Sunday, March 7, 2010

The Evolution of the Hot Dog

Be prepared for a 15-20 minute wait in line and a 15-20 minute wait for "fast" food at The Slaw Dogs.

You may assume that you can get a realistic glimpse into my eating habits by reading this blog. You would be wrong. Or half wrong. Or maybe half right.

Take the last nine scrumptious days. I've slurped Japanese
udon and soba at Sanuki No Sato; indulged in a friend's home-made cassoulet, ala The Art of French Cooking; sampled more than a half dozen "red wines under $10" at the same friend's home; toasted to good health with a bottle of Veuve Clicquot; shared paella, charcutterie, Spanish potatoes and a bottle of Spanish wine with friends at Three Drunken Goats; met friends for dinner at Malbec, where my medium rare steak arrived well done (but the staff did an excellent job of correcting the overcook); had a tasteless burger at The Counter in Pasadena; sipped a Manhattan at the decades-old bar at Musso and Frank; tried the jellied consomme (like gelatin with a bouillon cube), beef tongue, mixed salad and Welsh Rarebit at Musso's; and couldn't get enough of the fusilli with fresh tomatoes (hangers on from the garden), shallots, garlic, olive oil, splash of balsamic and sea salt I made for dinner on Saturday night.

And, even though this rundown sounds like a foodie's fantasy, it's far from my typical week of dining and drinking. And it omits a lot of indulgences, like the half sleeve of Girl Scout Thin Mint Cookies that I gobbled down in the car on the way back from the Scout's home. Or the Cherry Garcia ice cream that I had to have after a friend blogged about the joys of the cherry and chocolate confection.

All but one of these meals was blog-worthy, but I'm not tempted to write about a single one of these dining adventures.

And why not?
Because I want to talk about hot dogs.

The Slaw Dogs kicks the classic hot dog up a notch.

Specifically, the dogs with attitude at Pasadena's newest specialty restaurant, The Slaw Dogs on North Lake Avenue. The hotdoggery has been open since February, and already lines are snaking out the door, an unusual sight in the City of Roses (especially north of the 210).

Today, I chatted with two women who had driven all the way from Camarillo and Torrance to sample the dogs. While other eateries are tumbling faster than dominoes, what is there about The Slaw Dogs that's packing in the crowds from all over Southern California?

It's an All-American classic. I know the saying is, "As American as Apple Pie," but we could just as easily substitute "hot dog" for "apple pie." Can you think of a hot dog without visions of family barbecues, fourth of July cookouts, greasy diners and baseball games. It's nostalgia wrapped in a bun.

It's a Regional Favorite: Seems like every state puts a different twist on the classic. There's the Chicago-style hotdog. The Coney Island dominates the Northeast. And, of course, the restaurant's namesake, the slaw dog, is a West Virginia classic. The bloggers at West Virginia Hot Dog point out that nobody in West Virginia orders a "slaw dog" because it's a given that your hot dog will come with slaw. (Well, it's a given if you live in one of the southern counties in the state. West Virginians take "regional food" to a whole new level.)

The Slaw Dog gives you the chance to order your dog just the way you like it, whether you're from Brooklyn, New York, or Charleston, West Virginia.

It Was Ready for a Makeover:
Like the humble grilled cheese sandwich, macaroni and cheese and hamburger, the hot dog was ready to benefit from all the best ingredients, including a selection of 11 links offered at The Slaw Dogs.

It's Fun to Have Choices:
In addition to the choice in links, The Slaw Dogs offers 25 "standard toppings" and 22 "custom toppings."

It Lends Itself to Fusion:
The Slaw Dogs offers a Thai Slaw Dog with chicken sausage, spicy peanut-cocunut satay dressing, cilantro-carrot slaw, crushed peanuts and siracha aioli. The Green Monster, which appears to be one of the most popular dogs offered, is topped with roasted green chilli (that runs the length of the dog), chipotle mayo, grilled onion, pepperjack, and spicy garlic salsa.

For my first visit, I went with "The Original" with chilli, cheese, mustard, onions and cole slaw (but I asked them to hold the cheese). It came served with a knife and fork, but that's almost as much fun as slicing up your pizza before you eat it. Unfortunately, my grilled hot dog bun became unhinged after two bites, but that didn't stop me from using my hands to polish off the classic.

Left: "The Original" slaw dog Right: The Green Monster, a crowd favorite

How did it compare with the slaw dogs I've devoured in my home state? Unlike the fine shredded cabbage in West Virginia, the slaw is coarse shredded at The Slaw Dogs. And the WV buns are soft and steamy, not dry from the grill. On the other hand, the chilli and the grilled hot dog were superior at The Slaw Dogs.

Country roads, take me home to the place I belong, Pasadena. But, next time, can ya' steam the bun?

The Slaw Dogs
720 N. Lake Ave., #8
Pasadena, CA 91104
Hours: Sunday - Wednesday, 11:00 am - 9:00 pm
Thursday - Saturday, 11:00 am - 10:00 pm


Chrissy said...

thanks for the review of The Counter.. didn't think it would be tasteless considering we would have the choice of condiments...oh well... slaw dogs sound pretty good, i would hate to imagine the calories or the nutritional value (if there is one) of the dog...:-)

Susan C said...

Chrissy, I was really disappointed in The Counter. I kept sprinkling on salt to try to give the hamburger some flavor. The patties are pressed, not hand-formed, the way I like.

One nice thing about Slaw Dogs is that they do offer some "healthy" choices - like the turkey dog and the veggie dog. And if you get slaw on top, you're indulging in cabbage, a surprisingly healthy veggie (on the NY Times list of 11 vegetables you aren't eating and should be).

