Monday, December 13, 2010
Dogtown: Teaching Old Dogs New Tricks
Far too often it seems that the humble hot dog ends up playing second fiddle to the all-mighty hamburger. Here at Law & Food we love burger. Hell, readers of this blog (that is, if we have any) should be familiar by now with Noah's insatiable appetite for all things burger. But that hardly seems like a fair shake to fans of hot dogs. So after hearing about Dogtown, a restaurant specializing in meats in tube form, a trip seemed inevitable. Although it took a bit longer than I initially planned, I finally made a trip out to this quaint "shack," located off Monroe Avenue. Serving both red and white "hots" - as Rochestarians call them - dressed up with various toppings, Dogtown currently serves the city's best "haute dog."
Growing up in Rochester, I've eaten my fair share of hot dogs. But these weren't just any hot dogs, they were Zweigle's hot dogs. Filled with a hearty blend of pork and beef, with a heavy does of spices, all stuffed inside a natural casing for that pleasant snap, Zweigle's serves what they call, "German Style Hots." Shorter and thicker than most commercial varities - feel free to insert phallic joke here - they have a robust flavor that makes for some mighty good eats. Another unique characteristic of a Zweigle's hot is that they come in two colors. The more popular "red hot" is a pork-beef blend and is familiar to your average hot dog. On the other hand, their "white hots" might seem strange to those not from Western New York. Uncured and filled with veal and pork, these hots have a distinct flavor that is somewhat reminiscent of a sausage.
I first visited Dogtown in November, 2009 with MW and my younger sister, unsure of what to expect other than hot dogs. Arriving in the middle of the lunch rush, I was pleased to find seating in one of the restaurant's limited number of tables. While my sister grabbed our seats, we stared blankly at Dogtown's daunting menu. With over 20 different hot dogs (each named after a different breed), Dogtown has anything but a streamlined menu.
Unless otherwise specified, Dogtown uses a Zweigle's red hot, which is a skinner and longer version of the more popular "pop open" variety I grew up eating. Dogtown is also a bit unconventional when it comes to the bread they use. Instead of a typical hot dog bun, Dogtown uses a toasted custom French bread from Martusciello's. My sister ordered an Irish Setter, aka a "Reuben Dog," piled high with Russian Dressing, Corned Beef, Kraut and a blanket of Melted Swiss. The dog contained all of the usual suspects you'd associate with the sandwich and tasted, unsurprisingly, like a reuben. This is a good thing considering how much my sister loves them. The bread was heartier than other buns and stood up well to the dog and all its accompaniments, making for a relatively mess fee experience.
MW ordered a Golden Retriever, a Zweigle's red hot with two strips of Bacon and melted Cheddar Cheese. A tad conservative but nonetheless tasty, the smokiness of the bacon paired well with the snappy red hot and the sharp cheddar cheese.
In an attempt to make up for lost time, I chose two different dogs. First was the Tex-Mex Mutt, with Salsa, Jalapeño Peppers and Melted Monterey Jack Cheese. The zing from the salsa and pickled jalapeño was good when combined with the red hot but could have been great, had they used a spicier pepper jack rather cheese rather than a plain jack.
The last dog, the Cincinnati Red Dog, was my least favorite. A Chili Cheese Dog with Cheddar Cheese and Dogtown Sauce, it wasn't that the dog was bad per se, but having spent four years in Ohio and a summer specifically in Cincinnati, I found the dogtown sauce (their rendition of Cincinnati chili) to be pretty disappointing. The chili lacked the complexity and correct spice combination associated with Cincinnati chili. The second issue I took was with their cheese. Said by Noah, to be the hardest component to replicate from his beloved coneys, Dogtown's cheese was WAY too thick and looked like that pre-shredded orange crap found in the dairy section of any grocery store.
Determined to sample more of Dogtown's epic menu, MW, my sister and I returned a few weeks ago. Taking the advice of my other sister, I chose the Triple Threat. Described as Two Cheeseburgers and a (White) Zweigle German Frank with French Fries and Macaroni Salad, the triple threat is one of Dogtown's Junkyard Plates, or their interpretation of Rochester's famous garbage plates. As always, I ordered mine with everything, resulting in the entire plate being doused with Dogtown Sauce, Onions and Mustard. Revolting as it looks, I enjoyed my triple threat and thought there was a nice synergy between all the different components. However, I should note that my sister, who enthusiastically endorsed the plate (her favorite in Rochester), scoffed after learning I ordered it without Homefries.
MW ordered the Pit Bull, with Sautéed Peppers and Onions, Barbecue Sauce and Dogtown Sauce. Though not a fan of "meat sauces," MW enjoyed the dog and thought the sweetness of the peppers and onion combined well with the spiced sauce.
MW loves Onion Rings, and thought the ones served at Dogtown were better than average. Cut thick and encased in a tasty batter, despite not being homemade, these onion rings were better than most other frozen varieties.
The French Fries were fine, nothing special, but not particularly bad either. The fries weren't fresh cut but were fairly crisp, reminding me of the ones served at Burger King.
The Sweet Potato Fries came dusted with cinnamon and sugar and were a nice change from the typical savory sides. The sweet and fragrant seasoning went well with the soft and slightly crunchy fries.
Admittedly, I'm well aware of the irony of a Korean writing a post dedicated to eating dogs. Regardless, after several satisfying trips to Dogtown, it most assuredly warrants attention, though the restaurant seems to be doing quite well on its own. In fact, it seems that just about all of Rochester has enthusiastically embraced Dogtown's doctored up dogs, proving there might be a bit of truth in the old saying, "every dog has its day."
691 Monroe Avenue
Rochester, NY 14607-3148
To see all the pics from this meal click HERE.