Guest Poster, Robyn Mincher, Explores Options for a Culinary Underdog – The Hot Dog

Robyn lives in Columbia Heights and writes for The Express and The Onion amongst other publications. You can find her asking odd questions to random bar patrons (for Express’s Out There section), reporting on DC general happenings and openings, or enjoying a glass of scotch at the Ruby Tuesday on 14th and Monroe.

Overheard in DC:

Hey have you been to [trendy DC burger joint]? It’s amazing. They serve watermelon and corn instead of fries.”

Fries are soooo passé. [another trendy DC burger joint] has a burger with pickled diakon and carrots.”

Oh yeah? Well I waited in the line at [yet another trendy DC burger joint] for an hour and a half. It was so worth it.”

And the burger food snob battle ensues.

The DC burger craze is in full effect. With the openings of Z Burger, Ray’s Hell-Burger and Good Stuff Eatery and the fast pace at which a new Five Guys opens (eerily reminiscent of Starbucks five years ago), DC’s foodies are starting to discuss a burger as intricately as they would an expensive Cabernet. As a Columbia Heights resident who (gasp!) doesn’t adore burgers, I feel ostracized and a little sad. Not sad for vegetarians, or even cows for that matter. I’m upset that the influx of trendy meat patty places means that it’s sorely-looked-over fast food counterpart, the hot dog, is being pushed deeper and deeper into hamburger’s shadow. Thankfully, the Petworth/Columbia Heights area has many delicious options to get a hot dog, or a hot dog inspired, meal. For all my fellow closeted anti-burger friends living in this corner of Northwest, here is a guide to the best hot dog (ish) eats our hood has to offer.

[Note: the omission of Ben’s Chili Bowl’s famous half-smokes is no mistake. These options listed are strictly Petworth and Columbia Heights. Of course Ben’s Chili Bowl has one fantastic hot dog, duh.]


1) The Foot Long Hot Dog at Wonderland Ballroom: At the Columbia Heights version of Cheers (where everyone knows your name if your indie rock knowledge is on par with them), you can get a sloppy, wonderful mess of a hot dog with your choice of toppings. While it might not look like the most appetizing meal (it’s only 3 bucks during happy hour – what do you expect?), the chili cheese dog begs to be devoured sans a napkin and any manners whatsoever. Let’s unite in sloppy hot dog consumption – if at least just to scare off the popped-collared overgrown frat kids that only inhabit Wonderland for street cred.


2) Foot Long Fish Dog & Fries at Red Derby: Yes, it sounds weird. But eccentric is what Red Derby does best (where else can you down a Woo Woo! shot while watching an Eastern European silent film on projector?), and the fish dog is no exception. The battered cod is served with lettuce, tomato, onion and tartar sauce, crammed into a hot dog bun and placed perfectly atop a pile of fries (you can substitute sweet potato for a couple bucks extra – highly recommended). Think of it as a deconstructed fish-n-chips.


3) Gypsy Kielbasa at Domku: I know what you’re thinking: “Hey! No processed tube-shaped meat in bun, no hot dog label!” But I had to stretch the hot dog classification boundaries a bit just to wave a flag to one of the best carnivorous sandwiches you can get in DC. The smorgasbord of random ingredients doesn’t exactly sound like a match made in heaven: spicy kielbasa, onions, red peppers, arugula, spicy mustard and blue cheese in ciabatta bread. But, believe me, Domku’s Slavic/Scandinavian version of a hot dog is pure sandwich harmony. I seriously fell in love with this odd sandwich. I didn’t want to part with it, and when I did (by devouring it), I felt dumped and broken hearted. The sandwich might not evoke this emotion with everyone, but you may get quite attached.  Continues after the jump.

4) Five Guys: If you can’t beat them, join them, or at least try their hot dogs without judging too harshly. After two tries (the first one was in the wee hours and all I wrote was an illegible FOOD HOT YUM), I declared the verdict as good…OK, it’s great. F*#$ing fantastic even. It’s cut vertically before cooking, which means more surface for grilling, and slightly charred the way a damn good hot dog should. The result is a crispy, greasy dog that’s definitely NOT the way mom used to make it (I don’t know about yours, but mine just boiled them). Not to encourage more chain restaurants, but I won’t be upset if Five Guys keeps up the gradual takeover of DC.

Any other local hot dog (or dogish) meals one can get? Or underdog food finds I should try next? Since Gypsy Kielbasa dumped me, I’m on the prowl.

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