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Fast Track on Lake - Hot Dogs, Hamburgers, Beef and More

Fast Track on Lake - Hot Dogs, Hamburgers, Beef and More
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  • Fast Track on Lake - Hot Dogs, Hamburgers, Beef and More

    Post #1 - March 6th, 2006, 3:47 pm
    Post #1 - March 6th, 2006, 3:47 pm Post #1 - March 6th, 2006, 3:47 pm
    I recall seeing a mention of this hot dog stand/fast food restaurant here on LTH sometime last year, but I’ve been unsuccessful locating it using the search feature, so I’ll start a separate new discussion. Apologies if this is a duplicative effort.

    I work in the West Loop and am always on the lookout for different places to have lunch. Fast Track on the corner of Des Plaines and Lake St. is out of my traffic pattern because I take public transportation to work to a couple of blocks SE of there. On occasion I have use of the car of a friend and on my way to one of the lesser-costing parking lots in the neighborhood I drive by Fast Track. Today, after buying some stamps at the Haymarket branch of the US Post Office, I walked over to Fast Track for lunch.

    This was a late-lunch visit – about 1:30 p.m., and, in addition to myself, there were 4 or 5 other people eating-in, and maybe another 10 people came and went with their take-out orders in the span of 1/2 hour. There’s parking for 4 or 5 cars in front of the place, making it easy to get in/out quickly if you’re driving by and want to stop to get something to take-out. If you want to eat-in, there are wide counter height tables and a long counter against one section of the window – there’s probably seating for 15 people. In warm weather, there are a couple of picnic-type tables outdoors, in front - seating an additional 8-10 people.

    The menu is large, and the service was quick. There are seasonal (Lenten) specials (for example, crab cakes w/potato pancakes - $5.75), and a featured sandwich combo each day (today it was a hamburger with fries, and a 14oz. drink – for under $5). In addition to the owner (an affable Greek gentleman) there were two young men working behind the counter. Service was quick, and I have the sense that it’s rapid even during the rush periods. Hot dogs, hamburgers, Italian beef/sausage sandwiches are the featured items, but you can order other sandwiches, including: chicken breast, turkey, fish and baked ham. The owner was very friendly, and when I asked about various menu items he stressed that he serves fresh food – receiving supplies three times weekly.

    I was in the mood for a hot dog, and I wasn’t disappointed with the offering. The dogs are Vienna - with the natural casing - served with the traditional Chicago Dog toppings (no lettuce). The dog ($1.89) was on the smallish side of what Vienna sells, and was served in a poppy seed bun. It wasn’t overcooked, it had a mild snap when bitten-into – just the way I like ‘em. The bun was nicely steamed, and didn’t fall apart in the hand.

    The fries were golden crisp, slightly greasy, but not too much so. The menu says they’re “fresh cut” but I didn’t see any trace of potato skin. The small order ($1.29)was larger than a “large” order might be elsewhere.

    I washed-down the sandwich/fries with a small soft drink (14oz.), which sells for $1.09. My check for the lunch came to just about $5. In addition to lunch Fast Track serves breakfast, which I haven’t tried. I left satisfied and plan to return.

    Fast Track isn’t likely to be convenient to most people working in the Loop, or West Loop for that matter. But for someone driving through the area in search of a quick meal it might meet a need – particularly with the free parking out-front.

    The restaurant’s menu is available for viewing online (link below). There's a delivery option, also - most likely limited to the nearby area (and with a minium order of $10).

    Fast Track
    629 W. Lake St. (SE corner of Lake & Des Plaines)
    Chicago, Illinois
    (312) 993-9300
    Monday - Friday: 6:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.
    Saturday: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
    http://www.fasttrackonlake.com/
  • Post #2 - March 6th, 2006, 4:20 pm
    Post #2 - March 6th, 2006, 4:20 pm Post #2 - March 6th, 2006, 4:20 pm
    I'm a big Fast Track proponent - I go fairly often, hopping on the Green Line @ State/Lake stop taking it to the Clinton stop just for the lunch visit. One of the better dogs in the loop area imo.

    Harry's is my other Loop Hot Dog joint, and it ain't close by either. But both are worth the effort when Gold Coast Dogs on Wabash is the alternative.
  • Post #3 - March 6th, 2006, 4:53 pm
    Post #3 - March 6th, 2006, 4:53 pm Post #3 - March 6th, 2006, 4:53 pm
    I agree that Fast Track does a good job on the standard issue Chicago dog. Fries are good, too. Polish are good to, grilled. . . not the dreaded deepfryer dunk some of the brethren practice.

