Hot Dog Diner – Cleveland, OH
Here it is! My first stab as a contributor to The Hot Dog I Ate. I was pretty psyched when I found this site, at first not so much for the reviews, but mainly because I was in Ft Wayne, IN looking for a Hot Dog stand and needed some help finding a place. So what started out as a Google search of “Ft Wayne Hot Dogs” has morphed into me sharing my experiences chowing through hot dog joint after hot dot joint through Mike’s creation… “The Hot Dog I Ate.”
A little about me; I’m a middle-aged wide-body who appreciates the delectable experience of all meats encased! Brats, sausages, red hots, coneys, snappers, or dogs… whatever you call them, they are my preferred meal of choice. Little did my mother know that what started out as a quick easy lunch over 35 years ago has turned into a life long obsession searching for the best hot dog joints in the US. From stadiums to street vendors, from drive-in’s to dives, few places are off limits.
So without further ado, my first submission….. The Hot Dog Diner in Cleveland, OH. The Hot Dog Diner isn’t your normal hot dog joint, one glance at the menu and you know you’re in a place that cares about its dogs. Items like “The Eric Mangini”, a hot dog with chilli sauce and “Dawg Pound Sauce” named after the Cleveland Browns new head coach, sets this place apart. (Note: As a lifelong Steeler fan, this is a line I must draw, I’m not eating “The Eric Mangini,” I’ll leave that to the players on the field when the Steelers roll into Cleveland.)
What I’ve decided to do in places like this is to order one (possibly two) dogs the way I like it and then order one or two of their specialties to get a feel for the gourmet side of what they are trying to do. That said, I went with my favorite, two snappy dogs with chili, mustard, and onions (CMO)… and one anyway the waitress wanted. She selected the “Hillbilly Dog,” a snappy smothered in chili sauce, cole slaw, ketchup, and mustard. On the side an order of fresh-cut fries with cheese.
Order in… food soon to arrive… and soon it did…. the dogs were great. The chili dogs had a very nice snap to them. The sauce was a chili sauce and had a distinct flavor of chili powder with it. This wasn’t the canned sauce from Sysco, this stuff was created specifically by the Hot Dog Diner. The dogs themselves weren’t just you run of the mill dogs, these were natural casing dogs, the grand daddy of hot dogs. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll rarely judge a dog by its coating, but there is something extra special about a dog when you bite into it and hear that snap from the crisp outer skin (a little extra help from the deep fryer doesn’t hurt either, it adds that extra flavor and texture that sets it apart from others.)
On to the waitresses selection, the Hillbilly Dog. I’m usually not so adventurous as to allow someone else decide how I get my dog, and for the most part I don’t deviate from my standard, but I’m tuning over a new bun for this. I’m thinking if I am going to make an interesting review of a place, I’ve got to broaden my bun a little and go with the flow…. and with the Hillbilly dog I was pleasantly surprised. The addition of the cole slaw gave it nice cool feel to the hotter chili sauce. The marriage of these flavors worked well and while I’m not yet ready to say that I could go into a hot dog joint and forgo my staple of CMO, I am a little closer to the thought of opening up a bit more and not snubbing my nose at a variation.
After eating, Dave the owner stopped over to chat. It was quite clear Dave’s love of quality food and ingredients. Dave gave me the history of the place, just a mere 2.5 years old, and how they’ve already rubbed elbows with celebrity. Dave gave me a rundown on how the Ashton Kutcher produced show Opportunity Knocks brought him on board when they were shooting in Canton, OH and the fun experience that brought to him and his family (the episode never aired on TV however) and how a competitor opened up shop around the corner and tried to sell dogs for .35 cents (that lasted maybe 6 months.) While the Hot Dog Diner may be small in size, it serves up big flavor.