A standard at barbecues, a necessity at ball games, a staple of the picky child’s diet: Hot dogs are a usually pedestrian, casual bite to eat. But remove the “casual” element and the simple wiener becomes something more. Something special. Something, dare we say, elegant. Five area restaurants create dogs that take the humble not-a-sandwich from blue jeans to tuxedo.
Perroloco Colombian Gourmet
811 Russell Ave., Gaithersburg, Md.
Perroloco Colombian serves a lot of traditional Colombian dishes, including arepas, mazorca and patacones. What doesn’t seem all that traditional, though, is their “traditional” dog ($5). It comes topped with a sauce that tastes like a sweeter Thousand Island dressing, bacon bits, crushed-up potato chips and, in a wonderfully random touch, a hard-boiled quail egg. And it all works. The chips not only add crunch, but they cut the sweetness of the sauce; the bacon adds a deeper, smokier flavor; and the quail egg is … well, it’s a hard-boiled egg, but cuter. This doesn’t look like a high-end dish, but it goes far beyond the normal definition of hot dog.
709 D St. NW
Fancy doesn’t have to mean elaborate. Sometimes it just means a few things done incredibly well. The Partisan’s Haute Dog ($5), which stars a link provided by Red Apron Butcher that is made from pasture-raised Black Angus cows, comes with condiments anyone will recognize: house-made ketchup and spicy mustard, plus finely diced red onion. The meat’s blistered on a griddle so the skin gets a snappy little bite to it, a nice contrast to the toasted-yet-still-squishy bun. It’s the Chanel suit of hot dogs: simple, but so well done it’s perfectly elegant.
Ivy and Coney
1537 Seventh St. NW
The Chicago-style hot dog is the often imitated, never duplicated wiener. Doing it correctly is a carefully calibrated balancing act that can easily go horribly wrong. Ivy and Coney’s Chicago Dog ($4) comes topped with just the right mix of nuclear-green relish, mustard, tomato, hot peppers, onion, celery salt and a pickle. And no, you may not ask to hold anything, you wimp. And no, you may not have ketchup — what is wrong with you? Ivy and Coney even imports the buns and relish from Chicago. This is such the real deal that you might travel to Chicago one day only to find the best example of one of the Windy City’s signature dishes is back home.
610 Montgomery St., Alexandria
The Duck Duck dog ($5.50) at Haute Dogs (which also has an outpost at Nationals Park) starts with a good base: grass-fed, antibiotic- and hormone-free beef raised in Loudoun County (veggie and chicken dogs are also available). Served on a lobster roll-style bun that’s buttered just enough to feel sinful, the wiener gets topped with hoisin sauce, green onions and lightly pickled cucumber spears for a crunchy, Asian-inspired bite. The toppings are fresh, they deliver some crunch and there’s just enough of them to add flavor without ending up in your lap.
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If you went to some fancy place that gave you multiple forks and refolded your napkin when you got up and went to the bathroom, words like “caramelized onions,” “brioche” and “black pepper honey” would fit right in. It’s when you’re standing at the Swizzler food truck shoving all of those — plus a whipped blend of goat and cream cheeses and candied jalapenos — into your mouth via the Feast Mode ($8.25) that you realize they work on a hot dog, too. The truck uses grass-fed beef (you can sub in a veggie dog or half-smoke), house-made toppings and locally baked buns to create dogs that would be at home at a white-tablecloth restaurant. But then you’d probably have to use a fork.