September 10, 2012

Hot Diggity

We tend to make an overwhelming number of statements along the lines of "We just HAVE to check out the new ___ restaurant," or "We will DEFINITELY be eating at ____ soon!"  Actually, you can usually find a sentence along those lines in the majority of our posts- what can I say, we really want to try it all.  For example, last March, I may have stated that a visit to Philly's favorite hot dog restaurant was imminent.  After a visit to Underdogs, my interest in the long, thin meat product was piqued after I realized they aren't all greasy meat sticks on squished, dry buns with a boring simple ketchup topping.  Six months later, and I finally found a chance to get into Hot Diggity, the (unofficial) most popular contender for hottest dog in the city.

Following a trip to our (yes, we share a stylist, don't act surprised) hair salon for a pre-wedding day hair trial, we slipped around the corner to the cozy spot on South Street.  For those of you who haven't been and/or heard, the walls are decorated with art by Hawk Krall, a local artist with a penchant for hot dogs.  Each of the available dogs are described and depicted in cartoon form, a fun way to share the necessary information AND simultaneously decorate.

Source: From the artist himself
Past dog offerings
The menu consists of about a dozen dogs each with a theme regarding the toppings- similar to Underdogs.  For comparison's sake (well, maybe just because I love the combination), I ordered Hot Diggity's version of the Chicago style hot dog-- called "The Windy City," of course ($5.50).  The Chicago dog is one of the most refreshing, with large pickle spears, lots of yellow mustard and electric green relish, thick slices of fresh tomato (perfect summer tomatoes here!), and a sprinkling of chopped red onion.  No sport pepper in sight, so perhaps missing a small piece of authenticity, but it's already an overflowing bun.

The meat here is long and skinny, griddled for a bit of char.  Each bite creates a snapping of the casing, something I actually have grown to appreciate.  The flavor of the dog blends with the toppings, making each bite a mix of salty, vinegary, sweet AND meaty.  The bun is soft but has a slight toast- almost unnoticeable but one of those things that makes the experience better as it holds up to wet toppings.

As you can see, the meat is really just a small part of the puzzle.  If asked to pick my preferred Chicago dog between the two main Philly competitors, I'm not sure I could decide.  I think that speaks to my overall interest in the flavor combinations though, leaving the nit picky details of the dog and the bun out of the equation.

The communal tables at Hot Diggity have a number of large, round holes scattered across the top.  Just as I was wondering aloud what these holes are for, our "server" (order at the counter, and they bring you your order) slipped a cone of fat french fries right into the hole- genius!  I ordered a medium to split ($3.50), but we should have stuck with the small- the fries are thick cut and super satisfying, meaning you don't need a lot to fill up.  Ketchup is offered on the table, but numerous other "fancy" sauces are available for just $0.25, too cheap for us to pass up.  I picked the sriracha ketchup, but barely tasted the hot chili spice- guess they want it to be approachable for picky palates.

There were two specials the night that we went, and even though they may not be available year round, they both were must orders for us.  A pickle plate?  I will never say no to that!  An interesting "side dish" at a restaurant that really only serves hot dogs and fries- no cooking required.  

This plate isn't just a pile of baby cukes- it's a great variety of colors and flavors, and all of the veggies are locally grown ($3).  The pickled onion slices were our favorites, while the pickled carrots could have used a few more days in the brine- still too crunchy.  Chunks of beet, okra, an unfamiliar white squash and fat roma beans rounded out the (extensive) mix.  Between the dog and the plate, I think I met my pickle quota for the year week.

The handmade corn dog special is on for the rest of the month- and we highly suggest making a trip before September is over just to snag these (3 for $5).  With a half-hearted "How many calories do you think are in a single one of these..?" we promptly devoured the trio.  The same juicy, thin hot dogs are encased in a thick, grainy cornmeal batter and deep fried.  The batter is stuck well to the dog, preventing any slippage issues.  Each corndog is coated in a different sauce- an orange Korean mayo, a honey ginger + sesame "dust," and a thick jalapeno cheese sauce.  Honestly, each tasted fairly the same as the next- the corndog base providing 99% of the flavor (not necessarily a bad thing, but kind of sad as the ingredient ideas sound so great).  I've never had a freshly prepared corndog- they all come in the freezer section of the grocery, right?- but now I don't think I could ever go back.

Since Underdogs is much closer to where I primarily shop and eat, I have a higher likelihood of popping in there for a quick meal.  However, Hot Diggity isn't second best.  Both restaurants have pretty killer dogs, and the number of flavor combinations and rotating specials makes each trip a new experience.  But for now, perhaps it's time for a pre-wedding diet...

Hot Diggity
630 South Street

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