The adage has always been that if you want to find the undiscovered gems in a particular neighborhood there is no better seal of approval than seeing a group of police or firefighters eating in a particular joint. So when I went to the newly opened Dirt Dog on Friday night and a group of firefighters entered, I knew either a bachelorette party was about to begin — or more likely that I had chosen a great place to cover.       

Dirt Dog has been open in Pasadena for almost a month now. The hot dog and street food eatery’s menu is inspired by the street vendors of downtown Los Angeles. The Pasadena Dirt Dog and 21 Choices are the first additions to open up the new Food District on Union Street, just north of Colorado Boulevard, between Fair Oaks and Raymond avenues.

Dirt Dog’s menu pays homage to the street food one finds being sold downtown by hard-working Angelinos. At the center of the Dirt Dog’s menu, of course, are the titular hot dogs, made with all beef-franks and wrapped in bacon. There is a soy based frank that can be served in any style as its meat-filled counterparts. There are two categories of dogs — dirty and extra dirty. The only difference between the two is the extra dirty dogs come with a third meat choice in addition to the frank and bacon.

I will get some flak from the Dodger Dog diehards for saying this, but the holy grail of hot dogs is at Dirt Dog. The patty melt dog ($7.25) is a bacon wrapped dog topped in bacon and cheddar fries with a chipotle aioli spread. The creamy melted cheddar and bacon fries on the bun bring hot dogs to a new place. Don’t shy away from the chipotle aioli either; it’s just the right spice to enhance the creamy, rich ingredients.

The Pastrami Dog ($8.75) consists of pastrami, pickles, cheese, spicy mustard bacon bits, sweet pepper aioli, and Monterey jack cheese. It’s everything you love about the classic sandwich combination. All the flavors complement the salty, fatty pastrami in the best ways.

Dirt Dog does have a kids menu, or as they call it the “Little Angels” menu. Ironically, there are no hot dog options for our smaller Angelinos who maybe have a few years to go before they can indulge in a one of the dirtier counterparts. So kids aren’t the target audience here, but it seems an obvious omission. Hot dogs are such a kid-friendly food and building a “kid dog” (read plain with cheese or condiments) ended up being the same price as a super deluxe Dirty Dog.

The Elote Dog ($7.75)  comes with corn, lime, mayo, cotija, chili, cilantro and bacon bits. My non-meat eating significant other ordered it  as a soy dog, and this one had a great flavor combination with everything you love about street food. Not the fault of Dirt Dogs by any means, this was actually better without the dog. Soy just doesn’t have the same grilled flavor as meat. I say omit the protein altogether and it’s like a street food sandwich and still vegetarian friendly.

The sides here shine as brightly as the dogs. The fries are served hot and crispy topped with the stuff dreams are made of. We tried a couple of varieties including the basic garlic fries. They were all perfectly cooked and gone in minutes. Topped with guacamole, chipotle aioli, cotija cheese, cheddar cheese and bacon bits, Filthy Fries ($5.50) are a California street food classic.

While I am not a huge fan of the name, the DUI Fries ($9) are a beautiful, over-the-top concoction  with pastrami, carne asada, bacon bits cheddar cheese, chipotle aioli and cilantro. They were a super-satisfying side that could be a meal in themselves. The most impressive aspect was the carne asada, which I didn’t expect much from on a menu flush with tasty ingredients. The asada, however, was flavorful, cooked tender and plentiful atop a mound of crisp, golden fries.

While not traditional street foods, they have some deep fried desserts including deep fried Twinkie ($3.25) and  deep fried Oreos ($3.25).  I theorize the deep-fried classics were inspired by a childhood spent enjoying such snacks at the LA County Fair. Dirty Dog has added a few dirty indulgences fried crisp and fresh to top off an already insane meal. They’re not just deep frying, though; they serve the molten goodies with a perfectly spiced horchata whip. They are nothing short of delicious.

If deep fried desserts are feeling too heavy after any of the dirty dogs on the menu, a less guilt-inducing dessert option — 21 Choices — is only a two-minute walk away. Know that there are more frozen yogurt and ice cream shops in the greater Pasadena area than anyone can count. So in a sea of many it takes a lot to stand out. The night I stopped in it was a chilly Southern California evening, but that did not have any effect on the line full of families and couples on dates that was almost out the door.

What makes 21 Choices special is that they craft a menu of creative yogurt/ topping combos that rival the greatest famous-made pints. The menu combos change regularly but there are infinite possibilities when you consider topping substitutions and alternate base flavors. The base flavors are another special staple of 21 Choices. They’re made from fresh, whole ingredients, never artificial flavors or colors. They chop and mix your flavor choices on a frozen surface. With the thoughtful and artful flavors, mix in combinations, and quality ingredients, 21 Choices is doing yogurt right.


Dirt Dog

20 E. Union St.,

Suite 160 Pasadena

(626) 345-5306

No Alcohol/

Major Cards Accepted


21 Choices

44 N. Fair Oaks Ave., Pasadena

(626) 304-9521

No Alcohol/

Major Cards Accepted