Ԫ Dining & Restaurants | San Jose, CA | Hot Dogs | The Dog House

July 12-18, 2006

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The Dog House

Photograph by Felipe Buitrago
Who let the dogs out? The Dog House is downtown San Jose's newest link source.

Missing Links

The Dog House brings both classic and inventive links to downtown San Jose

By Audrey Gardiner

THE LOVE CHILD of German sausage and American food processing, hot dogs have ruled in American life for decades. A staple of baseball games, barbecues and state fairs, they have an irreplaceable spot in American culture. Hot dogs remind us of childhood before we worried about nitrates and sulfite. The hot dog is all-American comfort food.

In the 21st century, we have adapted it to every lifestyle while still trying to preserve its place as classic American food. Although purists may scoff at chicken apple sausage or veggie dogs, hot dogs now come in as many flavors as ice cream. San Jose's month-old, one-of-a-kind Dog House aims to please all tastes with a range of traditional and inventive wieners.

There are regional debates about who makes the tastiest combination of dog, mustard, bun and toppings. California is famous for many cuisines, but it's New York and Chicago that boast the original hot dog vendors and sausage lore.

The Dog House's menu is a tour of American favorites with a few unusual combinations. Hot dog traditionalists will be pleased to find that the Classic Dog ($2.95) is served steamed or grilled. And like all dogs here, it's nearly twice as long as the ballpark-size dog I was expecting. My first taste of the Dog House was the Old Fashioned Chili Dog (3.95), which showcases an all-beef hot dog that's long, skinny and quite tasty. I like a meaty hot dog that is finely ground without being overprocessed, and a casing that offers a good snap. The chili was the star of this dog though—whole beans, great flavor and just hot enough to melt the shredded cheese on top.

The only disappointment was that there was a lot more bun than anything else; the buns at the Dog House are thick and covered with sesame seeds. But this same bun was the perfect match for the Pitbull ($5.75), a hot link smothered in nacho cheese, topped with jalapeños and salsa. One bite of this dog and you know how it got its name. The oozing and slightly spicy nacho cheese is teasingly quelled by the mild salsa until one of the jalapeño slices reminds you that your mouth is deliciously on fire. I have to admit that on my first bite I was disappointed by the salsa fresca, which I expected to be spicy, but by the third bite was grateful for the simple mix of tomatoes, onion and cilantro.

Also recommended is the Boss Hog ($5.95), which is the perfect combination of salty and sweet: bratwurst wrapped in bacon, covered in barbecue sauce and topped with cheddar cheese and shoestring onion rings.

If you are a California transplant and yearn for your hometown favorite, the options at the Dog House offer a taste of home. The Chicago Dog ($4.95) includes pickles and spicy, vinegary sports peppers; the New York ($3.95) is no frills: mustard, sauerkraut and onions, and the Maui ($5.50) has grilled pineapple. I could go on to Texas, Los Angeles and even south to Venezuela, but you get the idea.

All of these options would pair well with one of the seven beers they carry, four by the bottle (all $3) and three on tap. Pitchers of Sierra Nevada, Widmer and Fat Tire are available for $11, glasses are $3.50. Feeling like a kid? Try one of the floats ($3.75): ice cream plus your choice of soda.

No California hot dog establishment would be complete without lighter, greener options, and the Dog House is no exception. The menu includes four salads (all $5.95), only one of which, the Saratoga Salad (mixed greens, blue cheese, toasted walnuts, shoestring onion rings and honey balsamic vinaigrette), is vegetarian. Salad lovers take note: this part of the menu is only available Monday-Friday 11:30am-3pm.

Disappointed by the limited salad schedule? The Dog House makes up for it in its late-night hours: Thursday through Saturday it is open until 2:30am. After a late night of dancing, drinking or studying you can swing by and grab a dog. Who really wants a salad at 2am, anyway?

Unless it's 2am and you are aching for your bed, the Dog House isn't just a place to grab a dog and go (although they will gladly pack it to go for you); its a place to sit and experience. High ceilings, brick walls and flat-screen televisions give it the atmosphere of a well-lit sports bar. Well-spaced seating gives you plenty of elbow room when maneuvering your sizeable dog; additional outdoor seating provides an opportunity to enjoy the weather and people watching. The staff is friendly, the service is fast and it is a truly delightful—albeit Californian—hot dog experience.

Dog House

Address: 80 S. First St., San Jose.

Phone: 408.995.0924.

Hours: 11am-9pm Mon-Wed, 11am-2:30am Thu-Fri and 11:30am-2:30am Sat.

Cuisine: Hot dogs.

Price Range: $2.95-$5.95.

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