A squiggle of mustard, a swipe of relish, a scatter of onions and a dog with a snappy casing is what I call perfection. How do you like your dogs?
With spring comes baseball, and ballpark franks are on the mind, but they’re certainly not relegated to stadium eating. Around here, restaurants also cater to the hot dog crowd.
Today, here’s a look at hot dogs around town. Where do you get your favorite dog? Comment here.
First up: The Red Hot
I like the tag line for The Red Hot: “Craft Beer. Hot Dogs. No Jerks.” I’ll buy that.
This 21-and-older Sixth Avenue spot specializes in the largest menu of custom dogs I’ve ever eaten my way through. And what’s the perfect accompaniment to dogs? Beer. They’ve got plenty of it; and you’ll find serious beer geek level craft beers on tap (think World Cup beer winners and beers waxed snobbily in Beer Advocate). Just because a beer is there one week doesn’t mean it’ll be there next week; or even tomorrow. Taps change so often, The Red Hot’s Twitter account and Web site are the best way to keep up.
The tap selection is impressive, but this is not a place for beer snobbery. On every anonymous visit I’ve made to The Red Hot, the vibe always trended friendly and welcoming. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a grandma or a gritty Tacoma hipster – you’ll get a friendly hello and goodbye when you arrive and leave The Red Hot. The restaurant is high tables and bar stools, with plenty of room to navigate.
Serious dog fans have something to salivate over – a menu of more than a dozen custom dogs. I like that the Red Hot uses natural casing dogs, which translates into mouthy snap. They also have sausages and veggie dogs on the menu.
My favorite is the choice for Chicago purists – the Chicago Dog ($3.75). An all-beef dog comes with yellow mustard, the requisite neon green relish, chopped onions, sliced tomatoes, a pickle spear and a few sport peppers tucked into the poppy seed bun. Celery salt? Check. It’s there, too.
The Coney ($3.75) is another dog that stays true to tradition – an all-beef dog with yellow mustard, chopped onions and topped with thick and meaty ground beef chili. Joe Grimm, a Detroit journalist who is writing a book on Coney Dogs, confirmed that the Red Hot’s Coney stays pure form for a Coney (contrary to what you might think, Coney Island dogs really are a Michigan and Midwest matter of pride, although they get their name from New York’s Coney Island). He e-mailed me his description of a perfect Coney: “Steamed bun, a natural casing hot dog, beanless chili, yellow mustard, white onion.” And the Red Hot delivered, right on down to the meaty, thick chili. In Coney Dog terms, the chili was meaty and dry like Flint style; as opposed to runny Detroit style.
The rest of the menu focuses on dogs with local names and unusual spins. The Hilltop Strangler ($4) is an all beef dog nestled into a bun with a slice of chewy, smoky bacon, smeared with Thousand Island dressing, mustard and nacho cheese and topped with chopped onions and sliced tomatoes.
The Tacoma Boys BLT ($4) is named for the Tacoma grocery store and also comes with bacon, and dressed with mayo, black pepper and sliced tomatoes (no lettuce to mar up a perfectly good hot dog experience, though).
The Rainier Reuben ($3.50) keeps it simple but sour with Thousand Island dressing and a sauerkraut topper. The menu lists three sausages.
I tried the Ruston Ragin’ Cajun ($3.75) and felt a lasting mouth sting from the super spicy andouille sausage loaded up with barbecue sauce, onions, house-made coleslaw and dusted with cayenne pepper.
That house-made coleslaw, with a puckery vinaigrette as opposed to a mayo-based slaw, also showed up on the filthy nachos ($4), a dish of round tortilla chips laden with nacho cheese, onions, jalapenos and the beefy chili. A few other siders fill out the menu, including Frito Pie ($2.50), chips and MoonPies for dessert.
The Red Hot recently was paid a visit by the Food Network television show “Chefs VS. City,” details of which can be found on The Red Hot’s Web site.
The Red Hot
Where: 2914 Sixth Ave., Tacoma
Web site: http://redhottacoma.com/
Hours: 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Mondays-Thursdays; 11 a.m.-midnight Fridays and Saturdays; 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Sundays