Tasting Table | Meaghan Agnew
We're calling it: Hot dogs are the new hamburger. The ballpark staple has graduated to the big leagues, appearing on the menus of venerated restaurants around the country. Here's a roundup of some of the country's most intriguing haute dogs, with a bonus nod to an A-1 effort overseas. Get your buns in gear.
The Kirkland Tap & Trotter, Somerville, MA
"I've always wanted to serve a hot dog, and when The Kirkland Tap & Trotter was conceived, it had 'great hot dog' written all over it," Tony Maws, the maestro behind Craigie on Main and its more casual counterpart, says. The man applied a serious fastidiousness to developing his off-menu house dog ($16), a blend of pork shoulder, grass-fed beef chuck and beef shoulder. The Monday night special comes nestled inside a homemade pretzel bun astride from-scratch condiments; additional toppings rotate weekly and might include roasted cotija cheese or pico de gallo. Those who can't wait until Monday can go whole hog with the Sunday brunch hot dog hash.
Fourteen dollars for a hot dog? Abso-damn-lutely, when every single element, from the bun to the condiments, is this accomplished. Chef Stephen Wambach took the iconic Chicago-style offering--celery salt, onions, relish, mustard, pickles, tomatoes (no ketchup ever)--and remade it into his image. The hand-cranked, smoked and charbroiled all-beef frankfurter ($14) comes atop a house-baked bun with a battery of house-made sides. And let's just say it: There's a special sort of pride that comes from ordering a hot dog at a four-star restaurant.
Senate, Cincinnati, OH
Oh, that every city had a casual-chic gastropub that designated a whole section of the menu to the venerable dog, done up with cheeky monikers like Hello Kitty 2.0 ($10) and the genius Una Noche con Nick Lachey ($10). The enormous all-beef dogs are encased in a brioche bun with toppings as incongruous as they are delicious: béchamel, Black Forest ham and a poached egg (Croque Madame); bacon, American cheese and coleslaw (Trailer Park); roasted mushroom pico de gallo, avocado, chipotle mayo, pickled jalapenos and queso fresco (the aforementioned Lachey).
The Grey Plume, Omaha, NE
It's not all mail-order steaks out here. Chef Clayton Chapman starts with a house-made (and smoked) Heritage Berkshire Pork shoulder dog, then tops it with homemade sauerkraut, yellow mustard, ketchup, aioli and relish, all produced using local ingredients ($12). And here's one way to mentally counteract that post-dog guilt: Grey Plume is one of the most sustainable restaurants in the country, thanks to its LEED-certified building and seasonally sourced livestock and produce.
Wurst Kitchen, Providence, RI
This is the secret dream of every self-styled gastronome: hot dogs served at a French restaurant. Tucked inside the farm-to-table Chez Pascal is a diminutive open kitchen with four bar stools and two communal tables. There, guests can sample house-made dogs from chef Matt Gennuso that are part of the restaurant's larger sausage menu ($4 to $12). At lunch, the wiener gets a simple bun treatment, but come dinnertime, it gets a serious upgrade: It's wrapped in a Danish dough blanket and enhanced with sea salt, caraway and Dijon mustard. The newly addicted can satisfy their cravings with to-go orders from the Wurst Window.
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Olympic Provisions, Portland, OR
As the state's first USDA-certified curing facility, Olympic Provisions has been smoking its own foot-longers since 2009. The venerated Portland charcuterie serves a pup at both outposts for lunch and brunch; from 3 to 5 p.m. on Tuesday through Sunday, you can nab the dog for five bucks (otherwise, it's $7). Locals are also going nuts for its recently unveiled hot dog cart, which serves the meat and condiments inside a hollowed-out roll, Austrian style.
The Golden State, Los Angeles, CA
L.A. abounds in lionized lowbrow take-out dogs, but James Starr and Jason Bernstein have moved the wiener fest indoors at their upscale-casual Fairfax spot. The owners source their meat from Let's Be Frank, a Bay Area artisanal purveyor of snappy-skinned grass-fed beef and turkey dogs, all nitrate free. Toppings include house-made relish, garlic aioli and roasted red peppers ($8).
The cosmopolitan frank has hopped the pond. Sandia Chang's cool establishment cuts to the chase with the low-high dining dream of hot dogs paired with small grower champagnes and sparkling wine. "We asked ourselves, Why can't hot dogs go well with champagne?" Chang says. "Like caviar, hot dogs are salty and oily, and a great counterpart to the high acidity and refreshing effervescence of sparkling wines." Chang drew inspiration from her BYO adventures in New York, where she might visit a late-night Chinatown spot with a three-figure bottle of Sassicaia. How has this concept not hit Bushwick already?
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