The lights went out at midnight on Friday for the last time at Redhot Ranch’s Western Avenue location. The popular fast-food restaurant, known for natural-cased hot dogs and griddled burgers, moved into its new location which opened Friday morning. The hot dog’s stand’s eye-catching hand-painted sign was relocated as part of the move.
This was Redhot Ranch’s original location. For the last decade, customers would venture ito the small stand and enjoy late-night Depression Dogs (a Chicago-style hot dog variant that’s not dragged through the garden), fried shrimp, and burgers. Owner Jeff Greenfield moved to the new location (under the CTA’s Blue Line elevated tracks at 2449 W. Armitage Avenue) to save on rent. He mentions an old story in which Rich Melman — the co-founder of Chicago’s largest restaurant group, Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises — discusses the importance of having a lease with favorable terms. Most folks say that location is the most important aspect of the business, but a bad lease with expensive rent will devastate a restaurant, Greenfield says.
Redhot Ranch, normally open until 4 a.m. on most days, has rolled back hours during the pandemic until midnight. With many bars closed due to COVID-19 regulations, customers aren’t flooding the stand after last call. But other than that adjustment, business has been all right, Greenfield says. Customers don’t want to linger at restaurants, and Redhot Ranch gives patrons at “15-minute experience.”
“Our sales are down a little bit, but I think cooking hot, fresh food for people to go — even to sit outside on picnic benches — is what people want,” Greenfield says.
He adds: “A $7 double cheeseburger and fries from Redhot Ranch? You can’t get that anywhere in the city of Chicago.”
Greenfield owns a second Redhot Ranch in Lakeview on Ashland and he also owns 35th Street Red Hots in Bridgeport near U.S. Cellular Field. At the new Armitage location, there are no tables inside. Greenfield feels putting efforts toward indoor dining would be a waste right now. There’s a possibility to add tables after a vaccine is developed.
Redhot Ranch is a tiny operation, but has a loyal legion of fans, especially those in the service industry who are looking for a bite after work. This is not typical fast food, with quality meats and fresh-cut fries.
There’s also been talk of opening two more locations, with one near Western and Irving Park Road. But for now, Greenfield only cares about the new location.
“We only moved three blocks, but it feels like home,” he says.
Redhot Ranch, 2449 W. Armitage Avenue, open 10:30 a.m. to midnight daily.