    Harry's, on the other hand, is just flat-out bad. I practically sit on top of the place and give it another chance every once in a while, but everytime I do, I say to self "self, never again".

    Harry's dogs always taste as though they've been in the water for days, no snap, more of a squish.

    I wish he was better for those days when it would be nice to have a hotdog lunch within pitching wedge distance.
  • Post #4 - March 6th, 2006, 4:55 pm
    Post #4 - March 6th, 2006, 4:55 pm Post #4 - March 6th, 2006, 4:55 pm
    I mentioned Fast Track on here a while back on a "Loop Lunch" thread. I agree with your assessment. Fast Track is the best dog joint in the Loop area in my view. Many varieties of dogs and polish, and all of them done well. Char dog is my personal favorite there.

    Shoot, I think I will have to buzz over there tomorrow!
  • Post #5 - March 6th, 2006, 5:23 pm
    Post #5 - March 6th, 2006, 5:23 pm Post #5 - March 6th, 2006, 5:23 pm
    "Harry's, on the other hand, is just flat-out bad. I practically sit on top of the place and give it another chance every once in a while, but everytime I do, I say to self "self, never again"."

    So what type of circus performer are you? :wink:

    I can't comment on the traditional dog and beef stand fare, which doesn't seem too great. But as regards breakfast, I must disagree. Those who know and appreciate grits here concur on this point. The grill man is pretty good with eggs, too.

    I saw something the other day that was sort of interesting; a regular ordered some kind of hot dog and hot giardinera omlette. Looked bad enough to be pretty good.
  • Post #6 - March 6th, 2006, 5:27 pm
    Post #6 - March 6th, 2006, 5:27 pm Post #6 - March 6th, 2006, 5:27 pm
    JeffB wrote:I saw something the other day that was sort of interesting; a regular ordered some kind of hot dog and hot giardinera omlette. Looked bad enough to be pretty good.


    Reminds me of a dish I saw at La Quebrada: an omlette/scrambled egg thing with hot dogs slices into it. Not sure if it contained jalapenos or other peppery condiment, but it may have.

    Hammond
    “Nobody exists on purpose. Nobody belongs anywhere. Everybody’s gonna die. Come watch TV?”
  • Post #7 - March 7th, 2006, 9:22 am
    Post #7 - March 7th, 2006, 9:22 am Post #7 - March 7th, 2006, 9:22 am
    dan1234 wrote:I agree that Fast Track does a good job on the standard issue Chicago dog. Fries are good, too. Polish are good to, grilled. . . not the dreaded deepfryer dunk some of the brethren practice.

    Harry's, on the other hand, is just flat-out bad. I practically sit on top of the place and give it another chance every once in a while, but everytime I do, I say to self "self, never again".


    I'd love to know where else you go for dogs in the loop...

    Harry's has a bigger dog than most, but I'm always happy w/ the snap and fixins. Although they have distrubingly attempted to put ketchup on my dog when I've ask for everything. I didn't think it was necessary to say no Ketchup in the heart of Chicago. Regardless, I do like the dogs.
  • Post #8 - March 8th, 2006, 11:23 pm
    Post #8 - March 8th, 2006, 11:23 pm Post #8 - March 8th, 2006, 11:23 pm
    I stopped by Fast Track for lunch today; my second visit. This time I was armed with a recently-purchased camera. I once again opted for the hot dog, because 1) I had a taste for one, and 2) because I wanted to see if there was some consistency in what was served.

    The place was a bit crowded at 1:15 when I got there. A half-dozen people in line in front of me and maybe 10 people sitting inside and a couple more outside at the tables.

    The hot dog (steamed) was as good as it was on Monday, as were the fries.

    Image

    Image

    Image

    Image

    Image
  • Post #9 - May 4th, 2007, 10:04 pm
    Post #9 - May 4th, 2007, 10:04 pm Post #9 - May 4th, 2007, 10:04 pm
    With the weather getting nicer I've started leaving the office for lunch more often now, and twice this week I stopped at Fast Track. Earlier in the week I opted for the hot dog with fries - a reliable standby; good dog, good presentation and good fries. Today I stopped there because I had a taste for a pepper and egg sandwich.

    When I lived in Oak Park and worked in nearby Melrose Park, I'd eat a pepper and egg sandwich just about every Friday. Stop at any Italian-owned/operated fast food restaurant on the west side and you can get some good sandwiches.

    Fast Track's version of the sandwich was more of a "fried egg with green pepper" sandwich than what I'm accustomed to: more of a "scrambled egg with green pepper" sandwich. I don't know if the fried egg thing is how the owner intends the sandwich to be presented, or if it's the result of an untrained/unsupervised staff.

