The Prodigal Hot Dog Blogger Returns
So I’m sure all of you guys have been like “where’s Mike and why isn’t he showing me any pictures of wieners?”
Oh yes, I’ll take it there.
So I’ve been busy. Yes, busy. What’s it to you? I’ve actually taken a turn away from hot dogs over the summer (egads!) and have honed my skills at smoking BBQ. Two years ago, when it was a nice day out, I’d pile the dog into the car and head out to god-knows-where in search of a great hot dog. This past year found me grabbing a rack of ribs and some hickory chunks instead . . . .
Well, perhaps I’m being a little disingenuous. I have been going to some great dog joints this past year and I’ll highlight a few for you in what hopefully shouldn’t be an over-long post. But first, allow me to introduce you to our newest contributor. Luddies and gennemen, this blogger’s gonna be a father . . . .
And now that you know why I’ll be incommunicado for another six months, let’s get down to bidniz!
Archie’s on a Roll in Marlborough is one of the great hot dog wagons operating in Massachusetts, imho, and I’ve regrettably only been able to visit just the once. It’s got everything you could hope for in a hot dog truck: a kind, knowledgeable owner who loves talking about dogs; excellent regional hot dogs; and a loyal clientele.
Archie (or so I’m assuming, since I didn’t ask the owner’s name) told me a great story of growing up as a young man in Toronto and having the amazing coney-style hot dogs that have made their way up from Michigan (and maybe Indiana). He calls it a chili dog but I think that’s just for the sake of his Massachusetts customers who typically aren’t familiar with coneys. He specializes in these delectable treats, which have a sweet and savory meat sauce topping combined with yellow mustard and raw white onions. Honestly, I was in heaven because I haven’t had a coney this good since leaving home in Indiana. Absolute perfection in his execution where the sauce played a significant part but didn’t get in the way of the pork flavor of the hot dog.
With the two coneys I opted for a slaw dog, which had a spicy cayenne kick topping them. Think deviled egg and a hot dog making love in your mouth and that’s the amazing experience you get. Absolutely worth a trip to Marlborough, even if you live in the Boston area like I do.
The next hot dog stop was for the very zeitgeist-y (in the world of hot dogs, at least) Sonoran dog. Lately the Boston-area has been deluged by restaurants offering their take on the southwestern specialty but there’s one joint that’s been excelling at it.
John S. (who, with Alex, has been picking up my slack on the blog this past year) sent me an email in the Spring of last year saying he had heard of a place in East Boston that specialized in Sonoran dogs. Being the hot dog gladiator that he is, when I suggested a group outing he drove from over an hour away and, with his trusty comapanion Boy, joined forces with me take on this amazing hot dog.
The Sonoran dog at Que Padre was the first I’ve had and I’m nearly positive is the best I’ll taste in the Boston area. The restaurant specializes in Bolivian and Mexican food in addition to the Sonoran dog and was the hole-in-the-wall kind of place that’s constantly hopping not only because they’re popular but because they’ve only got space enough for fifteen people seated cheek-to-jowl.
So the hot dog: while four guys were waiting for their dogs to be cooked, the staff kept constantly apologizing for how long it was taking–but that wasn’t more than 10 minutes or so. I’m guessing that they’re met with people who don’t understand that it takes a bacon-wrapped hot dog, properly cooked so you don’t end up with a limp length of bacon fat hugging a lukewarm dog, longer than 30 seconds to come out of the kitchen.
The sweet bun that the crispy bacon-wrapped dog nestled in was topped with a plethora (Jefe, what is a plethora?) of pinto beans, diced onions and tomatoes, jalapeno sauce, mustard, mayo, and (yes, believe it) ketchup. Eat your hearts out, suckas.
Later in the year my wife Samantha and I found ourselves out on a California adventure, taking in the sights and sounds of San Francisco and hiking in Yosemite. While there I took the opportunity to visit what’s been billed as the original craft beer bar, Toronado, which is paired with the amazing Rosamunde Sausage Grill.
Walking in to Rosamunde, it was like paying a visit to a scaled-down version of my favorite German sausage kitchen, Karl’s. The case shows their daily offerings which are thrown on to the grill according to your heart’s desire.
When I was ordering I quickly realized I was surrounded by craft beer fans who had migrated over from the bar next door, Toronado. This is one of those great restaurants that not only benefits from having superior offerings but also from the symbiotic relationship it shares with the bar next door–you order your food and walk into Toronado, ready to soak up some alcohol with superior sausage.
On the menu was duck sausage and I never pass on duck. You’d be smart not to as well when visiting Rosamunde because this was the perfect blend of the fattiness that duck is so well known for with its robust game flavor. When the cook asked me what toppings I wanted I deferred to his suggestion and–since he mentioned the duck was his favorite sausage as well–I got what may very well be the best sausage at Rosamunde. A duck sausage topped with a sweet and incredibly spicy concoction of onions, carrots, and hot peppers. Pair with a few pints of Pliny the Elder at Toronado and you’ve discovered my version of eternal bliss.
Now let’s take a moment to appreciate yours truly, Michael. Yes, this was left for me (or one of the million other Michaels that live in the world) at my workplace. I’d say it hits all the right notes.
So, our next significant stop, and the last, in hot dog land took us to Vermont. Honestly, it wasn’t hot dogs that took us to the great white north, but rather the delicious brew billed as Heady Topper.
While visiting the Burlington area last month with our most excellent friends Hank and Ashley, we stumbled upon Handy’s Lunch, which had a huge banner in the window advertising Texas Hot Dogs. Texas Hot Dogs in the snowy kingdom of Vermont? Well, I had to try some . . . .
Walking in, I noticed that the diner was filled but an absolute hush permeated the space. For a moment I felt like Dusty Bottoms entering a Mexican cantina until I realized everyone was listening to the United States getting a red ass beat-down by Finland to take fourth place in Olympic hockey.
Regardless of what was going on in the hockey world, the patrons, the owner and the staff were quick to peel themselves away from the train wreck happening on the radio and talk dogs. These guys were very proud of their sausages and rightly so. Unlike a coney sauce, their Texas sauce was very dry, beefy and had a spiciness that snuck up on you at the end. As you can see from the hot dog cross-section below, they split the dogs and cook them on the griddle top, making plenty of space for the Texas sauce to nestle in. Along with the dog and sauce was a small amount of yellow mustard and red onion, just enough to make its presence known but not dominant.
Sam and Ashley (Hank’s wife) always joke that Hank and I are sweet on each other. I think this picture proves them wrong.
And to end the post, a shot of Sam & I enduring the extremely cold wind blowing off Lake Champlain in Burlington. This is the last time you’ll see us alone, after May you’ll get to meet our new contributor. Happy New Year everyone, it’s great to be back!