LOGAN SQUARE — A classic Chicago hot dog joint has opened on Milwaukee Avenue in Logan Square.
The counter spot, called Mr. E’s Late Nite, opened Tuesday at 2704 N. Milwaukee Ave. Its hours are 11 a.m.-10 p.m. daily for delivery and pickup.
It’s the latest spot from prolific restaurateur Esam Hani, who owns six other restaurants and bars on the stretch, including The Old Plank directly next door.
With Mr. E’s, Hani said he was inspired by his family’s trips to Portillo’s and other Chicago hot dog stands.
“It dawned on me that we don’t have a good place to get a hot dog in the neighborhood,” Hani said.
The five-stool counter spot serves no-frills hot dogs, burgers and Italian beef sandwiches. There’s no craft beer on the menu — just classic beer like Old Style and Hamm’s.
“It’s an affordable approach. People just want a burger sometimes, or a beef,” he said. “It fit the economic times we’re in.”
The Mr. E’s storefront was most recently home to a currency exchange-type business that handled electronic transfers to Mexico and other Spanish-speaking countries.
Once coronavirus restrictions are lifted, Hani plans to extend the hot dog joint’s hours so it’s open at 2 a.m. and 3 a.m. like The Old Plank. The goal is for the restaurant to eventually serve as a spot for folks to grab food after leaving bars in the area.
In addition to Mr. E’s and The Old Plank, Hani owns Saba, Café Con Leche, Harding Tavern, Red Star Liquor Store and The Walk In — all in the 2700 block of North Milwaukee Avenue.
Like restauranteurs across Chicago, Hani is struggling to keep his establishments afloat amid the pandemic. In recent months, he’s had to close Saba and The Walk In for the foreseeable future and lay off workers.
The restaurants that aren’t currently closed are “either losing money or hanging on by a thread,” he said.
“I can’t close them all down,” he said. “I’m just taking the hit, and hopefully by the end of January we’ll be able to start seeing a light at the end of the tunnel [with] vaccines out.”
Hani said Mr. E’s is a lifeline designed to keep him and his employees working.
“I’m just creating jobs and trying to keep my team going. They’re the backbone of all of my businesses. Without them, we have nothing,” he said. “A lot of families depend on my little block. We got to take care of each other.”
Block Club Chicago’s coronavirus coverage is free for all readers. Block Club is an independent, 501(c)(3), journalist-run newsroom.