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This year marks the 25th anniversary of Andy’s – Andy’s Red Hots offers more than hot dogs

Written by Contributor. Posted in Featured

Published on November 05, 2019 with No Comments

by Lee Lyons
Imagine this: “fast food” made fresh to order of the finest, traditional ingredients; low prices that beat all of the chain restaurants; and a menu that harkens back to the traditional, basic “going out to eat” foods of childhood.

Well, you don’t have to merely imagine it; you can eat there, Andy’s Red Hots in the Central Avenue Plaza in Portage offers a large menu of dogs, sausages, and sandwiches designed to please both your taste buds and your wallet.

This year marks the 25th anniversary of Andy’s, which owner Howie Popp says remains largely unchanged from when he bought the business in 1994.

The origins of Andy’s are sad: Howie’s-13 year-old daughter Andrea had recently been killed in a car accident and Howie’s wife Tracy was beside herself with grief.  To give her something to do and distract her from her mourning, Howie bought the business for Tracy to run.

And she did, for several years, tripling the restaurant’s business in the first three years and freshening up the popular eatery with paintings of happy hot dogs on the walls and front window.

Over time, Howie, a Vietnam veteran who served two tours in Southeast Asia (1968-1970) in the armored tank division, has made only a few changes and those designed to make the place more friendly and welcoming.  Up near the front window, Howie offers a variety of military-themed sweatshirts for sale, all profits going to local veterans’ organizations. Handcrafted license plates honoring all of the military services are also available, with all profits again going to veterans’ groups. Further inside stand three pinball machines that attract young customers, some of whom have never seen this type of arcade machine. It all makes for a friendly, inviting place, socially responsible, as well as delicious.

And “delicious” is the key to Andy’s success. Howie says there’s no skimping when it comes to his food’s ingredients. He uses Vienna brand hot dogs and Polish sausage and Corfu brand gyros. The tzatziki sauce he makes himself from a special recipe, and all items are “dressed” in the traditional way that fans expect. Gyros include sliced onions and tomatoes as well as the tzatziki sauce; hot dogs include mustard, peppers, and bright green relish. Polish sausage can include sauerkraut and the Italian beef sandwiches wouldn’t be complete without house-made dipping au jus. 

Loyal customers all have their favorites. Mike comes in to get an Italian beef for his mother. George and Janice Stewart each get an enormous pork tenderloin sandwich.

Some repeat customers indulge in Wing Zings or Mozzarella sticks, or the ever-popular cream cheese Jalapeno peppers.” Everyone has a favorite,” Howie laughs. And some have two or three.

“It’s a customer service business and it succeeds by word-of-mouth. Friends tell friends this is a great place to eat, or to take home food and they tell their friends. That’s how it goes,” Howie explains.

Good staff is also important. Customers return or don’t depending on the service they get. “I have good staff,” he says. “It’s a great starter job. A place for kids to learn what it is to work, how to cook and the fact that there’s more to the job than just preparing food. You have to clean up. You have to make change.”

Howie laughs again. “Nobody knows how to make change anymore. This is a great place to learn your skills.”

It’s also a great place to eat and, in honor of that, Howie promises everyone who clips out and brings in a copy of this article gets a Buy-One-Get-One-Free deal. The hard part will be deciding what two sandwiches to try.

Andy’s Red Hots is open six days a week, Monday through Saturday from 10:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m., located at 6220 Central Ave. in Portage.  Phone ahead for large orders, 219-763-BEEF (2333).

 

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