Hot dogs are one of the few foods that always make me feel like a kid. The freedom to choose your toppings, go crazy and get messy brings with it an elation that lingers long after the last bite.
So seeing that Craft Dogs had finally arrived (buh-bye Pastabilities), brought about that same excitement. Hand-crafted dogs with well thought out homemade toppings and without harmful antibiotics, hormones or preservatives? I was practically panting at the door to get in.
When I visit, there are 13 varieties to choose from including Chicken Green Curry ($7.95) Kobe Beef Chili ($9.95), Magret Duck ($12.95) and Pork Belly ($9.95).
Naturally I start with the Naked Dog ($6.50), made from local pork and beef, and the only you get to dress yourself – with any or all of the following toppings: yellowy mustard, fancy mustard, smoked tomato ketchup, sweet pickle relish, red pepper relish, grilled onions, raw onions, tomato, pickles, kraut, slaw and double burnt hot sauce. My companion decides to keep it old school with the classics – yellow mustard, pickle relish and ketchup. Meaty and juicy with a skin that pops, it’s a great link with toppings that far outrank French’s, Bick’s and Heinz. That’s quite a feat. What I don’t like is the bun. Pointy ends make it hard to get in there, and its sheer mass masks the meat. And while we’re talking buns: Using the same bun for all the dogs makes sense, as the variety here is in the dogs themselves and toppings. Still, experience tells me that some would be better suited on a soft, squishy, kaiser-like bun, steamed milk bun, pretzel or egg bun, depending on the filling.
A fascinating choice is the Arctic Char Dog ($11.50). The wiener is filled with delicate arctic char flakes and doesn’t seem all that seasoned, leaving the blue crab mayo, raw onions, arugula and crisper capers to do most of the work. Despite its uniqueness, it can’t compete with the robust pork and beef version, and is left mostly abandoned
Surprisingly, the rabbit ($12.95) –the game of the week choice with arugula, grilled onions, rhubarb chutney and blueberry mayo – doesn’t wow me either. With all that going on, you’d think it would be as feisty as an evening with Kimye. But it is merely a quiet night at home in front of the TV with a slight gamey aftertaste.
The fries ($4.50) are sensational – deeply brown, full-on potato and fat on the palate (today the spuds are from Cashpoint Potato Farm) though the puny portion means you’ll have to wrestle with ordering another. I say go ahead, because you can have limitless amounts of their:
- homemade smoked tomato ketchup – one of the best I’ve ever had (it’s a tad watery, but its sophisticated, deep flavour more than makes up for it)
- spicy mayo – so much more robust and developed than the sriracha and mayo blends you’re used to
- homemade mayo – also one of the best I’ve tried (pretty phenomenal for a fast food type place, if you ask me), and totally worth blowing your calorie count for the day.
It turns out that the items that wowed me – pork and beef dog with fries – are the most classic of the bunch. Just goes to show that you can’t beat the flavours you fell in love with as a kid.
95 King Street East