Uptown Underdawg has opened in the former Uptown Donuts space at 1122 W. Wilson Ave. Credit: Joe Ward/Block Club Chicago

UPTOWN — The neighborhood has a new hot dog joint and gelato stand — under the same roof.

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

Uptown Underdawg owner Viet Cao was also an owner at Uptown Donuts, which opened in 2018. The doughnut shop lasted just less than a year. Cao thought a business with a more diverse offering would work well at the bustling, transit-friendly location near the Wilson Red Line stop.

That’s how Cao landed on Uptown Underdawg, a hot dog shop and burger place that also has smoothies, pastries and more than 20 flavors of gelato.

“When we opened Uptown Donuts, my mind was already thinking about a hot dog joint,” Cao said. “When you’re heading to the Red Line, you want to eat the quickest thing you can. Around here, there’s not much like that.”

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

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

Inside, Uptown Underdawg looks like a coffee shop. It has wireless internet, couches assembled around a TV, a bookshelf of board games and plenty of four-top tables with outlets for studying and hanging out.

The business still has the Uptown Donuts awning. Getting a new awning has been delayed because of 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 gave people a meeting place and a space to work or study remotely.

“I wanted an inviting space,” he said. “This is a place where you can spend a few hours.”

Cao, an Uptown native, said he is happy to run a neighborhood business again. With a new business concept and remodeled space, Cao said he hopes his business is a fixture in the neighborhood for years to come.

“It’s been awesome,” he said. “Uptown, they always want to support local business. I want to be one of those places that people can come for the next 30 years.”

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

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