Restaurant of the Week: Windy C’s

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Windy C’s Chicago Hot Dogs, 140 S. Mountain Ave. (at 8th), Upland

Upland is now home to two independent, non-Wienerschnitzel, non-Jody Maroni hot dog joints, which I believe is two more than any other city in the valley. Johnson’s arrived this fall. Windy C’s (visit its website here) has been around since 1999.

It’s a dinky place with 11 seats in a storefront by a Rubio’s and in the same center as Fresh & Easy and Dollar Tree. A brief experiment with a second location downtown (on C, appropriately) failed, but the Mountain storefront continues.

I’ve been there a few times over the years. I don’t have any experience with Chicago hot dogs, so I can’t say how this place measures up. Chicago dogs are loaded up with too many condiments for my taste anyway. But I went in again recently for a Wrigley ($7.39 as a combo with soda and fries), which comes with sauerkraut, mustard, cheese and a pickle slice on a steamed bun. I liked it.

Other dogs have Windy City-friendly names like Rush Street and Comiskey, and they also serve chili, corn, Polish dogs and Italian beef. There’s a signed photo on the wall from Richard Daley, who presumably signed the photo in the City of Broad Shoulders rather than the City of Gracious Living.

Windy C’s uses Vienna beef dogs, which owner Freddy Johnson says is more authentic than the red hots at Johnson’s. (Note how the competing place’s name is also his own name. That’s gotta smart.) Signs proclaim that Vienna beef is the official dog of the Sox and Cubs.

Now, about the service. A lot of people hate it here. As one Yelper put it: “I believe the owner is at his wit’s end and has the attitude that he’s super fed up with your BS even though you’ve never met him before.” Overall the place gets 1.5 stars. The New Diner blog didn’t like it either. Two reviews on Trip Advisor are brutal, with one comparing Johnson to “Seinfeld’s” Soup Nazi and other other saying the owner laughed at his complaint.

Johnson is abrupt and that obviously rubs a lot of people the wrong way, although from my observation over a lunch hour he has friendlier interplay with customers he knows. People always wonder how he can stay in business, but the New Diner asked that question in 2005, and you’ll notice Windy C’s is still hanging tough. People who aren’t on the Internet must be made of sterner stuff.

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  • Joey Catuara

    For the complete opposite in service, the owner of The Hot Dog Shoppe in Corona couldn’t be friendlier the first time anyone walks in, including making recommendations off their enormous menu. And the hot dogs are far better (in my opinion) than C’s Chicago. Believe it or not, it’s worth a trip to Corona for these hot dogs and sausage sandwiches.

  • Rick Cuevas

    When the sign goes up that says, UNDER NEW OWNERSHIP, we will go back.
    We gave Windy C’s TWO chances. The second one was worse than the first one.

    Johnson’s Hot Dogs was a better experience, the dogs were good, fries excellent, service in comparison, spectacular.

  • Joe Conrad

    Costco has a quarter pound hotdog and soda for $1.50. You don’t need a membership card (for the outdoor locations) and your kids will think you’re a millionaire.

  • John E. Bredehoft

    A very interesting observation at the end of your post.

    There’s a lot of talk at the moment about the power of the Internet, based upon Verizon’s withdrawal of its proposed $2 “convenience fee” and the whole GoDaddy thing (although I personally believe that the GoDaddy boycott isn’t all that effective).

    Yet the Internet is not the real world. While I’m sure Windy C’s has its tech-savvy customers, many of them probably think Yelp is something an animal does. And at the end of the day, some people are not going to be willing to drive to Corona — or even to Montclair — for a hot dog.

  • Charles Bentley

    Rather than get involved in a sausage v. snarking discussion, I just want to ask about the “formerly Dollar Tree” reference. Did something happen to the Dollar Tree? I was there a few days ago and it was still doing big business.


    [I misspoke. I’ll fix the post. — DA]

  • Don J

    No need to apologize to Dollar Tree, Dave, w/Family Dollar in Ontario, & according to today’s Daily Bull Want-Ads, it seems Dollar General is opening their grocery hybrid store into Montclair. With Krispy Kreme & Chick-Fil-A firmly entrenched a homesick Southerner might see the I.E. get a Waffle House in no time.

    [Heh heh. — DA]

  • Ronald Scott

    My wife used to work at the Rubio’s next door and she used to come home with all kinds of funny stories of Freddy. Like the time his opening time came and some customers were knocking on the window wanting to get some hot dogs. I guess Freddy had enough and said “I know what time it is…I don’t need you people telling me”!! Or the time a water pipe in his restaurant burst and my wife saw him running around the building dripping wet to go shut off the the entire building..Hair salon, his store and Rubio’s!!!

    [Ha ha! Thanks, Ron. Btw, I notice you’re now saying “my wife” rather than “my fiancee,” so apparently congratulations are in order. — DA]

  • Bill E

    He is a little “off.” I was the only person eating there for lunch and tried to make small talk about his older BMW. He got angry and yelled at me. I guess we all have bad days, he just has a lot of them! 🙂

  • Scott in the RC

    Went there hoping for an authentic Chicago Italian Beef sandwich. Haven’t been back for another as the sandwich was unfortunately a horrible effort. Only place I’ve found a good one is in Fullerton at Portillo’s, which was awesome!

  • DC

    Freddy is a man who commands respect. When I say that, I mean he tells respect what to do.

    The first time I walked in was in 2000. With a stature similar to Gary Coleman, I saw a man stroll out, wiping his hands on a towel and peering over the counter at me with a look on his face that told me it was time to order something or get out. Instead, as I was perusing the perplexing menu, I decided to attempt small talk. With all the signage out front, I thought it was a relatively new shop, so I asked him how business was. He continued to peer out from the counter at me and paused as if one of us were about to pull out an uzi on each other and quietly replied, “How’s BUSINESS?? … It’s alright.”

    So, I ordered the first thing on the menu I saw.

    I didn’t go back for a few months because I was just too damn scared. But I decided I’d give it another shot. I suppose it was the sport peppers. I ended up eating there for 9 lunch breaks in a row. After that, not only did he lighten up, but I became the talk of the town for a while. Everytime I’d come in, he’d show me off like I was his prize pet. “Dis’ dude, he came here nine times!” Big smile on his face. He gave me discounts, extra hot dogs, etc. I sometimes wonder if he felt confused as to why, unlike others, I often returned.

    Eventually I moved to another job, another town, and so my visits stopped, but over twelve years later, I came in with my family straight off the airplane ’cause I missed the place. Must’ve been the sport peppers. And sure enough he remembered me. Big bright smile as he hastily lounged during the lunch rush while some green terrified new-hire picked out dogs from the steamer.

    Even now I feel hesitant writing this, that if he sees this review, the next time I come in he’ll tell me, “No dogs for you!”

    But I’ll tell you, those dogs are the best I’ve ever had.

    [DC, thanks for the great opening joke, and the anecdote too. See, it’s possible to be scared of Freddy and love him at the same time. — DA]