You can get a dog for half a buck at your local Exxon-Mobil Tiger Mart — as long as you purchase a large drink. No, I didn’t do it.
But the perennial pup is staging a new assault on the American culinary consciousness from other beachheads as well. Call it a reaction to recession, a nostalgic yearning for simpler, pre-TARP times, or a cynical plot to poison the public with unmentionable animal parts and chemical additives, but evidence of the resurgence is everywhere.
The prestigious James Beard Foundation recently called the “low-brow” frank “a classic forcemeat,” and reported that some chefs are resorting to producing their own in order to control the ingredients — despite the fact that “producing the proper ratio of meat to fat and getting just the right emulsion are only a few of the obstacles.” Who knew?
Bon Appétit devoted several pages in its July edition to a piece entitled “Around the World in 80 Dogs,” in which such exotic toppings as cheddar with cider-braised leeks and apples and harissa-onion sauce with preserved lemon relish are presented. Recipes are given for these and four other tony toppings, along with a page of 74 additional flavor combinations. But nowhere is a true Texan- or Mexican-influenced dog even contemplated, which, of course, set me to thinking. Refrieds, crumbled queso, and fritos with pickled jalapeños? Guacamole with shredded lettuce, radishes, and lime? (If you come up with a good one, let us know.)
There’s a little smear of guacamole in one of the two-dozen or so hot dogs (and not dogs) offered by the newly opened King’s Court Frankfurter Express, just off the St. Mary’s Strip. But although the combinations are inventive, they don’t strive to be Bon App. Frankfurter is going with well-known, all-beef brands of franks, plus a variety of other tubular temptations. And though there is a large condiment garden stocked with everything from sliced olives and various peppers to neon relishes, there is not a red-onion raita in sight. Mustard lovers will be pleased with a large selection that even includes Dijon, but it’s the ball-park, fearlessly yellow variety that’s found in the squeeze bottles on the tables. (I suspect, in fact, that the red and yellow interior décor of the former cottage has been calibrated to coordinate with the ketchup and mustard dispensers.)
I skipped the Alamo, an all-beef Chicago dog with enchilada sauce, onions, cheddar, and chili powder in favor of a daily-special chili dog — my choice of Cincinnati or Wolf Brand. I should have known better; Cincinnatians are said to serve their chili on spaghetti, so what does that tell you? Right: boring. Even though it’s canned, Wolf is dependable. And Texan. But otherwise, the juicy, all-beef dog could hunt. The toasted bun was just sturdy enough, and since the wimpy chili didn’t count for much, I added carrot slaw (the most overtly healthy garnish available), kraut, and sport peppers to my heart’s content.
Venturing beyond beef on trial number two, I went whole-hog with the Texican, an over-the-top Polish sausage wrapped in bacon and deep-fried and topped with the smear of guac, a few pintos, sautéed onion, and chopped tomato — all spiked with a shot of Tabasco. The pintos might have added some nutritional balance, but little else; the guac was too sparse to matter; and the Tabasco didn’t come through (you can easily add more Tabasco and guac, though.) More sautéed onions would have been good, too, but even so the bacon-wrapped sausage supplied enough guilty pleasure to last for days.
Fries came with the special that first day, and they were limp but full of good potato flavor. Onion rings were the sidekick of choice with The Texican, and the crunchy coating was especially good. A return to fries (still wobbly but tasty) seemed in order with the New Yorker, a classic combo that conjured up Big Apple sidewalks and the ubiquitous Sabrett’s wagon with its yellow and blue umbrella. This is a long dog served with red-onion sauce, sauerkraut, and French’s mustard, and, frankly, it was my favorite. I never eat the bright-yellow stuff, but here it’s perfect, the onion sauce has a good, tangy bite, and you can always add more kraut. In honor of my grandmother and the crock she kept on her back porch, I did add more, freely admitting they had the balance right to begin with. And, since this was a long dog (about 10 inches, I’d reckon), there was room to play with other condiments, such as a sweet, mustardy chow-chow relish. Oh, and don’t forget the spears of deli pickles. The cost of all this pure pleasure? With rings and water, a little more than $5 plus tip. The service is friendly; you’ll want to tip nicely.
Given the economy, you might also want to consider operating your own wagon, though coveted spots on Alamo Plaza are likely hard to come by. A quick look online did reveal that used Sabrett’s carts start at around $600, so the initial investment isn’t prohibitive. All you need to do is to come up with a Davy Dog. Call me; I’m willing to brainstorm.
King’s Court Frankfurter Express
111 King’s Court
The Skinny All-beef dogs done right, plus veggie and sausage version. Not handicap accessible
Don' Miss the New Yorker and the Texican
Hours 11am-8pm Tue-Sat.