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The Dog Show Mon Apr 26 2010
I came, I saw. I got a stomach ulcer, couldn't eat anything but soup and bread for about a month. I moved to Wicker Park/Bucktown. I dreamed about eating curries and rich cheeses in a bare two-bedroom apartment. And now I am back. My stomach is healed, I'm all moved in, and I'm ready to explore my new neighborhood and eat the food I missed most of all within that month of my bland food diet: hot dogs.
The one hot dog joint that piqued my interest in my new 'hood was Redhot Ranch. Every time I walked down Western that bright yellow Vienna Beef sign drew me in like a moth to a flame. The banner advertising "homemade french fried shrimp" didn't help me stay away either. This weekend's rainy weather offered the perfect opportunity to get out and try what Redhot Ranch promised.
Redhot Ranch is a no-nonsense type of joint. Their menu only offers four food options: a hot dog with fries, a double dog with fries, a polish with fries, and french fried shrimp. The staff is kind, the kitchen is small, and the prices are low. This is my first Dog Show excursion sampling a depression-style dog. If you've ever been to Gene & Jude's, you've had a depression-style hot dog. A depression dog is usually an all-beef red hot topped with yellow mustard, chopped raw onion, relish, and sports peppers with fries piled on top. I tend to keep a couple fries on my hot dog while I'm eating it. The best part of wrapping up a dog this way is that the fries soak up some of juices from the condiments and add something extra to each bite. Oniony, pickled fries with a dash of salt are quite a treat.
Redhot Ranch's hot dog doesn't hold up to my stand-by Gene and Jude's, but for the price of it, it is worth it. The hot dog wasn't as flavorful as I expected. It had that Vienna Beef snap but not that punch of beefy flavor nor the signature red color. The relish wasn't bright green, which threw me for a loop when I unwrapped my order. It was just regular relish you would buy at a store. I know that bright green has nothing to do with flavor but somehow in this case it did. The pickled flavor which adds so much to a depression-style hot dog was lost. It wasn't enough to really make the hot dog shine. Most of the condiments in fact lacked that extra kick to make Redhot Ranch's hot dog shine. But overall it wasn't terrible. It was a decent hot dog with fries that only cost me $2.70. You get what you pay for. It was good enough for a weekend lunch but it wouldn't be something I would crave if I was in the mood for a really good hot dog.
The real surprise was the french fried shrimp. I wasn't sure what separated french fried shrimp from battered or the kiddie counterpart, "popcorn" shrimp. Where battered shrimp would be coated in bread crumbs, Redhot Ranch's french fried shrimp is coated in flour and spices before being fried.
Redhot Ranch offers their shrimp in half pound and pound portions, and orders come with mild or hot sauce. Since I got a hot dog, I thought a half pound portion would be enough. It was more than enough. The shrimp were plump and juicy, and no tail meant no unexpected bites of flaky bits. I liked this method of frying shrimp better than breading it. It was light and crispy but had enough flour to create a nice outer coating to really soak up the dipping sauce. I got the mild, thinking the hot would be crazy hot, and it wasn't spicy enough for my liking. If you're a person with a need for heat, go with the hot sauce. The french fried shrimp is the most expensive thing on the menu but with a half pound going for $7.26 it's still a deal.
I never thought shrimp and hot dogs would be a good pairing. Redhot Ranch proved me wrong. Maybe they meant to make their dogs less outstanding so that the french friend shrimp really shines. Who knows. Either way, I am a fan of this new found side to my favorite meal.
Redhot Ranch is located on 2072 N. Western Ave. and is accessible by the Western Blue Line or the 49 bus. Cash only. There is no seating in the restaurant, however there is outdoor seating available and standing room at the counter. $5 gets you a hot dog and drink, where $10 will get you a dog, shrimp and drink.