Sunday, September 26, 2010

On the hot dog trail with Adam Kuban

When I heard that Serious Eats guru Adam Kuban was coming to Denver to sample hot dogs, I volunteered my services as sidekick. Happily, he agreed to let me tag along.

Here's Adam, looking happy. We're gonna go eat hot dogs! Yay!

I'm not sure who those four guys in the background are. They might be (a) a barbershop quartet; (b) a nonthreatening-looking gang; (c) employees of the business in the background wearing the company tee shirt; or (d) guys eating hot dogs.

My money's on c and d.

Adam had one place on his "must try" list, and that was Biker Jim's, a stand that can be found at the 16th Street Mall in Denver during the week, and in the parking lot of Argonaut Liquors on Saturdays. Since it was Saturday, we headed off to the liquor store.

Biker Jim's had a bit of a crowd assembled, so we had some time to chat, take photos, and decide what dogs to sample. For some reason, we talked a lot about food. And a little about Serious Eats, which is all about food, anyway.

The menu at Biker Jim's
I suggested the Buffalo Dog, and Adam added the Elk Jalapeno Cheddar, the German Veal Brat, and the Louisiana Red Hot.

I'm not sure if this is Adam's "Serious Blogger" look, or if he's just eagerly anticipating the hot dogs.

All the dogs are prepared the same way: split in half, grilled, topped with cream cheese and some onions that are cooked with cola. There were optional ingredients, but we took them the way they were served.

We found a shady bit of sidewalk and settled in for some dog devastation.

Since the dogs were all cooked and topped in a similar fashion, they looked a lot alike, and at times we had a little trouble figuring out which dog was which. The brat was a different color, so that one was easier. They were all pretty darned good. Here's a closer look.

Meanwhile, I'm thinking of stealing that cola-onion trick. dogs. Chomp, chomp.

Four dogs down (well, mostly down. Adam suggested that I pack up leftovers to take home for a snack for my husband.) and we had plenty of time to sample more tube steaks at another venue.

We headed to Steve's Snappin' Dogs. Pretty snappy place, hmmmm?

At Steve's, Adam ordered four dogs. Here he his, happily documenting the experience.

I could only hope that this odd little hot dog didn't represent what we were about to eat. Unlike Biker Jim's, where all the dogs were different, at Steve's, the dogs were pretty much the same, but the toppings were different.

First, the Chicago Dog, since that's where I'm originally from. This dog, however, must have gotten a bit lost on the way, since I'd never seen a Chicago Dog with brown mustard before this. The rest of the components were standard, but a poppy seed bun would have been a nice touch. Still, it was sort of like being home.

Then came the Dallas Dog with chili and cheese. Oddly the Dallas Dog becomes a New York Coney if you add mustard and onions. So I guess this is a Coney.

And the we had the Denver Burrito Dog. Looks pretty pale compared to the other dogs, all dressed for a party with their fine condiments displayed like flashy jewel. Poor Denver Dog. But it seems to be smiling.


Beauty is only skin deep, so it was necessary to do some surgery to get the proper photo. This one has chili, cheese, jalapeno, bacon, tomato and lettuce (why lettuce? why?)

Followed by the Rippin Rockies Dog. Apparently this dog is deep fried. The interesting part of this one is the colors. They just don't go. Purple from the red onions, dull olive green from the pickled jalepenos, and mustard yellow...not going to be my choice next time I redecorate. There were also grilled red onions and a vegetarian green chili which didn't help the visual effect. It tasted better than it looked. The white blobs are sour cream.

The woman taking the order was completely amused by the number of dogs Adam ordered. And onion rings and a couple drinks. Here's Adam expertly dissecting a Chicago Dog prior to testing. Don't try this unless you're a professional. Those plastic utensils can be dangerous.

The drinks were necessary. Peppers were a common component in all the dogs, with sport peppers on the Chicago dog, jalepenos on the Denver and Rippen' dogs, and chili on the Dallas/New York dog. The onion rings were a good idea because after nibbling, tasting and chomping on eight different hot dogs, I welcomed something different.

Considering this was Adam's last day of a week-long hot dog tasting adventure, I've got to say I'm in awe of his stamina. Meanwhile, I packed up even more leftover dogs, which I brought home to my husband. He killed off most of the remains. Neither of us ate dinner. (Thanks for lunch, Adam! Thanks for dinner! Thanks for letting me come along!)

As far as which hot dog Adam liked best? Heck, I don't know. He didn't say. You'll have to wait for the results when they're posted on Serious Eats.

Meanwhile, I'm just grateful that we're not having hot dogs for dinner tonight.


Adam Kuban said...

Thanks for tagging along, Donna. It was great to meet you in person, and it was nice to have some extended human interaction after a week of planes, trains, automobiles, and the occasional hot dog banter with wiener slingers.

I liked Biker Jim's more than Steve's Snappin'. I appreciated the fact Biker Jim's had different meats. My favorites of BJ's were the buffalo dog (good choice!) and the Louisiana red hot. I couldn't really taste much cheddar in the elk jalapeño cheddar dog, and I would have put the bratwurst as a favorite, but I don't know if it would rightly qualify as a "hot dog."

Biker Jim's was up there was one of my favorites in the west.

Donna Currie said...

If I had a choice of any of the ones we sampled, I think I'd go for the brat first. It reminded me of some of the store-made brats I'd buy from small shops in Wisconsin when I made my cheese-and-sausage pilgrimages from Chicago.

But I don't think of a brat as a hot dog. It's a whole different beast.

akuban said...

Yeah. I really liked the brat — wish it were a bit more juicy, but the flavor was good. I think my editor for this piece (and readers of it) would have my head if I were to say that a brat was best, though. ;)

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