The Downtown Hot Dog CompanyAh, the hot dog. Baseball and barbecue staple, street minute-meal for the suddenly starved. Proud poster child of American no-nonsense-ness, butt of mystery meat and wiener jokes.

Or so it was. The arrival of The Downtown Hotdog Company, along with such international crazes as Japadog, heralds a new era of thinking about and eating hot dogs. No longer content to be monopolized by Oscar Meyer or confined to white buns, Heinz ketchup, French’s mustard, and maybe some diced onions or pickle relish, the noble wiener is going gourmet.

At the Downtown Hotdog Company, you can pick from a dozen arrangements – including such stand-outs as “The Dragon” with hot kimchi and Sriracha Sauce, and “The Monkey” with peanut butter and banana. Or make your own. Put it all on a classic 100% Vienna Beef dog, or substitute a 1/4 lb. dog, polish sausage, or surprisingly tasty veggie dog. Wrap it all in a white or wheat (or poppyseed) bun. All the toppings and big dogs too intimidating? Order up some mini hot dog sliders with one topping each.

"The Dragon" – Hot kimchi and Sriracha SauceWe’ve tried the Caprese (basil, tomato, mozzarella, and a balsamic glaze), The Dragon, and The Chicago (a spin on the classic “one with everything”), and they were mostly excellent. The Caprese of my first visit didn’t work for me, either because the toppings were all so chunky and substantial that the whole thing didn’t blend together well or because the dog itself was too hard, repelling the other ingredients. But the Dragon, with a smoky veggie dog underneath, had a delightful zing to it, and the Chicago was a perfect smoosh of pickly salted sweetness.

Though the atmosphere needs some of that “lived-in” softness that can only come with time, the mustard-colored walls and ketchup-colored floor make for a cheerful cafeteria feel that is enlivened by the charming/scary Harry the Hot Dog Man near the door. We didn’t like that dine-in orders were served in disposable plastic boxes, though they’re great for orders to go.

One final thing that deserves special mention is the service. Many parents have taught their children that they should take pride in what they do, no matter what it is, and many managers have taught their employees that the customer is king. Nowhere are these two lessons more admirably on display than at The Downtown Hotdog Company. The infectious enthusiasm and friendliness of the proprietors brighten the room and your day, and make the already tasty hot dogs all the tastier.

Erin says: “The menu is fun, the toppings endless, the veggie dog convincing. My only request would be for a bun upgrade.”

award_star_gold_3 16Rating: Erin: Jed:

thumb_up 16 iconPros: Inventive, great for a quick lunch on the mall, friendly service.

thumb_down 16 iconCons: Comparatively boring buns – we’d like to see more gourmet options all around – and eco-unfriendly packaging.

money_dollar 16 iconPrice: $4.50 for a dog with gourmet toppings.

car famfam 16 iconParking: The usual mall spots.

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