Monday, September 24, 2012
Not so long ago New Orleans hot dog fans had but three options to satisfy their cravings for meat in tube form. The first was a stop at a Lucky Dog cart, those venerable red and yellow pushcarts which the US Supreme Court once proclaimed "had themselves become part of the distinctive character and charm that distinguishes the Vieux Carre." But getting down and dirty with a Lucky Dog on Bourbon Street usually required a certain (read: high) level of inebriation. The second option was the split and charcoal grilled hot dogs from Bud's Broiler, served on a hamburger bun with plenty of hickory smoked sauce and onions. The third was a trip to the Superdome for a Saints game, but I'm not even going to go there this morning.
In the post-K world a few restaurants have added a high quality hot dog to their menus (most notably Cochon Butcher). But the hamburger renaissance relegated the humble hot dog to obscurity, that is until early last year when a new hot dog specialist opened up it's doors on Freret Street.
Dat Dog debuted in a hole-in-a-wall storefront which supplanted Green Goddess as the smallest restaurant space in the city. It quickly became apparent that the customer response far exceeded the spatial constraints, so proprietors Constantine Georges and Skip Murray decided to purchase the former gas station property directly across the street and develop it into an expansive wiener wonderland.
The new location feels like a contemporary, more nuanced, hipster version of the Max, with loud music and a retro renovation. The indoor seating area is sparse, but with the advent of fall the garage doors are rolled up and the entire restaurant converts into an indoor/outdoor space, which is great for families with screaming children and college kids screaming at their school's football team playing the 2:30 kickoff game on CBS.
The menu boasts such an overwhelming number of sausages and toppings that formulating an order can cause an anxiety attack. Beef or pork? Kielbasa or brat? Do I want dill or sweet relish? Creole or yellow mustard? Wasabi? Guacamole? Crawfish etouffee? WTF?
Take a deep breath. In situations such as these, we always advocate for keeping it simple. Mustard? Yellow. Chili? Why not. Cheese? Maybe. Onions? Definitely. Order at the counter, have your cash ready, grab your drink, and wait for your name to be called for delivery.
All of the dogs and sausages are griddled to order. The traditional weiners are made from either beef or pork, and I found the former to have a sharper flavor and more pop than the soft, rich pork frank. The basic bratwurst was excellent, with a casing that snapped with each bite. Much attention has been paid to the buns, which are excellent. The thick, soft, slightly sweet sourdough buns are steamed and toasted to order. My one complaint is that kitchen's creativity in squirting mustard in a zig zag across the top of the bun, which is great for aesthetics but impractical for a food designed for eating with your hands.
Dat Dog serves two kinds of french fries. Pommes frites, named after Poppy Tooker, are fresh cut and fried crisp to withstand the weight of meaty chili. You can also get frozen "seasoned" fries (a la Popeye's and Rally's), which I have soft spot for, especially when they are covered with melted cheese and dipped in ranch dressing.
There is no better place for a dog and a beer.
Dat Dog - Birdie
5030 Freret Street
Mon-Sat: 11am-10pm; Sun 11am - 8pm