It is my sad duty to report that Madison-area connoisseurs of a fine dining staple have suffered a tremendous blow.

After little more than a year in business, Mad Dog's Chicago Style Eatery has closed its doors.


I'm not sure why Madison is such a tough market for Chicago-stylehot dogs.

The classic Chicago version includes a Vienna beef hot dog topped with onions, tomatoes, a dill pickle, sport peppers, green relish, mustard and celery salt. It is served on steamed poppy seed bun.

What's not to like there?

In addition, one of Madison's most prominent citizens, former mayor Paul Soglin, is a great advocate of the Chicago dog.

It was Soglin - a Chicago native - who tipped me off to Mad Dog's, just after it opened in the late summer of 2007.

Mad Dog's was a little hole in the wall on Henry Street Downtown, not far from the Plaza.

Every once in a while my buddy Jonathan Suttin (himself an old Chicago guy, and now the morning man on 105.5-Triple M radio) and I would meet at Mad Dog's, scarf a Chicago-style dog, and then go a few doors down and have a Plaza burger for dessert.

Madison is also home to two Chicago hot dog nuts who operate what is perhaps the world's best Web site on the subject: www.hotdog

Yet Madison has proven a hard sell for places specializing in Chicago hot d ogs.

It is true that a hot dog - even one topped with all those vegetables - is not exactly a health food.

And Men's Health magazine keeps rating Madison as the healthiest city in the country for men.

Several years ago, when Madison headed the list for the first time, the article began with this astonishing sentence: "You can go an entire day without seeing fat people in Madison."

Then toward the end of the piece, the author delivered this: "The city is indeed a stronghold against Wisconsin's bratwurst/cheesehead reputation, as well as an example for the rest of our overweight nation."

If it was true, the Men's Health take on Madison might explain why a good Chicago hot dog can be hard to find here.

But as anyone who has actually lived in Madison can attest, Men's Health is wrong. I'm happy to say we have our share of fatties. And we have any number of great burger joints and pizza parlors, so forget about the city being "an example for the rest of the overweight nation."

Still, the Chicago hot dog struggles for a foothold.

I thought we had a winner back in 1999, when Dog Eat Dog opened on King Street Downtown.

Dog Eat Dog promoted itself as a classic Chicago hot dog eatery, and as it happened, right around the time i t opened, I published a book about the great Chicago journalist Mike Royko, who was an authority on Chicago hot dogs.

I had a book signing at Dog Eat Dog, and was able to share the story of Royko's best hot dog column, written after Sen. Carol Moseley Braun of Illinois made the mistake of going public with a Chicago hot dog recipe that included ketchup.

Royko ridiculed her - a true Chicago dog never has ketchup - and a few readers wrote to ask, "Why is ketchup wrong?"

Royko's response: "It is wrong because it is not right."

Dog Eat Dog eventually opened a second location, but they folded them both several years ago.

Now Mad Dog's has closed. This week, Mad Dog's co-owner, Paul Frautschi, told me he and his partner had reluctantly closed it after running into some bureaucratic problems with the city related to outdoor seating as well as vendor carts, which he said they needed in the warm months for their business model to work. (Frautschi, who will open the first Sonic restaurant in Madison next month, said he's hoping to sell Mad Dog's to someone who will continue it as a Chicago dog spot.) Last week, I spoke with Mitch Kite and Kevin Sherfinski, the Madison guys who operate the hotdog chicagostyle.comsite - I urge you to visit it - and in the Madison area they recommended Poppa Cornofoulos on Buckeye Road, and the hot dog cart at, of all places, Home Depot, for a great Chicago dog.

With every confidence of seeing a fat person, I will give them a try.