    Fast Track's Pepper and Egg Sandwich

    Image

    It wasn't a bad tasting sandwich, though - and the nicely-crusted Italian bread (that's used for the beef sandwiches) was first buttered (I swear there was the hint of garlic) and then the inside was grilled before the egg was placed into it . . . and then it was sliced in half. Afterwards, I thought the bread was the best part of the sandwich - it was that good.

    Fast Track does a brisk business, mostly, it seems, from people who drive there; parking is easy to find in front of the place. Picnic benches are outside, and counters seating about 30 are available on the inside.
  • Post #10 - June 3rd, 2007, 1:00 pm
    Post #10 - June 3rd, 2007, 1:00 pm Post #10 - June 3rd, 2007, 1:00 pm
    As I work my way through the menu at Fast Track, some additional comments (and views of the place:

    Exterior view, looking N. on Des Plaines, approaching Lake St. There are some outdoor picnic-style tables, shaded by umbrellas - in addition to interior seating.

    Image

    My visits are M > F, between Noon > 2 p.m. This is what the place typically looks like during that time period:

    Image

    I've recently (a couple of times) had the chicken breast sandwich, which I like. It's sometimes the "special sandwich" of the day - packaged with fries and a drink for a lesser price than purchasing the three components individually. I like cheese on my chicken sandwich, and a heaping helping of giardinare:

    Image

    A favorite sandwich of mine is the patty melt. However, the patty melt at Fast Track has been a big disappointment: lack of flavor, not just with the meat, but with the onions - and there's no cheese on it. Once was enough, I won't be ordering it again.

    I've also been paying close attention to the fries Fast Track uses. The owner says they're "fresh cut" but I sense they're "fresh cut from the factory" and not on-site. McDonald's serves a better fry than this place.

    The patty melt sandwich:

    Image

    On the walk over to Fast Track from my office, east of there - I sometimes stop to view the monument/marker for the Haymarket Riot, which is located 1/2 block S. of Fast Track on the E. side of Des Plaines:

    Image
  • Post #11 - June 4th, 2007, 8:19 am
    Post #11 - June 4th, 2007, 8:19 am Post #11 - June 4th, 2007, 8:19 am
    Bill wrote:Fast Track's version of the sandwich was more of a "fried egg with green pepper" sandwich than what I'm accustomed to: more of a "scrambled egg with green pepper" sandwich. I don't know if the fried egg thing is how the owner intends the sandwich to be presented, or if it's the result of an untrained/unsupervised staff.


    As a yankee by birth, I can say that this is what I am used to. The typical, New England diner/roadside/stripmall quick eats house version of peppers and eggs on some form of bread (aka sandwitch) mainly consists of fried eggs and sweet green peppers on a flat top over a toasted roll. If one does not ask for the eggs to be done a certain way they will usually be cooked over-hard. It looks like this is a matter of regional difference though given that we are, in fact, in the Midwest, I would not rule out that the staff was untrained/unsupervised.
  • Post #12 - June 4th, 2007, 9:06 am
    Post #12 - June 4th, 2007, 9:06 am Post #12 - June 4th, 2007, 9:06 am
    Stagger wrote:
    Bill wrote:Fast Track's version of the sandwich was more of a "fried egg with green pepper" sandwich than what I'm accustomed to: more of a "scrambled egg with green pepper" sandwich. I don't know if the fried egg thing is how the owner intends the sandwich to be presented, or if it's the result of an untrained/unsupervised staff.


    As a yankee by birth, I can say that this is what I am used to. The typical, New England diner/roadside/stripmall quick eats house version of peppers and eggs on some form of bread (aka sandwitch) mainly consists of fried eggs and sweet green peppers on a flat top over a toasted roll. If one does not ask for the eggs to be done a certain way they will usually be cooked over-hard. It looks like this is a matter of regional difference though given that we are, in fact, in the Midwest, I would not rule out that the staff was untrained/unsupervised.


    That is how I remember the pepper & egg sandwiches as well. It is the way I prefer them. In fact, when I saw that picture and that Fast Track was making them the way I'm used them, I made a mental note to stop by there one day for lunch to pick one up.
  • Post #13 - June 4th, 2007, 9:50 am
    Post #13 - June 4th, 2007, 9:50 am Post #13 - June 4th, 2007, 9:50 am
    Bill wrote:I've also been paying close attention to the fries Fast Track uses. The owner says they're "fresh cut" but I sense they're "fresh cut from the factory" and not on-site. McDonald's serves a better fry than this place.

    I really like the sweet potato fries at Fast Track--thin and crispy and not too greasy. They're a nice alternative to the, I agree, lackluster regular fries.

