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Katie Davis

@PopCultureCuisine

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Archive for the ‘Hot Dog’ Category

Tuesday, March 27, 2012 @ 08:03 PM

074Can you believe how warm it has been lately? I know the weather hasn’t been amazing for all of you, but if you live in the Midwest it has been downright awesome! We have had the mildest winter I can remember in a LONG time and now in the last two weeks it has been just like summer…, I mean 80 degrees in March…, it’s crazy!

One thing this weather is doing for our family (well Adam in particular) is helping to set the mood for the season…the baseball season that is. With the start of the season less than 2 weeks away, Adam is giddy with excitement, and it is taking me back to last summer when we shared a baseball themed trip to Detroit, which is where this week’s post is from.

To me, nothing is more synonymous with summer AND baseball than hotdogs. Well, if you’re from Detroit, those dogs come in the form of a Coney Dog. That’s right…these things are everywhere in the Detroit metro area and everyone has their favorite; and perhaps the most famous of them all are two that share everything in common from family to a location and have been in competition with one another for the best Coney for generations. I’m referring to Lafayette Coney Island and American Coney Island.

These 2 Coney Island landmarks got their start by the Keros brothers in the early 1900’s and officially began their rivalry when one brother decided he’d strike out on his own and open his very own Coney sport right next door to their current location….and I mean RIGHT NEXT DOOR! He named the new Coney spot Lafayette Coney Island.

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Lafayette’s (or American for that matter) wasn’t really on our radar screen until we saw both the The Food Network and The Travel Channel visit them for their “Food Feuds” and “Food Wars” shows respectively; and since then they’ve also shown up on an episode of “Man vs. Food.” Needless to say, they’ve both gotten a lot of publicity through the years…major PCC cred; and while these 2 aren’t the only Coney restaurants in the D-Town area, they are the most famous and creators of the original “Coney Style Hotdog,” a hot dog with chili, diced yellow onion, and yellow mustard.

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Others around the state and country have duplicated the un-trademarked dog, but none seem to be as popular or widely known. So on last summer’s “babymoon” weekend getaway to Detroit for a baseball game, I knew a Coney taste test was in our future.

Our first stop/taste test was at Lafayette’s (for no real reason other than it was the one to the left Smile). It is quite comical when you pull up and see these two restaurants literally smack dab right next to one another. When we walked in, one thing we immediately noticed was how nostalgically “old” it was. I don’t want to say dingy, but it was clear that not much had changed in the décor since 1917 (a vast difference from its counterpart, but we’ll get to that next week). It is very much a “no frills” kinda atmosphere. Since it was just the two of us and we knew this wasn’t going to be a lengthy meal, we thought it would be easy enough to just sit at the bar and see the process first hand, a very quick process I might add. The guy at the counter came and took our order, but it was pretty clear we should be ready when he came over and that he wasn’t up for a lot of conversation. It wasn’t that he was mean, just pretty no nonsense. The order was pretty simple…a couple of Coney’s the way Lafayette’s intended, diced onions & yellow mustard; and, no joke, they were in front of us within two minutes, and five minutes later our plates were empty!

I knew I wouldn’t dislike this dish, since I love Cincinnati style chili Coney dogs. But the big question would be which of these two famed Coney dogs I would like best; and although I don’t want to ruin the surprise, I will say I found the Lafayette’s Coney pretty tasty. Still, you will have to wait until next week for the comparison and big reveal on which is best. In the meantime I will give you a basic review below…

SIGNATURE DISH: Coney Dogs all day long…since 1917.

TASTE: While I won’t say if this was my favorite, I will tell you it was for sure tasty and definitely hit the spot. While different in flavor than Coney style dogs I have had in the past, if this is how Detroit does it, than they have found a fan in me!

AMBIANCE: I mentioned above that the feeling you get when you walk into Lafayette’s is pretty unique…, unique in the sense that it feels like you are stepping back in time a little bit. It is clear that not much has changed in the décor over the last 80 plus years and people like it that way. Hoping I’m not offending anyone, I’d say Lafayette’s very much reflects Detroit blue collar feel. It’s a no-frills no-fuss place…all about the Coney.

PRICE: While I can’t remember specifically, I know each of our dogs was not much more than a couple of dollars…, a deal any day in my book!

SERVICE: While I would not say we received bad service, I will definitely say they weren’t as welcoming or friendly as I would have hoped. This is not to say I didn’t expect it, especially with their D-Town demeanor. I’d almost say this is part of what makes Lafayette’s so popular…it’s Detroit to the core, like it or not.

