Big, flavorful hot dogs can be dressed up with multiple toppings in this new shop that also offers good, old-fashioned fries and tart-sweet lemonade
The sweltering days of a brutally drawn-out summer are finally behind us, so it’s time to become nostalgic about them. If this mindset describes you, a new place in the Graceland Shopping Center can scratch that itch.
It’s Links-N-Lemonade, where every meal is a little like eating at a state fair.
Don’t think that Links makes fried things on a stick that might be offered on a dare. No. Its small menu is wholly devoted to a more old-fashioned style of summery fare: hot dogs, fresh-cut fries, baked beans and icy house lemonade ($3.25) — a bracingly tart-sweet, quite pleasurable drink served in a huge foam cup.Other tastes of summer we wish existed year-round: perfectly ripe strawberries, garden-fresh tomatoes and juicy-sweet watermelon: Sign up for our daily newsletter
Walking inside the compact, dog-celebrating restaurant might elicit a giggle or three. The mustard-yellow wall that leads to the ketchup-red restrooms is lined with lovable mutts posed in mug shots. There’s also a picture of a canine clad like Charlie Chaplin, plus a parody of Magritte’s Son of Manpainting in which the suited gentleman’s apple-covered face is replaced by a dead-ringer for the Lemonhead candy logo. This is notable because Lemonhead candy lagniappes accompany every order here.
The popular, fast-casual shop has a TV, as well. It prompted smiles a few football Saturdays ago, when it beamed in the ugly struggle between Michigan and Iowa while a steady stream of scarlet-and-gray-attired customers glanced its way during visits for stadium-style concessions prior to that evening’s Michigan State game (an easy Buckeyes victory, by the way).
I found much of this amusing, but it’s all business when you step to the counter. Servers at Links are keenly focused on getting orders out quickly, and getting them right — both of which occurred consistently during my visits. This efficiency — which might stem from the restaurant’s origin in the dog-eat-dog food truck business — was greatly appreciated.
Speaking of dog-eating, the standard wieners that Links serves are good ones: The all-beef quarter-pounders are huge, juicy and garlic-scented. Very solid veggie dogs, made by the Field Roast company, are available as substitutes.
Weiners at Links are split down the middle, griddled and then filled with a wide selection of free, customizable toppings that include relish, spicy mustard, banana peppers, shredded cheddar, onions, sauerkraut, jalapenos and more. If you’re a maximalist like me, this can result in a glorious, nine-napkin mess enjoyed for the very reasonable price of $4.75.
Caveat: There’s a weak link in the eatery’s handheld delights: The nondescript, non-toasted, non-sturdy buns are destined to disintegrate after a few bites. Here’s a simple solution: Ask for a plastic knife and fork.
Some specialty hot dogs are offered at an upcharge. The best value among these is the Famous Coney Dog ($5.75) adorned with a house meat sauce that’s a not-too-distant cousin of Cincinnati-style chili. For added fun, I recommend accessorizing this with freebies of cheese, kraut, onions and spicy mustard.
Although my Windy City frankfurter ($6.50) lacked its advertised sport peppers, the salty and spicy ensemble was a fairly credible and satisfying Chicago-style hot dog.
The tomato-boosted onion sauce is more cinnamon-y than its inspiration, but The New Yorker ($5.75) — which has the requisite spicy mustard and kraut — is a decent approximation of the beloved hot dogs sold from the Sabrett branded street carts lining the streets of Manhattan.
Fans of the Polish Boy, a sandwich popular in Northeastern Ohio, should target The Clevelander ($6.75). Like the original, it’s topped with barbecue sauce, slaw and fries.
That fine slaw isn’t sold as a side, but the very good fries are — solely in an enormous, feeds-three-to-four portion ($4.25). The spuds easily outclass the only other side option: a curiously small container of fairly routine sweet baked beans fortified with bacon.