tube steak, fries, soda, and temporary tattoo and getting it over with.
Rockstar inhabits a short, narrow, angry red corridor decorated with a pair of wall-mounted guitars and a bunch of framed black-and-whites of rock stars in their native habitats. It's a restrictive cattle-chute setup that's bound to inspire boozy pushfights and panicked stampedes among its intended customers. My adviser took one look at the pole installed in the corner just inside the front door and rolled her eyes. “That's no stripper pole,” she snorted. “There isn't enough space around the pole to do anything except lean on it.” And it doesn't spin.
Aha. There's the evil genius of Antic's stripper pole promotion: Rockstar Dogs collects all the free PR that comes with planting a giant dildo in the front door without ever having to pay out in meat since the pole is impossible to use. I'm not positive I'd have seen through this clever ruse if I'd stumbled in at 3 AM, but there it is.
As for the dogs, Rockstar is using Vienna beef franks with natural casing—a fine product. But are they worth $6 or $7 dollars? Hell no. They're just hot dogs. Granted, the toppings on these sausages, named for various artists and groups, are somewhat above par—Merkt's cheese on the J. Timberlake, nicely charred jalapenos on the bacon-wrapped Los Lobos. But you can't put lipstick on a pig, no matter how delicious (unless you're Doug Sohn, to whom RD will invite inevitable misguided comparisons).
And then there's the idea that RD is filling some kind of void in the area's late-night stomach-coating options, even though it's located next door to the similarly cramped Taqueria Traspasada #2, a far better value (despite the absence of salchichas), to say nothing of las tres Pasaditas a little further north. And if it's really rock and dogs you're looking for, venture a bit farther west to Tommy's Rock and Roll Cafe, where you can actually put your hands on a genuine limited-edition Fernandes Boba Fett Star Wars Retrorocket AND snarf down a $2.99 footlong (vs. RD's $8 Tommy Lee).
For my seven dollars I want a stripper pole that spins. And a bigger temporary tattoo. With skulls. But my pole dancer thinks folks in her old town would be less picky: “People would go crazy for this place in LA—because it's stupid.”
Rockstar Dogs, 801 N. Ashland, 312-421-2364
Tommy's Rock and Roll Cafe, 2548 W. Chicago, 773-486-6768