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Go behind the scenes of this week's review in our slideshow, "A Closer Look at Good Dog Houston."
There's something about hot dogs that has always seemed unappetizing to me. It has to do, I think, with my childhood, when my mother told me that you never know what ends up inside the hot dog casing. Snouts, feet, ears, entrails. It's all ground up together and squeezed into a tube, then boiled and served with hopefully enough condiments to mask any unpleasant flavors or textures that might slip in.
I once caught a "How It's Made" segment on the Discovery Channel that focused on hot dogs. It showed liquefied beef and pork trimmings mixed with water, high-fructose corn syrup, flavoring and, often, mechanically recovered chicken. Whatever that is. I swore a long time ago that I would never eat mass-produced hot dogs.
903 Studewood St.
Houston, TX 77008
So it was with a good deal of trepidation that I visited Good Dog Houston for the first time. It's a new restaurant in the Heights, and the brick-and-mortar location of the successful Good Dog Houston food truck. Reluctantly, I sat at the bar and ordered a Guac-A-Dog, hoping the creamy green avocado topping would make the ground bits of animal carcass go down a bit more smoothly. Hesitantly, I held the over-filled bun up to my mouth, opened wide, took a bite and chewed. And then I chewed a little faster, as the smoky flavors of bacon and grilled hamburger invaded my senses.
This is not rubbery, I thought to myself. This isn't flavorless or gritty or gag-inducing. In fact, it's delicious. It snaps when you bite, rather than dissolving into mush. It's dynamic—more like a sausage than the gelatinous ballpark franks of my youth. If these were the type of hot dogs I had been served at childhood birthday parties and sporting events, I daresay I would not have been the awkward child toting tofu dogs to cookouts.
Even the tofu dogs at Good Dog are tasty, though I'd suggest you go for the real thing unless health or lifestyle don't allow you to. The 85 percent beef/15 percent pork dogs are larger than what you buy in packages at the grocery store, and they're made just for Good Dog by a secret purveyor in east Texas. In fact, Good Dog prides itself on using and selling Texas-made products, from the Slow Dough buns to the great selection of craft beer.
But really, what Good Dog is all about is hot dogs. Plain and simple. Or not so plain, in the case of the Ol' Zapata, a standard from the food-truck days that includes a signature frank topped with tomatoes, caramelized onions, Muenster cheese, bacon, tangy jalapeño relish, and homemade ketchup and mayo. This is not a pick-up-and-bite kind of hot dog, unless you're able to unhinge your jaw, reticulated-python-style. No, the Ol' Zapata, like many of the dogs on the menu, is fork-and-knife-worthy, though the buttered and toasted Slow Dough bun puts forth a valiant effort to maintain the heft.
The Ol' Zapata was a mainstay on the food truck, and it has remained popular at the new restaurant, where it's easier to sit down and dig into the many toppings. The shredded Muenster melts a little and coats the caramelized onions and the hot dog, while crumbled bacon adds an extra dose of meat and the fresh diced tomatoes and jalapeño relish give each forkful acid and heat.
The entire time I was basking in the glow of the Ol' Zapata for the first time, I kept waffling back and forth, trying to decide which element of the dish I liked best. It's the lightly buttered and slightly sweet buns, I thought to myself. But wait! What about the jalapeño relish, just spicy enough to make me reach for my refreshing glass of fizzy mint lemonade between each bite? Or the bacon...bacon makes everything better. But so does cheese, and there's a lot of cheese stuffed in that bun. Oh, and the hot dog itself, so firm and fresh and wonderfully beefy! Perhaps, I finally realized, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, even though those parts are mighty fine.
That became my working theory during that meal. But just to be sure, I ordered another.
It wasn't an easy road to go from a food truck to a brand-new storefront in a cute bungalow in the Heights. Owners Daniel Caballero and Amalia Pferd met while waiting tables at Chatter's Cafe and Bistro and started dating. Together, they adopted a dachshund named Olive Oyl and harbored a mutual dream of one day opening a gourmet hot dog truck.
The couple got in on the Houston food-truck scene early when they purchased a $15,000 van that was advertised on Craigslist and turned it into Good Dog Hot Dogs, a mobile hot dog vendor, in 2011. Things were going well, and people were noticing the one-of-a-kind hot dogs and friendly duo behind the concept. Then, in late 2012, Good Dog Hot Dogs nearly vanished from the Internet. Their Facebook page was deleted, their website was taken down and their Twitter name was changed. It seems that a Colorado company had sent a cease-and-desist letter to Good Dog Hot Dogs claiming the Houston company had stolen a trademarked name.
love the hot dogs here, i agree with you about the guac-a-dog. i had it on my second visit having the the chillin dog on the first. the good thing though about the guac-a-dogs blandness is that i could really taste the actually hot dog. the chilli on the chillin dog took over all the flavor. after the guac-a-dog i ordered the chi-town there take on a classic chicago dog and its is by far the ultimate hot dog IMO the house pickled fresno peppers and pickles, fresh tomatoes hit with celery salt is AMAZING have to have one every time and try a new one along side it. my son loves the house made corny dog also.(so do i)
The prices are a smidge higher than what I remember from the truck, but the quality is excellent. They're also great people, really friendly. Try the "come and drink it" wine, it's quite good too. One thing is for certain, it does not suck though the defunct Cahill's had a more authentic Chicago dog (Vienna beef and all).
I thought the place sucked. How can a place screw up something as simple as a Chicago-style dog? Its a cesspool of cased-meat blasphemy.