Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Getting A Chicago-Style Dog Without The Drive

On the day that my review of the Hot Dog Shoppe posted on the blog, a longtime acquaintance and faithful blog reader, Jessie, called me to tell me that my post about hot dogs had sparked a memory of a visit to a different hot dog shop that she had taken with her husband. When she mentioned the name and location of the restaurant, Dan's Dogs A Hot Dog Eatery located right off the main square in Medina, Ohio, I immediately realized that I recognized the name. Not because I had read anything about the food, but that a hot dog place had opened up some time ago in downtown Medina. Seeing that our conversation had taken place before lunch and that I was already in Wadsworth visiting with my grandmother, I figured today would be the perfect day for a quick trip for what would hopefully be some hot dog goodness.

Dan's Dogs was located at 111 West Liberty Street, Medina, OH, 44256 and can be reached at 330-723-3647. Being that today was a national holiday, I called to confirm they were open and sure enough, they were. After arriving on the square, I parked in one of the many available spots dotting the town center and walked the rest of the way. It wasn't long before I came across the front door to Dan's Dogs:

Upon entering the restaurant, I was told to sit wherever I'd like. Seeing a table by the only window in the long and narrow space, I decided to take advantage of all the natural light I could. The interior was a throwback to the days of the 1950's diner, complete with booths, tables, and a counter area with stools up by the ordering station. The only modern sensibility was the tabletop video game seated next to my table, a throwforward to the mid 1980's. While I waited for my server to bring me a menu, I took a photo of the small sign sitting on my table:

I'm always a sucker for a good old-fashioned root beer. When I asked my server about it, she said that while the root beer wasn't made on-site, it was made specifically for Dan's Dogs. I decided to go with the smaller of the two available mug sizes and was quickly rewarded with this:

I immediately noticed two items about my mug of root beer. First, there was a ton of ice in it. Second, there appeared to be no carbonation at all. As I commented during my last trip to B & K, good root beer has to have the right level of carbonation. Too much and it creates a burning sensation as you swallow it. This version, with it's utter lack of carbonation, seemed equally as wrong, too. I also wasn't sure why my already chilled mug had so much ice in it. It wasn't until one of the servers was walking around the restaurant with a pitcher providing free refills of the root beer that I guessed that the root beer was probably not actually be coming out of the soda fountain and if it was, preserving carbonation wasn't an issue.

The flavor of the root beer was good, but a bit too sweet for my taste. My first sip actually elicited a "whoa!" out of me. I suppose it was a good match for the saltiness of the hot dogs I was about to order, but by itself, it was a little too much.

While the menu consisted of a single page, front and back, the number of hot dog options was enormous. Hot dogs are available in regular and jumbo sizes and I figured I would try and go for two different regular-sized dogs rather than just one jumbo-sized one. When I saw that the first dog on the list was a Chicago-style hot dog, I knew I had to get one of those. After careful consideration, I decided that my second dog would be the Reuben-inspired hot dog.

Here was a shot of my dogs when they arrived:

Here was a close-up of the Chicago-style dog:

Loaded with yellow mustard, relish, onions, pickled jalapenos, pickles, and celery salt, this was definitely a mouthful. With the number of jalapenos loaded onto this hot dog, I was quite surprised at the minimal heat level each bite of this hot dog seemed to possess. The hot dog was nice and juicy and the myriad of flavors adorning the dog really seemed to go well together.

My other dog, the Reuben-inspired creation,

was topped with sauerkraut, melted swiss cheese, and finished off with 1000 Island dressing. Also flavorful and juicy, I can't say that this tasted exactly like a Reuben sandwich, but once I suspended my disbelief, I thought this hot dog was a pretty successful homage to the original product.

One very important distinction I wanted to point out, gentle reader, was the awesome use of the hot dog bun itself. They weren't using standard hot dog buns at Dan's Dogs, but rather hot dog rolls:

Seen more often on the east coast being used for sandwiches such as lobster rolls, the wonderful thing about these rolls is that they can be toasted or grilled to add even more flavor to the party. These particular rolls were toasted quite nicely and added both a wonderful textural contrast and that nicely toasted bread flavor in each bite. I first noticed the use of these rolls when I visited Limburg's Patio Grill.

I also decided to order a side dish to my lunch order today. I wasn't particularly feeling the love for the fresh cut fries, so I asked about the "Real" onion rings. Now, before you think that I am using air quotes willy-nilly and without merit, the menu listed the onion rings in this fashion. Figuring that the realness must mean that the onion rings are made from scratch, I asked my server about them and discovered that I was sadly mistaken about my initial conclusion. The "realness" came from the fact that they actually use a whole onion ring inside the batter as opposed to chopped up onion meal (a la Burger King).

I will warn you that the price listed on the menu was for a side of onion rings. They were also available as a basket at an obviously more expensive price. When I read the menu initially, I had thought that the price listed was for a basket, so when my server offered me a side instead, I took it figuring it would be less than the price listed on the menu.

Here was a shot of my side of "Real" onion rings:

Good grief! I'm happy I hadn't ordered the larger basket as I had trouble finishing even this amount. The onion rings were fried nicely and not greasy, but they had also been sitting for a little bit as they were just a little hotter than lukewarm. The breading was nicely savory and the textural contrast between the coating and the cooked onion made these rings better than average. However, the same issue that most fried-from-frozen onion rings have plagued this version, too. In almost every ring I ate, the onion had separated itself from the fried outer shell and all it took was one bite to pull out the entire onion from the now empty casing. While I would still prefer these onion rings to fresh cut fries, I kind of wished Dan's Dogs would go the extra step and make these fresh to order.

After my very lackluster experience at the Hot Dog Shoppe, it was nice to find a spot where their creativity, and most importantly, the flavors of their flagship product were so prominently featured. With so many combinations of hot dog toppings, as well as soups, salads, burgers and more available on the menu, it would be quite easy to find something that everyone in your party could enjoy. While there were very few children when I went, the atmosphere was fun and I have no doubt that children would find Dan's Dogs as accessible as adults do. There are lots of very interesting shops on Medina's downtown square and if you find yourself in the area to do a little shopping, stop in at Dan's Dogs A Hot Dog Eatery for lunch or dinner and check them out for yourself. I definitely think they are worth it.

Dan's Dogs on Urbanspoon


Live to Cook at Home said...

Looks like some tasty dogs. Have you tried the polish boy at Seti's in the Dean Supply parking lot? Awesome!

Stuart said...

Since a Chicago dog is assembled more than it is cooked, I think it's fair to nit pick. A Chicago dog has pickle spears, not slices. And tomato. And a poppy seed bun.

Of course, the most important part is the hot dog itself. People wait in line for hours at Hot Doug's in Chicago for a Chicago dog built from a Vienna hot dog and when you bite into a Vienna hot dog it seems like time well spent. Some people use other dogs because they just want to be different and some want to say they make their own, but usually they're trading style for substance.

jimbest said...

You didn't get a Chicago-style hot dog. That consists of a poppy seed bun, a Vienna red hot (broiled or grilled), yellow mustard (no ketchup), tomato slices, green relish, pickle spears, sport peppers and celery salt on the top. That's called "dragging the dog through the garden" or "a meal on a bun." Lots of imitations around here but few real ones.

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