Hot dogs - the new gourmet burger?
I'm pretty sure this is where things are headed. Although Toronto continues to have more and more gourmet burger places opening up each minute, we are generally a bit behind the times. I'm pretty sure encased meat is where it's at.
Don't get me wrong, my love of burgers is pure and true. But lately I've been having a bit of a love affair with the oh-so-enticing wonders of deep-fried bacon-wrapped hot dogs and Rosemary and Garlic Smoked Chicken Sausage with Sweet Chili-Garlic Mustard and Cheese-Stuffed Marinated Hot Peppers (yes, you read that correctly; feel free to re-read, it took me a few times to process the amazingness of those words). Here, have a look at it:
Let's start with Toronto. I'd say our street meat is actually pretty good, it's nice that they grill the hot dogs and sausages and we get a wide variety of toppings. Today I went to The Counter and noticed they have a foot-long hot dog on the menu. Toppings weren't particularly exciting (not compared to what I'm going to show you) but it's a start: for example, grilled onions/mushrooms/swiss cheese and bacon. But like I said, we tend to be a bit behind the times.
Let's head on to NYC and Chicago. While NYC has somehow become famous for street meat, I've never been much of a fan of dirty water dogs. I mean seriously? Dirty water dogs over grilled? Not likely. Anyway, maybe it all started with Gray's Papaya for me. Gray's is a classic but I wasn't wowed when I went. It's cheap and I hadn't had a hot dog with sauerkraut on it so it was a bit of a novelty but didn't make much of an impression. However, NYC is home to Crif Dogs, which I love love love. My favourite is the classic house dog, wrapped in bacon, but I certainly wouldn't turn down a Spicy Red Neck: a house dog, bacon-wrapped, with chili, coleslaw and jalapenos.
By luck I had back-to-back trips to NYC and Chicago (the journey of encased meats?) so had an interesting comparison. Although people may talk about NYC when they talk about hot dogs, Chicago takes the crown on this one (Yet oddly, people talk about Chicago pizza and I'd say NYC pizza is way better. Go figure). Here's a pretty standard Chicago dog:
Think about this. This is standard. This is like, boring. I assume you're now starting to see the awesomeness of Chicago dogs over NYC dogs. But I haven't gotten to the best part yet. Remember Ferris Bueller's Day Off? Abe Froman, the Sausage King of Chicago? He's like, real! Well, sort of. His name is Doug Sohn, owner of Hot Doug's. While tastes vary, I'm pretty sure that whoever you are, you will likely find the Jesus encased meat of your choice at Hot Doug's (Doug is also really nice! He works the counter!).
That is the Bacon and Cheddar Elk Sausage with Bacon-Garlic Mayonnaise and Black Mountain Garlic-White Wine Cheese. Although I could only try two sausages on my visit to Hot Doug's, this one blew my mind. Each component was soooo delicious! And together they were an explosion of deliciousness! Love love love!
But getting back to my original point (I did sort of have one) - I think that hot dogs may be the new gourmet burgers. Case in point - I stumbled across the Eleven Madison Park bar menu online and noticed the Petite Hot Dog: bacon, gruyère cheese, celery relish and black truffles.
If this really is the next food trend, then maybe we'll get a decent equivalent in Toronto (eyeballs Hoof Cafe hopefully).