Some rare breeds of dogs are showing up in the Lowcountry, but not of the kennel club kind.
Check out some of the recent specials at Perfectly Franks in Summerville: A hot dog topped with baked beans, chipotle ranch and beer-battered onion rings. Or the cheesesteak, with thinly sliced rib-eye steak, melted cheddar and grilled onions — all atop a hot dog. How about leashing your dog to some grilled Buffalo shrimp and blue cheese slaw?
With its retro looks and language, the mini local chain Jack's Cosmic Dogs might seem to be the classic all-American hot dog joint. Yes, one can still get a basic “Earth Dog,” plain or with mustard and/or ketchup. But Jack's menu always has had a playful, alternative side.
“I knew from the beginning the power of the vegetarian,” says owner Jack Hurley. He believes if there's one person in the car that doesn't eat meat, the group will go to the restaurant with vegetarian choices.
Hurley, who started the business 12 years ago and now has three locations, started with the “Bunny in a Bun.” It was a whole carrot, whose shape suggested a hot dog, topped with blue cheese slaw. Since then he's added more veggie/alternative choices, including tofu, black bean cakes and Buffalo chicken.
The tofu is best in class, based on its popularity, Hurley says. “Folks come back up to the counter and say, 'Are you sure this is a tofu dog?' ”
Nationwide, Hurley sees the farm-to-table movement making an impact on the business. More artisan-made, and more expensive, hot dogs are coming to menus, especially in urban areas.
Four months ago, Jack's took a step in that direction by introducing locally made sausages, like kielbasa, bratwurst, chorizo and hot Italian. They are slowly catching on.
“I can't find anyone who can do the volume I need in hot dogs,” Hurley says, but he thinks it eventually could happen. He would also like to offer seasonally driven toppings in the future.
“I'm not doing the Vildalia onion and apple compote. I think as we grow we'll have them as specials.”
More restaurants such as HD1 in Atlanta are putting the “haute” in hot dog. You can still enjoy a Plain Jane at HD1 with a choice of two toppings, such as mustard, ketchup, sweet relish or onion, but chef Richard Blais' imagination goes way beyond the basic beef. His menu includes haute dogs such as the Little Italy, featuring fennel sausage garnished with San Marzano tomato ketchup, and a Bavarian bratwurst with beer-braised onions.
Dietitian Lanier Dabruzzi likes the high-end dog trend. “I think the 'haute' dog rage is actually great. People aren't stuck with those mystery-meat dogs topped with sugary ketchup and relish anymore.”
Of course, there are a lot of options to load on toppings that can pile on the calories, including slaw, cheese or chili, or you can get them all by ordering the chili cheese slaw dog. Mustard, sauerkraut, pickle relish and chopped onion are the traditional toppings with the least amount of calories.
Turkey dogs are generally lower in fat and calories than beef- or pork-based dogs, and most places offer a meatless alternative veggie frank, too.
Choose a whole-grain bun and you're on your way to a tasty and nutritious treat.
A 5-inch-long, 1.6-ounce beef hot dog: 150 calories, 13g fat, 5g protein
A 5-inch-long, 1.6-ounce turkey dog: 102 calories, 8g fat, 6g protein
A 5-inch-long, 1.6-ounce veggie dog: 80 calories, 2g fat, 11g protein, 3g fiber
A 1-ounce hot dog bun: 84 calories
Toppings (1 tablespoon): Ketchup, 16 calories; sweet relish, 21 calories; mustard, 12 calories
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution contributed to this report.