    Kristen
  • Post #14 - June 22nd, 2007, 8:28 pm
    Post #14 - June 22nd, 2007, 8:28 pm Post #14 - June 22nd, 2007, 8:28 pm
    I stopped at Fast Track once again, yesterday. For lunch I had a cheeseburger accompanied by sweet potato fries. I hadn't tried the sweet potato fries before (nor had I observed anybody ordering them), but after reading kl5's comments I felt I had to check them out - at least once.

    Image

    The burger was okay, but what I did notice - which I'd forgotten from my unfortunate experience with the patty melt sandwich - Fast Track pre-cooks the hamburger patties and lets them sit in a container on the grill (submerged in water) and then places them on the grill for a minute or two when someone orders one - and this process renders them tasteless (or almost so); I think I'll skip burgers in future visits.

    The fries are what I really wanted this day, but I was disappointed with the results. They were thickly cut - what you might call "plank fries." They tasted as if they hadn't been cooked long enough. The fryer fat clung to them, but not to the point of permeating them. Cut thinner and cooked for the proper length of time - I can imagine the sweet potato fries to be great tasting. They had great color, though.

    The restaurant was packed with customers. One of the reasons I like this place is I feel relaxed eating there - especially sitting outdoors at one of the tables when the weather is as nice as it was yesterday.
  • Post #15 - June 23rd, 2007, 4:15 pm
    Post #15 - June 23rd, 2007, 4:15 pm Post #15 - June 23rd, 2007, 4:15 pm
    ahhh, the memories...

    fast track, used to be a must stop on my early morn (job related) forays into the loop.

    where else, in the vicinity, at 6am... could one, tired, of (their excellent) meat and egg sandwiches, break ordinary fast with a delectably grilled bratwurst or any other of their tasty lunch offerings?

    good to hear... they're still worth a stop.
  • Post #16 - January 26th, 2015, 4:16 pm
    Post #16 - January 26th, 2015, 4:16 pm Post #16 - January 26th, 2015, 4:16 pm
    Before I moved to Chicago I thought places like Fast Track – super old school stands/diners, hard under the El tracks, oozing with character – were on every street corner. I have since found out that's not the case, but that just makes me appreciate the ones I do find all the more. Show me a place like Hot Diggity, Chubby Weiner, Jimmy's, Fast Track, etc. and I'm gonna like it no matter how the food turns out.

    Food-wise Fast Track is middling-low when compared to other stands. The Italian beef sandwich is made up of your typical food service components: packaged beef product, factory giardinera, etc. I will say the portion is very large and the gravy had a good slow-cooked flavor:
    photo 2.JPG


    Hot dog was terrible, un-steamed stale bun, dried-out dog and condiments thrown on haphazardly. Fries look great but taste only OK. They seem like fresh cut potatoes that haven't been properly double-cooked. Not very crisp, and waxy interiors. Good potato flavor though:
    photo 4.JPG


    Like at my favorite hot dog stand Jeff's Red Hots (viewtopic.php?f=14&t=39724), Fast Track also has a model train going around a rail up by the ceiling. The food quality here is not nearly to the level of Jeff's but I still enjoyed seeing it:
    photo 3.JPG


    So I can’t exactly recommend Fast Track to any food lovers I know, but I will be back anyway. Come on, how can you not love a place that looks like this:
    photo 5.JPG
  • Post #17 - January 26th, 2015, 4:23 pm
    Post #17 - January 26th, 2015, 4:23 pm Post #17 - January 26th, 2015, 4:23 pm
    I'm pretty much done getting a beef at any place that doesn't do their own recipe for Italian Beef.
  • Post #18 - January 26th, 2015, 4:29 pm
    Post #18 - January 26th, 2015, 4:29 pm Post #18 - January 26th, 2015, 4:29 pm
    Ram4 wrote:I'm pretty much done getting a beef at any place that doesn't do their own recipe for Italian Beef.


    Generally good advice. I still gotta try it when I see it on the menu though. For science.
  • Post #19 - January 26th, 2015, 4:34 pm
    Post #19 - January 26th, 2015, 4:34 pm Post #19 - January 26th, 2015, 4:34 pm
    Right across the river is UB Dogs.
    Why waste your time at Fast Tack?
  • Post #20 - January 26th, 2015, 8:51 pm
    Post #20 - January 26th, 2015, 8:51 pm Post #20 - January 26th, 2015, 8:51 pm
    Although I really like UB's burgers, I find their beefs lack that true homemade fresh flavor....still go there for lunch on occasion - but long for the true beef experience downtown.
  • Post #21 - January 27th, 2015, 8:10 am
    Post #21 - January 27th, 2015, 8:10 am Post #21 - January 27th, 2015, 8:10 am
    stoutisgoodfood wrote: but long for the true beef experience downtown.


