So, in the spirit of this selection: Chow down!
Restaurant: Mustard’s Last Stand
Address: 1613 Central Street, Evanston
Hours: Mon-Fri 10:30 a.m. – 10:00 p.m., Sat 10:30 a.m. – 10:30 p.m., Sun 11:00 a.m. – 10:30 p.m.
Getting there: less than a block from either Ryan Field stop on the Northwestern Shuttle
Mustard’s Last Stand, a traditional Chicago hotdog house on Ryan Field’s doorstep, serves a variety of hearty American eats. Mustard’s is a stand in the most literal sense: you won’t find much more than standing room inside, but cozy, close quarters and the warm smells of chili and meat may turn out to be just what the doctor ordered, especially as winter wears on.
Another joint with average service. The staff at Mustard’s seemed happy to have us, but a bit impatient with our first-timers’ uncertainty when faced with their surprisingly large menu. This tension was perpetuated by the lack of any sort of division between the staff and the patrons. The only thing that separated us was a low counter. And while this lack of division created a nice, open space inside Mustard’s, I felt as though there was no escaping the staff’s collective gaze and no way to gauge their feelings towards me.
While it's a tiny eating space, there’s something homey about Mustard’s Last Stand. Indoor diners are relegated to a narrow bar that runs along one side of the room. It’s a bit of a precarious perch, but the view is rewarding: The walls are lined with a mixture of bizarre family photos, seasonal decorations and memorabilia from literally every sport imaginable. Croquet mallets hang above one window, while an old photo of Francis Ouimet is pinned up next to a box of old golf balls; horse racing scenes, slam-dunk shots and a variety of jerseys from Chicago sports teams and beyond leave little wall space exposed. It’s an interesting visual treat. Furthermore, the smell inside Mustard’s is to die for: hot chili, frying oil and meat smoke from the grills across the room. Enough of the food scent disappears into the kitchen fans that it never becomes overwhelming and stays, as far as I’m concerned, quite pleasant.
Date Factor (3.5/5)
If your date enjoys hotdogs, or just relatively inexpensive grill fare, Mustard’s Last Stand is a convenient and cozy place to go. It’s super easy to get to from campus, a very short shuttle ride north, and the trip could make for a pleasant walk together in the warmer months. Depending on what you order, the food can be a bit messy, but not to the point that embarrassing instances are likely.
Mustard’s service is exactly what one would expect from a hotdog stand. Although the workers were decent enough, their overwhelming sense of impatience killed the sense of kitschy hospitality that the physical restaurant exudes. If you aren’t looking for five star service, Mustard’s will probably satisfy your requirements. On the brighter side, Mustard’s offers delivery services for a $3.00 fee, so you can always have a great ‘dog from the comfort of your own room.
This year-round hotdog stand is a bit more enclosed than a traditional stand. A cabin-style building, Mustard’s has a vibe somewhere between classic smokehouse and endearing hole-in-the-wall. As John mentioned, the walls are absolutely covered with sports memorabilia. Photos of various Big Ten teams stopping for a bite at Mustard’s line the walls; there’s even a picture of a bride and groom eating their first meal as husband and wife at Mustard’s. Images of famous athletes hang next to little league snapshots. Tradition runs deep at this simple and friendly restaurant, and I can’t help but think that the eclectic wallpaper of framed photographs must provide some sort of additional insulation in the winter. The small seating bar creates a folksy atmosphere, but Mustard’s could easily become overcrowded. Nothing about Mustard’s screams “classy,” but everything whispers “cozy.”
Date Factor (3/5)
Although I sincerely enjoyed my lunch at Mustard’s Last Stand, I think the bride and groom in one of the wall photos might have taken this lowly hotdog stand a bit too far. Unless your date is an absolute hotdog fanatic, Mustard’s should be relegated to the “cute, but not particularly romantic” date category. Mustard’s is a perfectly decent casual lunch or game day date location, but it’s nothing beyond that. That being said, it would be a great relaxed first date location. Just be sure that your date isn’t repulsed by hotdogs before venturing out to Mustard’s Last Stand, or you just might find yourself in Custer’s shoes.
Mustard’s Last Stand is a great hotdog vendor next door to Ryan Field. Keep it in mind for next football season. After the game, Mustard’s is a fantastic place to grab a ‘dog or burger with friends to celebrate a victory or drown out a loss with cholesterol. Or take that cutie you’ve been flirting with for the whole game out for chili cheese fries or a scoop of ice cream. This winter, Mustard’s is the best summer cravings fix that’s easily accessible from campus. Mustard’s may not be the most romantic restaurant, but it’s a darn good hotdog stand.