The only thing more American than a good ol’ hot dog is tricking one out like it’s a monster truck. Turning food that was already a little unhealthy into something downright decadent is one of this country’s finest culinary traditions.
The gourmet hot dog craze has officially arrived in Fort Worth. To my knowledge, it started a while back with The Weiner Man, who proved to be a little too far ahead of his time. The food truck closed a couple of years ago. Now a few other places serve gussied up ballpark fare, including the Sassy Hot Dogs food truck, Mash’d (2948 Crockett St., 817- 882-6723), Donnie’s Hot Dog Shop (900 E. Copeland Rd., Arlington, 817-860-5555), and Fred’s Texas Café’s trio of restaurants.
The folks at Fred’s brought in a ringer to create its monthly hot dog feature. Former Rodeo Goat chef and frequent Blotch contributor Keith Grober is the place’s top dawg. All of his creations feature creative, sometimes unusual flavor combinations, and they’re big enough to feed Mao’s army. The current hot dog of the month is the Diablo Dawg, a Kobe beef frank with mustard in a pretzel bun, topped with grilled onions, chipotle peppers, melted Monterrey Jack cheese, and fried tobacco onions. It’s the size of a Pekingese.
“I have been wanting to do gourmet dogs for the last three years,” he said. “I wanted to make dogs the next big thing in Fort Worth. It is a canvas that you can do so much with.”
Known for his innovative approach to burgers, Grober said that he uses a similar thought process when he creates a gourmet dog.
“I ask myself a round of questions,” he said. “What is my overall goal? What am I trying to say with the dish? When I figure this out, I go into the details: themes, flavor profiles, presentation, and aromatics.”
On my most recent visit to Fred’s Texas TCU (3509 Bluebonnet Cir., 817-916-4650), the monthly feature was the Aloha Dawg ($8.95), with a Kobe beef frank, cotija cheese, prosciutto, cilantro, housemade barbecue sauce, and fire-roasted pineapple on a split-top pretzel brioche bun. The morsel exploded like a geyser upon the first bite. Juices from the plump beef and grilled fruit created a savory-sweet flavor that soaked into the soft, warm bun like it was a beach towel. I’m not usually a fan of pineapple on anything outside of a luau, but I’m glad I made an exception for July’s special.
Hot dogs are just the latest sacred culinary cow to get sucked up into the jet engine that is the upscale comfort-cuisine trend. Grober said the all-American treats are trendy because they appeal to people’s memories just as much as their palates.
“If you can tweak it, put a new take on it, or reinvent a comfort classic and do it well, you might find yourself with a full dining room,” he said. “People want to feel that warm and fuzzy memory-evoking trance that makes your eyes roll back in your head.”
If you ever feel that trance-like state, you could be falling into a diabetic comma after eating too many gourmet dogs. And there may be nothing more American than eating yourself to death.
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