The Other All-American Food

Tom Fitzmorris July 03, 2019 14:54 Eat This Now

Yesterday we ran a piece on the all -American food - hamburgers. Today will be the other all-American food - hot dogs. Yesterday’s piece was so long it had to be shortened. I usually do a dozen best, but there were several more burgers worthy of being on that list. My wife’s friend, who helped compile that list with her amidst some spirited discussion, is probably upset that some he gave us didn’t make the list, and she added some of her own. That’s how many good burgers can be found around town. And there are more that neither of them thought about.

Not so with the lowly hot dog. Yes, you can get a hot dog in other places around town, but you needn’t look any further than Dat Dog, a local chain which has elevated this simple but delicious food to gourmet status. Conceived in 2011 by two old friends, it’s a typical story of any kind of success. One has money and one experience. Together they make magic, as they did in the little shed on Freret St.

Fashioned after Hot Doug’s in Chicago, a thriving hot dog stand serving Eastern European sausages, Dat Dog opened with a carefully selected array of local sausages like andouille and gator. And a mix of European links like Bratwurst and Kielbasa. And a nice smoked sausage from the bayou. And yes, a basic all-beef wiener. The fries were not fresh cut, but they were plenty good enough. Sourdough buns were specially made for them to accommodate the long links. Everything was grilled with a nice crust, and toppings were endless.

Lines were long, and Dat Dog was the talk of the town. Soon the shed became cramped, and ambitions grew with the lines, and Dat Dog opened across the street on Freret. Then Magazine. And Frenchman. And like the familiar tale of partners often goes, the quarrels began, since one never wanted more than a tiny dog stand like his inspiration, Hot Doug’s. And the other wanted more. A lot more. They split after acquiring the Frenchman location, and plans to move to Lafayette were realized but not particularly successful. Expansions to Baton Rouge and Houston seem to be on hold.

Menu items have multiplied to include a Dat Burger, Dat Chick, and beer battered cod sandwich called the Sea Dog, with mustard and onions and housemade tartar sauce. Through it all Dat Dog has maintained the fun spirit of New Orleans, even though it was and still is based on the deliciousness of the European sausage.Their specials tell it all. At Thanksgiving you can get, for a limited time only, the Holiday Dog. Turkey sausage, stuffing, turkey gravy and cranberry relish. There's a lot of creativity flourishing in this quirky environment. 

And I have to stop saying that New Orleans would never fully embrace the hot dog, like they do in Chicago. That is certainly still true. We really aren’t a hot dog town. Not like them. But we do love these dogs. And Dat’s the truth.