…Stay tuned for my review of American Coney Island next week and I’ll fill you in on which was our favorite!

Monday, March 21, 2011 @ 08:03 AM

124Last week we hit 65 degrees in Northern Indiana, and if you are a mid-westerner like me, you know how joyful that was.  This winter has been particularly harsh and I was hoping the warmth was around to stay, even though my husband (being a local) said it was sure to get cold again and even snow at least one more time. Alas…although I hate to admit it…he was right, and this past weekend has been freezing and even started to flurry a little.

Still, my mind remains fixed on those nice days last week which let me know that Spring & Summer are just around the corner. I can’t help but let my mind wander and I start daydream about those lovely events that mark the warm months, particularly as it pertains to the foods I start to crave once again.  There is something about warmer weather that begins that yearly itch of wanting to head out to baseball games and family barbecues.  I just crave those American past-times and that #1 food I associate with them…HOT DOGS!

Now I know for some, hotdogs are an item that you turn your nose up at. I mean…what ARE THEY exactly?  To be honest…I’m really not sure either, but I choose to look beyond that, and figure in my relatively healthy life, I’ve decided I can fit in a hotdog every now and then. Heck….I think everyone needs a little hotdog in their life every once in awhile. Smile I don’t care what you say…, they taste good so don’t even try to tell yourself they don’t! LOL

Hot dogs have been around for ages and seem to be making quite the comeback amongst trendy foodies out there, with all sorts of spots centered around fancy artisan encased meats.  In fact, hot dogs are so synonymous with our culture, the Travel Channel dedicated a whole program to featuring the best and most unique dogs out there on their "Food Heavens" series, "Hot Dog Paradise." That would be one of the places where we first noticed this next famous eatery.

The Varsity, located in the heart of Atlanta, GA, has been serving up thousands a day at their large drive-in since 1928.  What makes them so unique is really how large of a place this truly is! They are the largest hot dog stand in the country and cover an entire city block of downtown Atlanta.  It all started when, fed up with the unpalatable cafeteria food, a young Georgia Tech student decided to start up his own restaurant down the street, and with that…The Varsity was born.  It is so popular nowadays, that on any given day you better be prepared to know what you want as you move through the line until you reach the front to hear “What’ll ya have? What’ll ya have? What’ll ya have?” loud and clear from every cashier down the mega line…and you best be prepared to place that order and quick, because they have to feed A LOT of people…Some 600 cars outside and 800 inside to be exact.  Also, this isn’t just a place where you can say "hotdog" and get what you want. No Sir. There is a lingo at The Varsity and you must read in correctly!

Yeah…they ain’t lyin’ when they say this place is big! We actually drove right by it when we passed through Atlanta on our way to Florida and it was easily noticeable from the freeway.  We knew we would be coming back through and figured it would be a perfect lunch stop on the Saturday we were headed home.  Well, we were right in thinking that…and evidently weren’t the only ones. It seems that everyone headed to the Georgia Tech-Wake Forest football game that afternoon had the same idea, so let’s just say they aren’t kidding when 30,000 people might pass through there on a game day. But we didn’t let that deter us.  We just drove around until we found a spot and headed on in to survey the scene.

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This place is NUTS! I couldn’t believe how many people were crowded in that building and around the car hop stations. But what was so odd was it didn’t appear to be moving slow.  They really move through the crowds quickly. Still, with that many people, we figured the best option would be to have Adam order and I would go stake out a seat.  So we looked over the menu so I could let him know what sounded good, and although they do have burgers and other sandwiches like a drive-in would, we wanted to stick to what they were known for… their dogs, particularly the chili dog.  So Adam went ahead and ordered us two 2-dog combos, 2 chili-cheese dogs (one with mustard), a slaw dog, and a chili-cheese slaw dog.  And for our sides we opted for both the fries and onion rings. Hey…this meal wasn’t going to be healthy in any way, so we might as well enjoy it.

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We each dug in and tried bites of each, but oddly enough the ones each of us thought we would like the best was actually the opposite.  I thought I would really enjoy the chili but wasn’t a huge fan, while Adam thought he would like the slaw and instead preferred the chili.  He also both really liked the chili-cheese slaw dog…one of the most interesting dogs we’ve ever had. I highly recommend it. We also both agreed the fries and onion rings were particularly good, but let’s be real…those are always up my alley.  We had no problem finishing off our meal in record time!  However, after we were done we realized one thing we had forgotten to order was their famous Varsity Orange…, a creamy slushy type drink that tastes just like a dreamsicle.  So we grabbed one to go and boy was it refreshing! It really hit the spot after such a heavy meal.

