Friday, June 24, 2011

Redemption In Simplicity

Thank you, Johnnie's Chicago Red Hots, for reaffirming my faith in the basic dog.  Vienna Beef jumbo frank, tomato, relish, pickle, onion, yellow mustard, celery salt, sport peppers on a poppy seed bun.  I had to go overboard.  I had to add the slaw.  Still, the orchestra of flavors that Chicago ingredients bring to the table shines through the mess of mayonnaise, cabbage and carrots that I greedily slathered on top.

I've been a fan of Johnnie's for a while now.  When I walk in the door, I wonder how they manage to stay in business.  Nine times out of ten, I'm the only customer in there.  But, as soon as I'm noticed, I am treated like a king.  Then, the food arrives and it always blows me away.  Kosher-style dog dragged through the garden.  Fresh-cut fries.  And that poppy seed bun.  The flavor from the peppers and the pickle.  The neon relish.  The fresh tomato.  It all comes together perfectly.  Adding the slaw only brings another element.  A creamy, crisp vinegar taste that cools the senses.  I've been a patron for years.  They're consistent, fast and exceptional, if somewhat traditional.  Nothing will stop me from returning frequently.

Rating: 4/5

The Epic Chili Conundrum

Or: Why I can never hate a hot dog.

Last week I visited Max Sports Grille for the second time.  Now that I see it as my duty to try the hot dog everywhere I go, I ordered their foot-long chili cheese and onion dog.  When it arrived, I immediately knew it would be a fork-and-knife endeavor.  For a chili cheese dog, it had all the right flavors, but it just wasn't working for me.  Had I become spoiled by all the carefully crafted dogs I'd been eating lately?  Had chili, cheese and onions become too blue-collar for my elitist tastes?  Or was this dog just not that good?

It was almost painful.  Choking back tears and all-beef frank slathered in chili, I mourned the loss of simple pleasures.  This epic dog was everything I expected, but I just couldn't enjoy it.  At the time i chalked it up to the beany chili, but in retrospect, I have to say it must have been that since I've been on this quest, since I have seen the light, a chili cheese dog is just not what I am after anymore.  What used to be a favorite of mine is now a thing of the past.  The way the chili turned the bun into a meaty sponge just didn't excite me.  The overload of a big slice of dog with everything on it wasn't as stimulating as it used to be.  I'll give chili dogs another chance, but it is very likely that I have moved on.  The abundance of locally-made natural casing dogs in the valley has me craving only that.  Maybe I will find a solution to my existential hot-dog crisis.  Until then, I'll just have to keep eating every hot dog I come across.

Rating: 1/5

Friday, June 17, 2011

Doin' Work!

Expect revised summer specials menu to be done by mid-next week.  Hot dogs are coming to Boulders on Broadway!

My Grandma and Your Grandma...

And then there was Aiko...

After devouring the Lady, it was time to tackle Aiko.  I was immediately drawn to this dog when I saw the flyer for Short Leash Hot Dogs.  One of the dogs we have in the works for the bar includes mango chutney, among other things.  The Aiko features fresh mango chutney, diced jalapenos, red onions, cilantro and mayo.  The suggested meat pairing was the spicy beer dog. 

Even though the Lady had given my stomach a serious punch, I couldn't wait to try the Aiko.  From first bite to last, I enjoyed this dog thoroughly.  The spicy beer dog had just the right amount of heat and was balanced perfectly by the sweet, fresh diced mango.  The cilantro and onions brought another level of fresh flavor.  My only gripe on this dog was that they were a little heavy handed on the mayo.  I honestly could have done without it all together, but I guess it would be a little too light.  Nothing beats the cool refreshing flavor of mango when enjoying what proved to be a very spicy beer dog.  I can honestly say this is the best dog I have had in recent memory, even if it was somewhat punishing to eat after already having had one enormous dog piled with cream cheese and fried pickles.

Rating: 5/5  Hot Dog Heaven!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Hello, Lady

Meet Lady.

