You'll want to be in the Dog Haus
By Dan O'Heron 03/22/2012
Like a puppy being teased with a T-bone by its master, when I heard that a new eatery called Dog Haus was opening on Hill Avenue, I squirmed and waggled over a chance to break out into puns, similes and double entendres.
You know, stuff like: “We can be fed and watered at the Dog Haus.” Or “The hot dog beats the pet dog: It feeds the hand that bites it.” And, with everything on it, you’ve got a “junkyard dog.” In short, loose trivia, we’ll call “doggerel.”
Except for using two names like “stray dog” and “reservoir dog,” the restaurant’s menu stays away from word playing about dogs. I’ll try hard to do the same. I’ll let the dog, er, speak for itself.
While most of the franks are skinless, my “snap” dog in a casing was a pure delight. Juicy, yet firm, it gave off an audible click when bitten into. Encased in a sweet Hawaiian bread bun, I ate it without any toppings. For only $3.75, it was the best hot dog I’ve ever tasted.
For a Kobe beef dog I’ve paid as high as $17. A ludicrous price for a hot dog — it’s like feeding caviar to a cat. And the Dog Haus variety is cheaper and tastes better.
My dog didn’t need any help, but for people who require a place to relish, the condiment bar spangles with a score of free sauces and toppings, including all the standards, plus nifty add-ons like tapatio, banana peppers, pepperocinis, celery salt and crushed red peppers. For good measure, from 50 cents to $1, a dozen premium toppings include white American cheese, caramelized onions, sauerkraut and Haus-made chili.
They refused to tell me the hot dog ingredients, although I suspect that the reading of the Dog Haus labels wouldn’t compromise eating enjoyment as grocery store labels do. Readings at the deli counter make me want to phone that control center in Atlanta. But on the positive side, the green movement sees a future for conversion to ethanol.
Made specifically for Dog Haus, the frank smacks of masterful beef blending. Though still a mixed-breed hot dog, this cur has a pedigree. Until I got a taste of it, Boston’s Fenway Park’s frank ranked first place in my mind. And, the Vienna dog, served at Wrigley Field in Chicago, was second. Of course, hot dogs always taste better at a baseball game. Or do they?
The Dodger dog, compared to the Dog Haus dog, tastes like something Farmer John should be given a subsidy for not growing. It’s remarkable only because Vin Scully says that it is. In my last trip to the stadium three years ago, it was overpriced at $5-something.
For a tickling memory, under the heading, “Who Let This Dog Out,” Dog Haus should come out with a “Ballpark Frank McCourt,” and make it the costliest item on the menu.
These days, at a worthy $5.95., first in show dogs include more than a dozen skinless specialties. Among the more (forgive me) fetching with regional connections include the “Old Town,” with smoked bacon, caramelized onions, spicy peppers, chipotle mayo and cotija cheese; “Downtown,” smoked bacon wrapped with mayo, mustard, ketchup, caramelized onions and peppers; and “Sooo Cali,” with arugula, diced tomato, crispy onions, spicy basil aioli and avocado.
Complementing hot dogs, some 10 hamburgers are privileged in taste by using one-third pound Angus beef patties. From $4.50 to $8.50, LA Weekly critic Celia Soudry writes “the main attraction is the Freiburger.” Others tell me that the “Holy Aioli” is best.
But for me, wurst days are ahead. Following the leader among its six sausage dishes —ranging from $5.95 to $6.50 — I liked the spicy, heavily smoked andouille (pronounced ahnDWEE). Of French origin, and a favorite of Cajun cookery, it’s sizzling and succulent. And it’s a prize for a doggie bag item, as it tastes great even when eaten cold.
Tasting infinitely better when heated, three-pepper, chubby Polish kielbasas include the “Abe Froman,” named for the character in the movie “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.” Loaded with white American cheese, fried egg, grilled jalapenos and onion, it’s something that students at nearby Pasadena City College might cut a class for. Regular sausage toppings include sauerkraut, spicy peppers, sweet peppers and caramelized onions.
Beyond rings and fries side dishes, you’ll see a lot of sticky fingers picking at tater tots ($1.95). In Eating LA, Pat Saperstein writes, “The taters taste exactly like my mother used to make.”
For my family value, I’d choose the Frito chili pie — chili, onions and cheese over a big cluster of Frito corn chips. My dad used to crush Fritos and sprinkle them over chili. For $3.50, you’ll get your money’s worth: It has a long, delicious aftertaste, even though some might say this chili is a slight underdog to Tommy’s.
I like the idea that pet dogs are allowed in the patio. But I’m not sure that the dogs will. There’ll be few leftovers. This is not a “dog-eat-dog” kind of place.