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I realize those pictures don’t do it justice, but I’m sure you get the idea.  For how many people were in and around the restaurant, I think we were maybe inside for a grand total of 30-45 minutes.  I could hardly believe how quickly we moved through, so I guess they truly still operate at a fast food level, even though they still accommodate a ton of people.  And what is also so lovely is just how nostalgic the whole experience felt. It is rare that places have remained true to their original building, location, or décor, and even more rare is finding an old time drive-in that is still in operation; and this one is not only still running, but they can hardly breathe they have so many people coming through.

SIGNATURE DISH: “What’ll ya have? What’ll ya have? What’ll ya have?” Hot Dogs, Hot Dogs, Hot Dogs! Although this is an old time drive-in that serves up all sorts of dishes, they are truly known for their hot dogs and the variety of ways from naked, to chili, to cole slawed; and their chili is so popular, in fact, that it can be purchased in cans for your own use at home.

TASTE: Adam and I were both quite impressed with these dogs.  Both having had a lot of dogs in our day, it is sometimes hard to distinguish what really makes a dog stand out above the rest.  But as dogs go, these were truly good as far as taste, bun texture, and condiments.  They just cook up a fantastic no frills dog; and it is no wonder they have been in business for 75 years.

AMBIANCE: I really loved the entire experience of The Varsity, most of all for its old time feel and originality.  You would be hard pressed to find a lot of original drive-ins still open, much less ones that take up an entire city block, but this one is still going strong.  And not really having made seemingly too many modern changes I think is what gives this place such charm.

SERVICE: They seriously are not lying when they say you better know what you want, because trying to get 30,000 patrons through on any given day is work!  Still…, they do it and are nice, just with a very don’t mess around attitude, which for an impatient hungry patron like me is always appreciated. Winking smile And better yet, although the service is fast, the food is as good as if they took their sweet time….always nice.

PRICE: This is another thing I liked.  They have clearly raised their prices over the years, but not so much that they are offensive.  At $6.99 for a 2-dog combo plus your choice of fries or rings, and a drink…, I would say that is a great deal.  Often Adam and I overspend in wanting to try as much as possible, but here we were able to try all that we wanted for under $20, which I consider a deal!

So even though we were just passing through and only stayed a short time, I really enjoyed my experience at The Varsity.  This was a meal we were able to get quickly and still get back on the road in a decent amount of time, while still being able to do something fun and adventurous, rather than just your old McDonalds quick-trip.  And the bonus…we really enjoyed our meal, and I would say that if we are ever driving through Atlanta again, we would likely have to make a little pit stop.  "What’ll They Get? What’ll They Get? What’ll They Get?… 4 ½ ‘Little Piggies.’

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Friday, January 14, 2011 @ 01:01 PM

1532011 is already off to a great start and Adam and I have been off and running.  We have some big plans this year for PCC, but in the meantime we still have quite a back log of famous restaurants that we visited last year that we still need to share with you all…and of course we will have plenty of new travels and spots in 2011 coming your way! And who knows….maybe we might even have some new “surprise” guests 😉

Well, after starting the year off with a couple of reviews, we’re ready to present this year’s first feature restaurant….and boy is it a doozy! I’m speaking, of course (if you already read the sign to the left) about Hot Doug’s, the “encased meat emporium” if there ever was one.

Featured on every food show from Travel Channel’s “Hot Dog Paradise,” “Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations,” and as well as Chicago’s own “Check Please!”, this spot has certainly grabbed the attention of many just like us. Started by a man named Doug, who loved him some sausage, he set out to create a “hot dog” shop that would cater to hot dog lovers with the most basic to the most complex tastes.  What is so unique about their sausages are really the creations they put together, from the types of meats used to the toppings for the dog…take a look!

Pretty unique huh?  Well…not as much anymore seeing as some other startups have more or less copied Doug’s model in the past year, but I assume they are just that…copies of the original…and not as good. So, being that Doug’s is the first and likely the best, Adam and I knew we had to try it…, which almost didn’t happen. Let me explain.  If you are from the Chicago area, you know all-to-well the notoriety of this spot.  I mean, it is so popular people will wait in line around the block for hours just to get a taste; and when they are only open Monday – Saturday, 10:30 to 4 you can be sure their lunch crowd is off the hook!  Also, something we have since found out on several occasions is that if it is anywhere near a holiday, they will likely be closed (but we’ll dive into that later).

