To think that Zacky’s Hot Dogs & BBQ is merely a hot dog and fry joint would be a serious mistake. Under all the Vienna hot dog signs and the different styles of dogs available on the menu beats the heart of a serious BBQ and Soul Food restaurant.
Zacky’s is a small family restaurant operated by Zack and Toni Daring and their six children. Zacky’s is located in a tiny strip mall off of South Rangeline Road in Carmel, just a bit north of 116th Street, on the east side of the road. If you blink you might miss it and that would be a culinary tragedy of epic proportions, for you at least.
Zacky’s is quite small with the kitchen section of the place taking up the entire left half of the restaurant, the other half is occupied by less than a dozen tables covered with red and white checked vinyl table cloths. The place always seems to be busy and noise levels can be fairly high with all the coming and going of the customers, conversations, and kitchen noises going on.
Ordering is a simple affair; walk up to the counter, look at the menu written on the white board, and place your order. Sit down at one of the tables or stand and wait for your name to be called. They offer free refills on drinks and there is always someone available to top your drink off or take another order should you find yourself still a touch peckish like we did.
Sanitation is fine. When ordering you can see into the kitchen area and it is impeccably clean. The floors and bathroom are clean and there is always someone busy clearing tables and wiping down everything.
OK, now this is where Zacky’s really shines. Jeff and I walked in with the idea of having a bit of a dog feast where we each order two or three hot dogs and share the flavors. But when I realized that Zacky’s had BBQ on the menu along with one of my favorite sides, Mixed Greens, plans changed! I ended up ordering the Beef Brisket sandwich with a side of Mac-N-Cheese and an order of Mixed Greens. Jeff ordered The Chicago and Indy Blue hot dogs with a side of Onion Rings.
So here is the report, hot dogs first since that is what we went for. The Chicago was a Chicago style hot dog. It was good, just like any Chicago dog I have ever had, and it satisfied a craving. The Indy Blue on the other hand was an original! I thought it was a Colts gimmick, but when I bit into that hot dog and tasted the explosion of blue cheese and bacon in my mouth, I was sold. Zack’s Indy Blue is now my favorite hot dog hands down! The Onion Rings were good but nothing to write home about, but the Mixed Greens and Mac-N-Cheese were another story altogether. The Mixed Greens were savory, lightly salted, and had a nice smoky zing from the ham hocks. They gave me goose bumps! Who’d a thunk? The Mac-N-Cheese is homemade, creamy, with a brown caramelized crust. They are extremely flavorful and will have your kids turning their noses up at Kraft Mac & Cheese from the first taste! Jeff and I were bowled over by the flavors.
Then we got into the BBQ and damn, I’m impressed! The brisket in my sandwich was sliced, not shredded. There was a good quarter of an inch of smoke ring on that meat and it was tender, smoky, and delicious. Most of the BBQ I have had here in Indiana is grilled, or even worse parboiled, shredded and drowned in sauce. Often times it has had the piss smoked out of it and I end up spending the rest of the day burping hickory smoke flavor, yuck!
I ordered my BBQ sauce on the side and I was happy that I did because it was a commercial style similar to Sweet Baby Rays. Now I’m not against commercial sauces mind you, but to put anything other than a homemade sauce on that quality of a brisket would have been sacrilege! I’ve eaten and made a lot of BBQ over the years and I must say Zacky’s is great and will have me coming back for more! Need I say that I got goose bumps again? Funny thing was so did Jeff!
Now you’d think we would be done eating by now, BUT WAIT! THERE’S MORE! Considering how surprised and pleased we were by the non-hot dog offerings Zacky’s offered, we decided to try a few more Soul Food sides. I ordered some more Mixed Greens along with some Black-Eyed Peas and Great Northern Beans. The flavors reminded me of a time in my childhood when I spent a few weeks with my American grandparents in Arkansas. They were dirt poor and had been all their lives. Their food was simple, but really well made with lots of flavor. While Zacky’s beans and black-eyed peas were much thicker than those my grandparents fed me, they were dead on in the tenderness and flavors of the beans. Oh and I shouldn’t leave out that we also had a little taste of BBQ pork tenderloin and rib tips and, like the brisket, they were over the top!
The Juicy Bits
If you have a hankering for some Chi-town nostalgia in the form of a tasty Chicago Dog, you’ll be happy with Zacky’s Hot Dogs & BBQ. The service is quick and the entire staff (family) is friendly and helpful. Like I said in my opening; however, if you think Zacky’s is only about the dog, you’re missing the boat. Zacky’s puts out some top notch BBQ and Soul Food. For me, at least, the flavors in the Soul Food sides brought back some great memories and I thanked Zack for helping me recover them. You could tell he was genuinely pleased by that. He and his family love what they do, that’s for sure, and it shows in their food and the pride they take in their restaurant. That is the best reference I can give. That is also why Zack and Toni and their family deserve the four piggies we have awarded them. Don’t miss this little gem in Carmel.
In summary: Soul Food and great BBQ in Carmel? Who’d a thunk it!?!
Zacky’s Hotdogs and BBQ
1315 South Rangeline Road
Carmel, IN 46032
Tel: (317) 838-5088
Hours: Monday – Thursday (11:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.), Friday & Saturday (11:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m.), Closed Sunday