My boss and I have been brainstorming for a couple of weeks, trying to come up with a few dogs to add to our menu for the summer.  After the Hungover Man's Best Friend (more on that later) caught on, everyone has been coming to me with everything hot-dog related.  The bar manager's wife passed on a flyer for Short Leash Hot Dogs.  The menu looked phenomenal.  A both dog and hot dog lover's dream.  Franks named for pups, piled with everything from mango chutney to barbecue sauce.  Yesterday my lovely lady and I decided to make an adventure out of obtaining some of these enticing dogs.  We hopped on our bikes and made our way downtown to the Phoenix Public Market.  Sure enough, at the end of the open-air market was a semi-circle of food trucks.  The smells were diverse and amazing, but we were there for one thing only.  A small trailer hitched to one of the bigger trucks was our destination.  The Mrs. ordered and I grabbed a small table in front of a swamp cooler.  My hopes were set pretty high, but I can't say I was disappointed.  I love the whole food truck trend and the promise of craft dogs from a tiny aluminum trailer gets my appetite roaring. 

When the dogs arrived and I unwrapped the Lady, I was speechless.  Their regular (natural casing, all beef) dog topped with chipotle cream cheese, sauteed onions and fried sweet pickles wrapped in light, soft naan bread.  From first bite to last, I was in dog heaven.  Though I felt at times, while enjoying the dog-delight, that they went a little heavy on the chipotle cream cheese, it was offset by the sweet pickles.  Though it wasn't exactly light, the naan made it easy to eat, wrapped up like a burrito.  All the fixins were contained and every bite had just enough dog, topping and bread.  The damn dog must've been at least a third of a pound, but it was steamed to perfection and tender all the way through.  It almost ran the complete flavor spectrum.  Spicy cream cheese, sweet pickles and onions, all set to compliment the beef frank's savory flavor and balance each other out.

The diversity of their menu made it hard for me to choose just one dog.  I would have loved to eat from every truck there, but I had to settle for a couple of dogs.  I was on a mission, after all.  There's more to come from Short Leash.  Something even more eclectic than cream cheese and fried pickles.

Rating 4/5

Casey Moore's Fried Cheddar Dog Special

Behold: The Casey Moore's Oyster House Fried Cheddar Double Dog Special.

My local watering hole also doubles as a great lunch spot.  They offer reasonably priced daily specials that are usually pretty delicious.  Any time they have a hot dog on that menu, it proves to be the natural choice for me.  Yesterday, a coworker and I decided to grab lunch and a beer before work.  Lo and behold, they had this behemoth on the specials list.  For a mere six dollars I got two local natural casing all beef dogs and a mountain of melted cheddar cheese on a soft french roll along with a side of my choice.  This was a beast of a different nature.  The roll was fantastic.  Soft, but not at all doughy.  The dogs were that special kind of juicy that only comes from a deep fryer.  Your standard Ball Park Frank wouldn't hold up to all that hot oil, though.  The natural casing franks allowed them to remain crisp on the outside while retaining that burst of flavor and tenderness.  The cheese was another story.  What must have been six slices of sharp cheddar overpowered the flavor of the franks and led me to add some Arizona Gunslinger Jalapeno Pepper Sauce and wedge my dill pickle spear in between the franks.  This minor adjustment made it an enjoyable lunch, if somewhat underwhelming.  I'll give Casey's the benefit of the doubt one more time in regards to my beloved hot dogs.  If the next one is just as over-cheesed and greasy as this one, I'll have to stick to a salad or something.  And that would be tragic.

Rating: 2/5


To try as many hot dogs as possible and to document the experience.  The birth of the boutique hot dog industry has led to a resurgence in hot dog enthusiasm.  Dogs aren't just for the 4th of July or gas stations anymore, though I am not above the late night corner store Oscar Mayer with cheese sauce and relish.  I see it as my duty to provide a detailed review of every dog that crosses my path until i am myocardially infarcted.  Though I'm not too keen on rating systems, I'll implement a one-to-five dog system.  One being convenience store special and five being hot dog heaven.  I hope my reviews are both insightful and funny.  Most of all, I hope you enjoy them.