New Orleans is not known for great hot dogs. It’s also not known for great hockey. These things are probably not related, though I suppose anything is possible. When I was in high school, there was a short-lived Wienerschnitzel (I think) hot dog franchise on Causeway near West Esplanade. I had a girlfriend who lived near the lake, and my route home from her house took me by the place with only a slight deviation.
At the time, to me hot dogs meant boiled wieners with mustard on a stale bun. What I got at Wienerschnitzel was a revelation. It’s been 20 years, but I swear I can still taste the kraut, relish, cheese and chili dogs I ate at midnight three or four nights a week. The experience taught me to appreciate the humble hot dog, and to this day I go to great lengths when I cook them. My method is a story for another day, but I will say that as exacting as I am, I don’t go to the same lengths as the kids at Dat Dog.
It’s not a spacious restaurant. I’ve seen closets larger than the dining area at the Freret Street location, though there’s some outside seating to compensate. But hot dogs, sausage and fries don’t exactly require a white tablecloth – or even a table for that matter. When I ate there last, we took the food with us, and the lack of in-restaurant atmosphere wasn’t something I missed.
Nor did I miss a complicated menu. I’m going to reproduce Dat Dog’s menu almost in its entirety for you:
Traditional Wieners – $5
• Pork Wiener (hot dog)
• Beef Wiener (hot dog)
Sausages from Here, There & Everywhere – $6
• Polish Kielbasa (From Poland)
• Slovenian Sausage (From Slovenia)
• German Smoked Bratwurst (From Germany)
• Louisiana Hot Sausage (From Harahan)
• Louisiana Smoked Sausage (From Jefferson Parish)
• Alligator Sausage (From the Bayou)
• Crawfish Sausage (From the Swamp)
• Veggie Dog (From Oxymoron)
• Golden Brown Fries
• Cheese Fries
• Chili Cheese Fries
The above sausages can be served with toppings that include grated cheddar cheese, ketchup, a couple of mustards, diced red onion, diced tomatoes, wasabi sauce, guacamole, sauerkraut, homemade chili and andouille sauce. You are, of course, dead to me if you put ketchup, wasabi or guacamole on your hot dog.
The sausages are grilled, as God intended, and the buns are first steamed and then grilled as well. I tried both of the wieners on offer – what? – and the pork was slightly sweeter than the beef. Both were excellent, with a snap when I bit into the casing and a bit more texture to the filling than you’d experience from a domestic dog. I also tried the Slovenian sausage, and that was very good as well. I don’t know that I would have been able to distinguish it from a bratwurst if I hadn’t been told the difference, but all things considered, and with the sauerkraut on top, I ate the hell out of the thing.
One thing I wasn’t expecting was that the relish at Dat Dog is not sweet. It’s sour and has a strong dill flavor. I am one of those philistines who like the neon-green sweet stuff on a hot dog, but I have to admit that this was pretty good as well. The cheese fries were odd; the fries themselves were outstanding – thin, crisp and flavorful. But there was no heat applied once the cheese was added, meaning the cheddar didn’t really melt over the fries. I suppose if there had been chili involved, it would have been a different story, but as it was, the fries would have been better by themselves.
The only other complaint I have is petty. The buns, which are first steamed and then grilled, are a little too big. The ratio of bun to sausage ends up being a little skewed, but the way they steam and then grill the bun is pretty sweet, so it ends up being a wash as far as I’m concerned.
As befits a place that takes its dogs seriously, you will wait a few minutes after you place an order at Dat Dog. Good things take time, and this is not “fast food” as that term is ordinarily understood. This is, however, good food, and I highly recommend you check it out. I’ll definitely be back to sample some of the other sausages on offer.
Dat Dog is open Tuesday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. until midnight. On Sunday the hours are noon to 6 p.m. Call 899-6883 if you want more information.