KellyGrrl said...

Oh my, those looks delicious... As a big-time fan of Pink's, I love a good hot dog... My husband and I will have to have one of our "food adventures" and head up out of south OC to try that out :-)

Velva said...

I can't think of a better food than a good ol' hot dog. Great post!

Lori Webster said...

Y'know, I don't think I've eaten a hot dog in 15+ years, but your review makes me want one now.

I wonder why the Philly cheese steak place didn't work out, but very glad to hear there are lines forming for the new business. Now, if we can get some of that activity up here on North Lake.....

Susan C said...

Kelly, If you venture up from the OC, make sure you make your drive worthwhile. Stop in for cupcakes at Dot's, in the same shopping plaza.

And then come on up the hill for a scoop of gelato from Bulgari in Altadena. While you're at it, stop in at Webster's Fine Stationers (Lori and her husband's shop) on Lake in Altadena.

Velva, thanks. I think the only thing that makes a hot dog taste better is a cold glass of beer. They're working on getting their beer and wine license.

Lori, I loved that Philly Cheesesteak place and was sorry to see it close. The success of The Slaw Dogs gives me hope for all of the businesses north of the 210.

AmyR said...

Normal or not, I am jealous of your foodie week. Yum, yum, yum.

Slaw Dogs sounds like it's worth a try next time I'm over that way at least. I do love a tasty chili dog.

Can you at least say if that Welsh Rarebit was tasty?

PulledPorker said...

This place is definitely getting more popular by the day. Each of my visits it's increasingly crowded. I considered going on Saturday but the line was out the door and down the street.

Cafe Pasadena said...

Oh my, the #1 Orignial & Green (Veggie) Monster is also what I had last week! I love women who love a good hot dog.

However, the weakpoint is the bun. Each time the bun has fallen apart in my hand, not in my mouth.

@Counter: Catherine de Gastronomer & I ate there last month. We weren't impressed for the price.

(SC, I think you meant to say they've been open since early Feb)

Susan C said...

Amy, I loved the Welsh Rarebit at Musso and Frank's. My dining companion thought it had too much sherry, but I don't think there's such a thing. :) (By the way, it's on Gold's list of 99 Things to Eat Before You Die)

Porker, I drove by on Saturday and couldn't believe the line.

CP: You have hit the nail on the head about the weak link being the bun.

My other, easy-to-remedy complaint is that the straws are too short for the bottled soda.

altadenahiker said...

It takes a leap of faith to spend 6-10 dollars for a hot dog. I'll have to work on that one.

Pasadena Adjacent said...

I want your life. It includes Musso and Frank. That should be me, dam it, ME!!

If I had to go over the weeks culinary experiences all I could come up with is a mexican macaroon from the Panera on Fig and a chicken wrap at Pita Pita.

What's the price of a dog at Musso and Franks?

Mary said...

You've had quite a week :-). My favorite hot dog is the Kosher frank served on the boardwalk at Coney Island. There's also a Nathan's near the ritual baths that serves a fine dog. Can't beat stale steamed buns, mustard lightly coated with sand and the policing required when reporting to a "higher authority". Hopefully, you're old enough to remember the commercial for Hebrew Nation Hot Dogs and not think me crazy.

Petrea said...

It's exciting to see something cause so much buzz. Hot dogs and the grilled cheese truck are doing it around here these days.

Bummer about the Counter. The one in Studio City was pretty good. (Must be a franchise.)

Cafe Pasadena said...

SC, and the cupcake place in the same shopping center as Slaws is not dots. It's PolkaTots ! So, you have dessert tempting you as go to your car.

Btw, there are other taco trucks I'd like to see before the grilled cheese makes its 2nd coming to Pas.

Susan C said...

AH, My original dog was "just" $4.99, but it's pretty easy to find slaw dogs for a buck in WV.

PA, "Price of a dog at Musso and Frank's" Heh! The closest thing would be the beef tongue for $29.

Mary, Hope to one day have a Kosher dog on the Coney Island boardwalk. Yep, I know about that "higher authority" and Hebrew National.

Petrea, Have you tried the grilled cheese truck? Sounds like they have some pretty innovative sandwiches on their menu.

CP, Thanks for the correction. I can't believe I did that, especially since I'm a bit anti-Dots and very pro-Polkatots. Alma is a doll!

Petrea said...

I haven't tried the grilled cheese truck but I'm dying to. I was at Musso & Frank a few weeks ago and had the pork special; disappointingly dry. It's fun to go there anyway because it's Musso & Frank! Worth every penny just for the experience.

Margaret said...

Now here's news I can use. Sounds like a fun time.

Bec said...

You had me at Veuve Cliquot and Cherry Garcia - good thing I can still enjoy one of those while I'm pregnant. I just noticed Slaw Dogs a few days ago and it's really close to me. Now I'll have to try it!

Karen said...

Steve and I had slaw dogs on Saturday. We got there when the line was still inside, but it was out the door when we left.

I had the snap dog (not much snap; Pinks is better) with slaw (liked it) for $4.99. Steve had the chicken dog with relish and onions. He would've liked the onions crispier but overall enjoyed it.

I don't think we'd go over there special, or wait in line, but we'd eat there again.

Petrea said...

This is in my neighborhood so I see the crowds. It's gotten so much publicity lately! I think we're going to wait until the lines die down, but I look forward to checking it out.

Wandering Chopsticks said...

So much hype this place has gotten lately. I love hot dogs but they're expensive here, no? For the same price, I can get an entree at a Chinese or Vietnamese restaurant. I know, different food, but still...

I have a soft spot for Chicago-style hot dogs, of course. :P