John & Milkbone get Dirty
“That’s what ya like to see,” the guy said as he scooched behind me and Milkbone to grab mustard packets from a box of condiments under the soda fountain. A few minutes later he was back to get more and again, maybe in case we missed it the first time, said : “That’s what ya like to see.”
“Yeah,” Milkbone said to me as an aside. “If you own the place.”
What the guy liked to see, and what had Milkbone grumbling like a hungry stomach, was a lunchtime line spilling out of Dirty Dog’s Burgers and More, a new joint on Hancock Street in Quincy that’s barely a month old. Of course, it’s not too hard to fill a joint that’s ten feet wide and twenty feet front to back, but if the food sucked, that same space could be a yawning void. There may be a newness factor involved in the crowdedness—I need to drive by on other nice weekday lunchtimes to see if the place is still crammed—but in our first visit Milkbone and I concurred that Dirty Dog’s would be an okay place to get a dog if you were close by. It’s not a destination HDJ.
Part of this is a question of location. Hancock Street in Quincy becomes the Parking Lot of the Damned at noon and most days you’ve got a better chance
of hitting Powerball than finding a space. If anything, Dirty Dog’s will thrive on walk-up traffic from the surrounding office buildings. Here’s hoping they’ll do better in the space than did the Boar’s Head sandwich shop that used to be here. (Reference “yawning void” in previous paragraph.)
Per our standing arrangement, I had offered to buy Milkbone lunch in exchange for the opinion of his impeccable palate. He also had a crappy week at work, so I wanted to give the guy a break. (It must be said that I don’t actually know what Milkbone does for a living. If I had to guess, I would assume it involves night vision goggles, a fake passport and some duct tape.)
Trying to avoid looking like weirdos who photograph everything they eat, we got in line for our first foray into Dirty Dog’s.
First things: This is NOT a hot dog joint per se. If not evident from the fact that the name of the place emphasizes “Burgers & More,” it’s evident in the fact that there are just seven dogs from which to choose. When you whittle away the plain, cheese and chili versions that every place that offers dogs ought to have, you’re left with just four choices. When you’re a topping freak like me, that’s a slight disappointment. They offer a few sausage options, but we’re here for the dogs.
As a quick aside, after watching them cook up some burgers here, I intend to come back and try those. They looked mighty good, and they melt their cheese by flipping a dome over the burger so it steams on.
But to the dogs… Given the limited choices, and complaining of a bit of chili-dog weariness, Milkbone kept it simple: a Boston baked-bean dog and a cheese dog. That left it up to me to assail the limited toppings-heavy dogs. I went with a Cape Cod dog and the Messy Dog.
All dogs are served in a buttered, griddled New England style roll. The dogs themselves, Milkbone and I agreed, were tasty–a good bit of spice and a perfect griddle-imparted snap. “Beefy, and not too salty,” Milkbone opined. There’s a note on the menu that says the dogs are made just for Dirty Dog’s. (Will have to ask next time through.)
I liked the blend of flavors in my Cape Cod dog, but there was a flaw in the construction—at least, in my opinion. The toppings are relish, cole slaw and mustard. In that order. And that’s the problem. Mustard goes on the dog, not on the slaw. It seems ultra-picky, I know. It’s not like this dog was going to be less sloppy my way, but the mustard looked like it was just going to slide off the slaw. A big half-thought-out wad of brilliant yellow across the top of the thing. In fact, before I was halfway through, most of the slaw was either down the hatch or dribbled onto the hot dog holder and the mustard had gone with it, leaving me with a plain dog and some relish. Waah, waah, waah, John. Let’s all agree that this might just be a “me” thing and move on.
The Messy Dog came straight out of the truth-in-advertising department, a goopy mass of chili, sauerkraut and cheese. If you order more than one dog, as I did, EAT THIS FIRST. I had it second and by then the bun had been totally overcome by the moist toppings, turning it into a soggy lump of no-damn-help-whatsoever. On the upside, the combo of chili and sauerkraut was pretty tasty, a little tart bite under the spice. I can’t tell if the chili here is fresh or fresh out of the can. There’s a posting on their Facebook fan page that says it’s homemade, but it bears a striking resemblance to Bush’s chili, and on its own, flavor-wise, it wasn’t much to write home about.
Over on Milkbone’s side of the table, Dirty Dog’s wasn’t doing much to improve his bad week. “The toppings were uninspired,” he wrote later. “Boston Baked Bean Dog had about 2 tablespoons of what seemed like Bush’s Beans from the can. Those flavors always work for me, salty dog with sweet beans, but the bean smegma soaked the bun due to sloppy assembly.” He concluded digging the bean dog’s grave with a single word: “Tragic.”
His cheese dog warranted nary but a shrug: “…soaked in warmed Eazy Cheez,” he wrote, disappointment oozing like hot faux fromage through his e-mail. “I ate it, no complaints but ….ya know…it was a dog with Eazy Cheez. Thoroughly mediocre.”
I know that hot dogs aren’t the big focal point here, and maybe we’re being hard on the new kids as they get up to speed. Let it be said that the service was good, the staff is nice and these folks work like…well, they work like dogs to keep the crowd moving. But their “famous hot dogs” (quote from menu sign) need a little work. There’s no doubt I’ll stop in again–I work in Quincy and come downtown now and then–and I wish Dirty Dog’s the best of luck. If the crowd we hit is any indication they’ll do okay–no matter what Milkbone and I think.