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The Dog Show Thu Jun 28 2012

The Dog Show: Franks 'N' Dawgs

Thumbnail image for TheDogShow_01.jpgWhen you think of high end dining, most people would never consider the humble hot dog as part of this rank of food. Franks 'N' Dawgs, 1863 N. Clybourn Ave., sets out to change that mindset, one tubular meat at a time. First, let's set the record straight. Despite the multitude of comparisons, this place is not Hot Doug's. Hot Doug's doesn't make their own sausage, there is the infamous line, and frankly this place isn't just some hot dog shack. I love my Hot Doug's, but Franks 'N' Dawgs really is a sit down affair that you need to go into treating it like a more refined type of meal. Yes, the price will be more than any other hot dog around, but for the quality of ingredients and given the background of the chef, you are getting more than your money's worth. The menus might bear some resemblance, but the atmosphere and overall style are vastly different.

When you go, make sure to go on a sunny day if possible and utilize the back patio. It's a perfect place to enjoy your meal, much better than the dark cavernous interior of the shop. Step up, order, then pick a celebrity instead of a number to signify your meal to the staff. Everything is plated beautifully, the first sign of the higher end quality before you even take a bite of food.

One of the best parts of Franks 'N' Dawgs' offerings is the bun. Made exclusively for the store, it's like no other hot dog bun in Chicago, a light and crisp exterior that is more like brioche than enriched white bread. I could put anything on one of those buns and probably be happy with the outcome.

chicagoesque Franks 'N' Dawgs

First up, my Dog Show partner Andrew Huff and I tried the Chicagoesque, an all natural beef dog with house-made pickles, cherry tomato relish, caramelized onions and beer mustard. If you don't think about the name, the dog is solid albeit very sweet offer. But the second you compare it to a Chicago-style dog everything seems off. The combination of caramelized onions, relish and surprisingly sweet mustard made the dog too sweet to be called anything close to Chicago style. Leave behind the expectations the name implies and it satisfies a savory sweet tooth.

krazy kimchi dog Franks 'N' Dawgs

Next was the Krazy Kimchi dog. Billed as a spicy beef sausage with braised short rib and turnip, kimchi, wild rice and basil, the overt flavor was that of the warm kimchi covering the dog. The sausage was a bit dry (and lacking in spice, in my opinion) and none of the other ingredients stood out over that potent kimchi. Served warm, the kimchi just overpowered all the other flavors. I would have liked to taste this dog with cold kimchi, which might have brightened the flavor and made the heat much stronger. It would have also been better presented with the kimchi diced into a smaller size, something more manageable on a hot dog.

corndog platte Franks 'N' Dawgs

We'll go ahead and discuss the other dud of the day and then end the Dog Show on a high note. How I wanted to love the mystery corn dog platter. The use of Anson Mills polenta intrigued me, and they came out looking crisp and perfectly brown. The dogs were surrounded by a grain mustard, the sweet mustard from the Chicagoesqe dog, cornichons, and delightfully light pickled carrots. But within one bite I could tell the insides were just too mushy. It was like a corn dog filled with grits. I thought maybe I got a bad dog, but all of them were a bit different but similar in variations of gooey center. It reminded me of biting into a glutenous rice ball from a Chinese bakery. A pork and veal sausage were the surprise, but they were no match for that batter. Which is a shame, because the flavor was great, just the texture wasn't working in this form. I would eat a bowl of that polenta, but maybe a thinner coating or longer in the fryer would have helped save this situation.

triple truffle fries - Franks 'N' Dawgs

With the sub par out of the way, time to end on two very high notes. I remembered the delicious smells of triple truffle fries last year at Lollapalooza, where Franks 'N' Dawgs was a spotlight vendor in the "chow town." The problem with truffles in general is if you go overboard, it's way too much and you ruin the dish. But Franks 'N' Dawgs has perfected just the right amount of truffle on these fries. Perfectly cooked waffle fries (nice crisp exterior and creamy interior) were only elevated by the combination of truffle salt, butter and oil. I could have eaten the entire bowl if these weren't so rich, which is probably a good thing. Share an order with a friend and marvel at the truffle trend done right.

bill kim Franks 'N' Dawgs

Saving the best for last, the highlight of the day was the Bill Kim contribution for the Iron Dawg Competition, in which two recipes from local chefs go head to head. The Urbanbelly Chix was a Vietnamese chicken sausage topped with pickled green papaya, curry mayo, crispy shallots, Thai basil and lime. Continuing my own personal trend of loving every bite that Bill Kim puts out into the food world, this sausage was true perfection on a bun. It was magically light and not greasy, a perfect flavor combination where every ingredient worked together for the greater good. The sausage was cooked perfectly, the acidic papaya cut the rich curry mayo, and the lime shavings and crisp of the fried shallots tied every bite together. Kim has a knack for making complex lists of ingredients work together in harmony, and his Iron Dawg original was just another example of why he is one of the best chefs in Chicago.

If you want something more from your encased meats, Frank 'N' Dawgs is a wonderful place to experiment with different tastes and textures with some of the best quality ingredients around.

Photos by Andrew Huff

 
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Feature Thu Dec 31 2015

The State of Food Writing

By Brandy Gonsoulin

In 2009, food blogging, social media and Yelp were gaining popularity, and America's revered gastronomic magazine Gourmet shuttered after 68 years in business. Former Cook's Illustrated editor-in-chief Chris Kimball followed with an editorial, stating that "The shuttering of Gourmet reminds...
Read this feature »

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