DC-3: Good dog. Good dog.
By Justin Rude
December 17, 2010
As I step into DC-3, the new 20-seat hot dog joint on Capitol Hill, I have to fight to keep my focus.
The line to the register works its way past a wall display of vivid images of the restaurant's many regional hot dog styles. Names such as Jersey Bacon-Wrapped Ripper and the Arkansas Razorback Red draw my eye. Left field options, including the Seattle Pike Place Ultimate Fish Dog and the all-veggie California Left Winger, almost draw me off course. But on my first visit I am there to try two dogs: the Chicago 7, DC-3's take on the classically busy Chicago red hot, and the West Virginia Sauce and Slaw Dog, a chili-and-coleslaw-topped frankfurter found throughout the Mountain State in roadside drive-ins.
The Chicago 7 is an obvious choice. If the restaurant can get the various aspects of the fussy Windy City style right, chances are it will do right by the less-complex offerings as well. The Sauce and Slaw dog is a different story, it's a simpler style, but it's also the style that restaurant partners Ty and Mark Neal (who also have a hand in Matchbox and Ted's Bulletin) grew up with, and I'm interested to see how it stands up.
The Chicago 7 hits the right notes - the poppy seed bun, Vienna sausage wiener, sport peppers, tomato, celery salt, pickle spear, relish and yellow mustard were there - but while I like it more than the same style hot dog at the recently opened ChiDogO's at 14th and U streets, I prefer the buns served at Windy City Red Hots in Leesburg. It's a small quibble though, and I couldn't help but be impressed.
One bite of the Sauce and Slaw Dog and not only have I found a winner, but the entire restaurant concept suddenly snaps into focus. The combination of the soft, not-unpleasantly spongy bun, beef frankfurter, slightly soupy chili and just-sweet-enough slaw tastes like pure nostalgia, and the chrome-heavy dining room complete with vintage aviation accouterments is a perfect pairing. I sip on my throwback Moxie soda and can't help but smile.
I only wish the fried pickles had held up their end of the bargain. I haven't yet found a fried pickle to replace the frickles served by Eric Reid at the recently closed Del Merei Grill, and I'm unfortunately still searching. DC-3's carry too much batter and result in a snack that is neither crispy nor light enough. Worse still, after I have finished my meal I realize that if I hadn't ordered the fried pickles I could have easily squeezed in another Sauce and Slaw dog - or maybe fries, cotton candy or soft serve. It's a decision that haunts me the whole train ride home.