    Between Mr. Beef, Al's and Bombacigno's I'd say the real beef experience is alive and well downtown.
  • Post #22 - January 27th, 2015, 10:21 am
    Post #22 - January 27th, 2015, 10:21 am Post #22 - January 27th, 2015, 10:21 am
    mrefjl wrote:
    stoutisgoodfood wrote: but long for the true beef experience downtown.


    Between Mr. Beef, Al's and Bombacigno's I'd say the real beef experience is alive and well downtown.


    I think you mispelled Luke's and Fontano's. Mr. Beef and the chain Al's are meh.
  • Post #23 - January 27th, 2015, 11:15 am
    Post #23 - January 27th, 2015, 11:15 am Post #23 - January 27th, 2015, 11:15 am
    Truth be told, it's been a long time since I've been to any if the three, but the "real Italian beef experience" didn't mean the greatest Italian beef.
  • Post #24 - January 27th, 2015, 12:56 pm
    Post #24 - January 27th, 2015, 12:56 pm Post #24 - January 27th, 2015, 12:56 pm
    lodasi wrote:
    mrefjl wrote:
    stoutisgoodfood wrote: but long for the true beef experience downtown.


    Between Mr. Beef, Al's and Bombacigno's I'd say the real beef experience is alive and well downtown.


    I think you mispelled Luke's and Fontano's. Mr. Beef and the chain Al's are meh.



    Agree on Mr Beef, never have understood the attraction, but Al's on Adams is top drawer. As for UB, I find their beef ok, but more broadly have had inconsistent experiences there.
    "Living well is the best revenge"
  • Post #25 - January 27th, 2015, 1:05 pm
    Post #25 - January 27th, 2015, 1:05 pm Post #25 - January 27th, 2015, 1:05 pm
    I've had J&C's - don't really like their flavor profile. That said, their meatball sandwich and lasagne are hard to pass up. Mr Beef is a bit of a hike for me and I'll have to give Al's another shot, haven't been there in quite a while (same with Luke's).
  • Post #26 - January 27th, 2015, 2:39 pm
    Post #26 - January 27th, 2015, 2:39 pm Post #26 - January 27th, 2015, 2:39 pm
    zoid wrote:Right across the river is UB Dogs.
    Why waste your time at Fast Tack?


    I don't think UB has any better of a beef sandwich than Fast Track. The taste at UB reminds me of 80% of the other beef places which are using the generic prefab ingredients. UB does have good hot dogs and excellent fries.



    I think you mispelled Luke's and Fontano's. Mr. Beef and the chain Al's are meh.


    Agree on Luke's, it's consistently good. I gotta be honest though, I think the chain Al's are all pretty close to the original which is to say, excellent.
  • Post #27 - January 27th, 2015, 3:27 pm
    Post #27 - January 27th, 2015, 3:27 pm Post #27 - January 27th, 2015, 3:27 pm
    zoid wrote:Right across the river is UB Dogs.
    Why waste your time at Fast Tack?


    If you work in the West Loop, you'll spend (waste?) 20 minutes of precious walking time going from and from Clinton & Des Plaines to anything on the other side of the river. That said, I worked around the corner from Fast Track for 5 years and probably never ate there more than twice. I never found anything that appealed to me.
  • Post #28 - June 5th, 2019, 3:40 pm
    Post #28 - June 5th, 2019, 3:40 pm Post #28 - June 5th, 2019, 3:40 pm
    Fast Track
    629 W Lake St, Chicago
    Cash Only
    Free parking available onsite and a few outdoor tables.

    Vienna Hall of Fame Member and it shows. Pretty much the hotdog you might see on their posters.

    01A3404A-975B-49A8-A4E0-154212559F6E.jpeg

    It was My Brides and she enjoyed it very much. Everything nice and fresh.

    I always look for a unique item and the best I could do was...

    9604110B-32E4-4427-8F30-F1D2F8F5F176.jpeg Bratwurst

    Not all that unique but fairly rare at hotdog stands.

    Here, it traditionally comes dressed as a Chicago hotdog but I went with sauerkraut, grilled onions and mustard.

    They have several combo specials as well as daily. Sometimes there are 2 soups of the day.

    The train around the ceiling was cool!

    All in all a great lunch! You could do a lot worse.
    "Very good... but not my favorite." ~ Johnny Depp as Roux the Gypsy in Chocolat

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