There is a bowl of water for passing canines on the flower-bedecked patio area of Mike's Lucky Dog, but that's the extent of catering to the four-legged friends that might pass by with their owners. It's safe to say that it would be a lucky dog indeed that got to sample the dogs, burgers, sausage, chicken and even bologna grilled up at Mike's.
The sweet scent of smoldering charcoal in the air outside the building was a wonderful appetizer on the weekend day when John, Pat, John and I stopped in soon after the 11 a.m. opening.
Mike's Lucky Dog's menu is concise and perfect. Charcoal broiled hots include the regular dog ($2.29) and footlong ($3.49), both Sahlen's, and an all-beef dog ($3.99). Burgers are sold in two sizes; $2.99 for the 3-ouncer ($3.89 with cheese) and $4.99 for the 5-ounce jumbo burger ($5.89 with cheese). A Big Mike cheeseburger, which weighs in at 10 ounces, is $7.99.
Other grilled sandwiches, all on fresh Costanzo's or Al Cohen's rolls, include a Wardynski's Polish sausage or a Lorigo's Italian sausage (each $3.49), chicken breast ($4.29), bologna with onions ($3.99) and a turkey burger ($3.99).
Fries come in regular ($2.79) and large ($4.89), and you can also get sweet potato fries ($2.99) or onion rings ($2.79).
A few things set Mike's apart from the other charcoal-grilled hot dog places. First, it sells 6-ounce splits of Barefoot wine and both draft and bottled beer, including some interesting imported varieties.
Second, the menu offers some unusual choices, such as a veggie burger and a grilled portobello mushroom sandwich with goat cheese, each for $4.99, daily, as well as specials, which in the past have included a grilled lemon pepper tilapia sandwich with lettuce, tomato and tartar sauce ($7.99).
Also, there are several large television sets in the clean, spacious dining room, so you can watch your team lose while you eat, if it doesn't affect your appetite.
Mike's also has two truly overwhelming specialties, each $10.99. The first is a "lucky dog," which is made with a thick hot dog that is 18 inches long and weighs a full pound.
If you think you might still be peckish after eating that, by all means order the "junkyard dog," which is a half-pound hot dog on a sub roll dressed with a hearty helping of chili, along with chopped onions, mustard, dill spears, and both fries and onion rings, drizzled with melted nacho cheese.
We briefly lost our minds and added a junkyard dog to our order.
Everything was very good. The all-beef dog was grilled to perfection, with some char marks, and served on a fresh roll. The jumbo cheeseburger was a plain patty that tasted far better than we expected. We think that a quality mix of ground meat made it so flavorful.
The Polish sausage was delicious, full of flavor and juicy, also much improved by a searing on the grill. It was ordered topped with sauerkraut, and although it tasted good, the kraut was shredded more finely than expected and clumped on the sausage. That's a minor quibble, though.
The sides were extremely good. The regular fries were served in a cup, inside a bag that was then loaded with more fresh-cut, sizzling fries. This was a generous portion; the large serving must be overwhelming.
The sweet potato fries were also delicious, crispy on the outside and soft and sweet on the inside, served with small cups of real honey butter for dipping. The onion rings had a delicious light breading, and were flaky and delectable, although they could have spent another minute in the fryer.
Now to the junkyard dog. It feels wrong to confess that the two of us who ate it really liked it. It was astonishing in its complexity - every bite contained a multitude of flavors, which unexpectedly worked well together.
The chili was spicier than we expected and very meaty, and the dog was thick and nicely cooked.
One-third of the junkyard dog - eaten with a knife, fork and both hands, and if we had a spoon we would have used that too - satisfied one hungry adult; with fries and rings, we thought it would be enough of a sandwich for two or even three people. But whether you finish it there or take the rest home (shockingly, it held up pretty good later on, too), it's a real conversation-starter.
Mike's Lucky Dog
3 and 1/2 (Out of four pennies)?255 Buffalo St., Hamburg
Open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday
Wheelchair access: Yes