Thursday, April 1, 2010

Hot Dog Fever

At the moment, hot dogs are really hot in LA.  Wiener specialists are opening up all over the place, introducing Angelenos to things like rippers and Chicago dogs.  Not that hot dogs were unheard of in LA before this new trend:  Pink's is a legend, and so is Carney's.  Roughly in the same Hollywood area, Skooby's has a die-hard following.  But now you have genuine altars to the dog like Fab Hot Dogs (Reseda), Vicious Dogs (N Hollywood), and, the latest darling of every LA food blog, The Slaw Dogs (Pasadena).  Oh, and there's Let's Be Frank Dogs (Culver City), a gourmet hot dog stand which I guess would be a portable altar.  And to remind you that we should thank the Germans for the humble dog, there are Brats Brothers (Studio City) and Wurstkuche (Downtown).  No signs that the trend is slowing either — heard that Big City Dogs, which is based in Michigan, will soon be opening up a branch in Old Pasadena.

Which altars are my favorite places to worship the silly dog?  Well, I can't claim I've eaten at even 10% of the hot dog joints in this town, but here goes anyway.

Carney's (8351 Sunset Blvd & 12601 Ventura Blvd, Studio City)
If you have kids, this is a fun place because you eat in a train.  The dogs aren't anything special here, but they're still pretty good.

Pink's (709 N. La Brea Blvd)
Only if you're a tourist.  The average wait seems to be around 45 minutes, but Pink's is legendary, having started out sometime during the Great Depression.  And all the Hollywood stars seem to love getting their hit here — usually they'll send a flunky with a limo, but, hey, you might see someone worthy.

Fab Hot Dogs (6747 Tampa Ave, Reseda)
I really hate that they're all the way in Reseda.  And that seating is so small.  And that you can't get in ever since Guy featured it on a Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives episode.  What they're really known for is their rippers — a dog that's been deep fried.  Amazingly good.  And so are their tater tots — why don't more places do tater tots?

Brats Brothers (13456 1/2 Ventura Blvd, Sherman Oaks)
Cozy place in Sherman Oaks with very good European-type dogs.  Very friendly.  Can't believe they don't have beer.

The Slaw Dogs (720 N Lake Ave, Pasadena)
They still have their new car smell, but they're already very popular.  Great relaxing room with plenty of space (unless it's lunch time or Saturday night).  Their menu of toppings is crazy huge, from the humble sauerkraut to kimchi, jalapenos to truffle oil.  Slaw's philosophy is definitely "Pile It On!" and they always look at me strange because I'm a purist and like my dog modestly dressed — just sauerkraut and dark mustard.  Probably one of the only hot dog places that do salads (which are really good).  Going back to the dogs, I'd really suggest you get the natural casing dog and have it rippered.  OMG.  And the chili dog — Slaw probably has the best chili in LA (the secret is the Newcastle beer).  Certainly in Pasadena.  The nicest thing about Slaw (besides the really good food)?  They treat you like good friends.

So, does LA have a dog of its own?  Actually, yes.  It's called the Street Dog because it came from the streets:  Mexican hot dog vendors liked to wrap a bacon around a dog.  Because of health regulations, you can't legally get an authentic Street Dog from a vendor anymore.  Luckily, Fab does one.  In any case, the story of the Street Dog is fascinating, and this LA Weekly article does a pretty good job telling it.

One last thing:  what happened to the corn dog?  Is it considered sacrilege for a hot dog joint to serve up a good corn dog?  Because I love corn dogs.

Here's the YouTube video on Fab Hot Dogs:

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