There’s a place where Chicagoans won’t expect to find wagyu beef: a hardware store. Shoppers can now buy steak dogs dragged through the garden at three Home Depot locations in Chicago and four in the suburbs. It’s a partnership between Fixin’ Franks, the hot dog stand stationed at those seven depots, and Vander Farmers, a Michigan-based farm that produces crossbred American wagyu beef.
The farm found a fan in James Gray, a former Chicagoan who’s worked in marketing for clients including One Eleven Food Hall and Passion House Coffee Roasters. Gray runs a hotel, Farrand Hall, near the farm and has hosted dinners that use Vander’s steaks. He liked the beef so much that he began looking for ways to introduce the beef to the Chicago restaurant market, contacting restaurants like El Che Steakhouse & Bar in West Loop. Dominique Leach, the chef at Lexington Betty Smokehouse which took over One Eleven, is soon coming out with her line of steak dogs. But it was former-Eater Chicago contributor and current Time Out Chicago Assistant Editor Jeffy Mai who suggested bringing the wagyu to Home Depot.
Vander Farmers’ brats and frankfurters add to Fixin’ Franks menu of encased meats. Most of Chicago’s hot dog stands sell Vienna Beef products, but Fixin’ Franks serves sausages made from Makowski’s Real Sausage Co. on the South Side. Those dogs remain available (Fixin’ Franks also serves Italian beef). The $8 wagyu dogs, simply called “steak dogs,” are warmed up on a flattop for around three minutes. It won’t hurt to ask Fixin’ Franks’ staff to spend some extra time heating the dog; no one wants a wiener with a cold middle.
The sausage is a little thicker and beefier than the Makowski version. There’s a novelty to eating wagyu where shoppers can pickup up power drills or lumber, even if the beef isn’t the high-grade A5 diners would find at a fine dining restaurant. Vander Farmers’ wagyu is considered F1 as it doesn’t come from a full-blood wagyu cow. Vander, in Sturgis, Michigan, breeds Japanese Black Cattle and a dairy cow called Holsteins.
These Home Depot stores are carrying wagyu wieners: 2570 N. Elston Avenue; 3500 N. Kimball Avenue, 6211 N. Lincoln Avenue; 8650 W. Dempster Street, Niles; 901 Civic Center Drive, Niles; 2201 Oakton Street, Evanston; and 350 E. Kensington Road, Mount Prospect.