Hot Dogs Not Hot Enough

Mac-Dog

In 2010, I put hot dogs on my Sweet 16 food trends list for 2011.

Not only had food trucks specializing in “haute” dogs popped up, like Short Leash in Phoenix, but high-end restaurants were embracing the ballpark standard, tucking it between filet mignon and grilled snapper.

I figured it wouldn’t be long before brick & mortar doggy joints popped up.

Mac-Dog-Interior

And they did. In September of 2011, Top Chef alum Richard Blais opened HD1 in Atlanta.

2012 saw even more openings: Bangers (Austin);  The Bowery (Dallas); Brat Haüs (Scottsdale, AZ); and Handlebar & Grill (Tempe, AZ).

I would venture a guess that a haute hot dog joint has opened recently in your city, too.

HD1 seems to be holding its own, and the menu is still mostly dogs of all barks of life. Reports of two-hour waits on weekends means Bangers, located on the trendy, pub-populated Rainey Street near downtown Austin, is doing a bang up job.

The others have had varying degrees of success, receiving lukewarm receptions from both critics and customers.

Exterior The Bowery

Situated in prime uptown Dallas real estate, The Bowery “temporarily closed” on December 26, noting on their Facebook page that they are relocating. When I dined there recently, my server said they had already re-tooled the menu since opening last summer, dropping the less successful dogs, and adding more burgers and sides.

Chili-Kicker

The Brat Haüs in Scottsdale also revamped it’s menu within six months of opening, dropping the pup count down to 9 from an opening high of 13, expanding their sides and salads, and adding a whole new section of entrees, like meatloaf and fried chicken and waffles.

MacNCheese

The menu at Handlebar & Grill in Tempe, which opened last September, has already been reprinted at least once, dropping a dog and tweaking a few other items. The emphasis is now (maybe it always was, but it seems even more so now) on the beer side of the equation — not the sausages, even though Handlebar is smart enough to leave the sausage making to  Schriener’s, arguably the best sausage maker in town.

It seems that, at least for some restaurateurs, haute dogs aren’t hot enough.

I have a theory as to why. One word.

Southwest-Burger

Hamburgers. Yep, as much as Americans *think* they love hot dogs… and they do — on street corners and at ballparks, state fairs and Costco… they just can’t picture themselves eating a hot dog on a regular basis, even if it is gussied up with root beer braised onions or velvety mac ‘n cheese.

The hamburger, though, is a totally different animal. And we simply can’t get enough of the latter, gussied up or not.

What do you think? Do you eat hot dogs weekly or on a regular basis? Would you rather eat a hot dog or a hamburger?

14 replies
  1. Dominic Armato
    Dominic Armato says:

    Doug Sohn has nearly a decade of daily lines around the block that suggest otherwise.

    Haute dogs are plenty. As with most things, “that will never work” usually doesn’t, until somebody does it really, really, really well.

    Reply
  2. Dominic Armato
    Dominic Armato says:

    (Incidentally, that’s the guy most of these places are trying to emulate. With good reason. But most don’t do it very well. I think *that’s* the reason, not an inherent flaw in the concept.)

    Reply
  3. Gwen Ashley Walters
    Gwen Ashley Walters says:

    Dom… fair enough. You have to do something well for it to succeed… but I’m still standing by my hamburger trumps a hot dog any day theory ;)

    Reply
  4. Dominic Armato
    Dominic Armato says:

    “Although I’m not keen on standing in line for a hot dog.”

    I trust this is an intentional bit of hyperbole… you have seen his weekly specials menu, right?

    http://www.hotdougs.com/specials.htm

    It won’t be life changing. Few things really are. And if you go in expecting a life changing event, you’ll be disappointed. But if you sample a few, I’d be surprised if you didn’t love it and didn’t agree that he’s operating on a completely different plane than most of the imitators.

    But anyway, like I say, another discussion for a theoretical future when we’ve both been there :-)

    Reply
    • Gwen Ashley Walters
      Gwen Ashley Walters says:

      Dom, the list of specials is intriguing, but I’m having trouble picturing a hot dog guy doing a shrimp & grits hotdog worth the corn it’s based on. BUT, before you go nuts, I DO believe that he must be the dog King because you know your stuff (and apparently so does Bourdain. Had he been featured on DDD instead, I might have balked because that show is hit or miss. Bourdain never misses.) I WILL get there, just not sure when.

      Reply
  5. Sharon
    Sharon says:

    A Costco dog is a hot dog and not a haute dog and that’s why it will prevail. I’m a purist when it comes to hot dogs. I mean, I’ve enjoyed a Sonoran dog and I think cole slaw on a dog is tasty but I’m from NYC so for me a hot dog should be a kosher one, should crack when you bite into it and should be adorned with yellow mustard and maybe sauerkraut but that’s it. And ketchup on a hot dog should be outlawed. But that’s just me.

    Reply
  6. Gwen Ashley Walters
    Gwen Ashley Walters says:

    Sharon & Dom… where did ketchup on a hot dog come from? The fact that most Americans will put ketchup on anything? I guess it depends on what you grew up with. I grew up with chili dogs. Not sure I ate many without it.

    Reply
  7. Dominic Armato
    Dominic Armato says:

    I’m down with chili dogs. But yeah, I don’t get the ketchup thing. Though I suppose I understand it more on most run of the mill hot dogs. If you have a lousy hot dog, then at least it’s pleasantly tomato-ey sweet. But ketchup’s the quickest way to kill the flavor of a good one. There’s a reason so many cultures pair sausage and mustard.

    Reply

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