So, anyway, when we initially heard about the infamous Hot Doug’s and that it was in Chicago, we knew the next time we were in the city we would have to make a visit…which happened to fall right after New Years 2010 when were headed through Chicago on our way back to Dallas.  This was when we first learned that they often take off on Holidays and in this case extended vacations, so they would not be open at all while we were in the city.  We were extremely bummed, but said we would just have to make it a priority on our next visit, which happened 6 months later when we were in the city for a bachelor/bachelorette party weekend last summer and we thought we could make it in time for lunch. Well….no such luck this time either, because they were closed AGAIN for a holiday! UGH!!!!  Needless to say, this time we were pissed…not so much at the restaurant, but that we were just having the hardest time getting a chance to eat at this place!

Well, as they say, the ‘third time is a charm.’ Because later that summer when we came back for the wedding, we were lucky enough to pull up and see a line literally out the door and around the corner. I wasn’t so happy to see the line, but hey…at least I knew they were open! And, although I did not really want to wait (I’m impatient like that), knowing this may be our only shot, we hopped in line and waited the hour it took us to get to the counter….yes….I said AN HOUR!

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Although it look a little while, the wait actually wasn’t too bad, and at least we were all waiting for the common goal…encased meat!  It also made me all the more hungry, which allowed me to enjoy their duck fat fries all the more.  Yes I said it…they offer french fries fried in duck fat on Fridays and Saturdays….and well, let’s be honest, a fry is a fry, but a fry in duck fat is heavenly!

So we finally made our way in and were able to gander at the menu for a little bit to determine what we should order.  In addition to their typical menu items (which are far from typical), they have daily specials that are over the top unique.  I knew I wanted simple so I could taste their quality without a lot of other flavors throwing me off, so I went with “The Elvis” – a polish sausage topped with mustard, ketchup, caramelized onions, relish, and pickle.  Adam chose to be more adventurous and went with their “Game of the Week,” a beer and cheddar bison sausage. He also doubled his pleasure by ordering one of their specialty sausages the swiss cheese smoked pork knockwurst with bacon-garlic mayonnaise and vintage van gogh cheese; and we, of course, ordered a large duck fat fry to share.

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Deeeeeeee-Licious! Needless to say, we were stuffed by the time this meal was over; and I usually don’t condone eating past the point of being full, but I didn’t let a single one of those duck fat fries go to waste. Those are kind of a once in a lifetime sorta thing. clip_image002 In all, we were very pleased with our meal, especially considering how long we had to wait to try it…definitely worth it!

SIGNATURE DISH: It’s pretty clear from their name that they focus on one thing and one thing only…hot dogs, and in this case I guess that includes sausages.  Not only do they have what you would consider a run of the mill dog, but any kind of sausage or encased type of meat you might be able to think of they got it! They are definitely a one of a kind joint.

TASTE: I enjoy hot dogs and sausages, but I would hardly call myself a connoisseur.  I know what I like and don’t, and these definitely rank at the top of the like list.  The polish sausage had a nice snap to it, but was definitely juicy inside.  It’s flavor was distinct yet tasted familiar as well.  I truly enjoyed how all the condiments rounded out the sausage and those duck fat fries…simply delish.  Adam also enjoyed his two picks, one more that the other I believe, but surely seemed to enjoy the rich flavors of the meat paired with the unique condiments.

AMBIANCE: This spot reminds you of a carnival or kids spot, which adds to the playfulness of it all.  With its bright colors, bold patterns, and kitschy décor, you can’t help but enjoy yourself during your meal.

SERVICE: Although it took us an hour to get through the line, it was not due to lack of quick service.  In fact, that is just the opposite. They are churning out order after order…there are just that many people! But it works well for them, and by the time you place your order at the counter, others are finishing up their meals and there is room for you to sit down.  Doug himself is working the counter and is very friendly and fun. Also, everyone on the staff we encountered was very helpful, and has a great sense of humor.

PRICE: For what you are getting and for the gourmet of it all, this place is a steal on price. Our entire meal was less than $20, and we had enough food for 4!

Yes….it took us 3 tries to actually get a chance to eat here, but it was so worth the wait.  We truly enjoyed the basic AND unique types of dogs they offer; and well….those duck fat fries are enough to bring anyone back and we can’t wait to eat there again sometime soon…that is if they’re open. 😉 Hot Doug….your encased meat emporium gets a well deserved 4 ½ ‘Little Piggies.’

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