Saturday, December 22, 2012

Gourmet Hot Dogs

In the late summer of 2012 a rather interesting mural took shape on the side of a building just outside Toronto’s downtown. It would portend a new hot dog emporium. Dedicated to one of the latest food trends sweeping across the United States. Gourmet hot dogs or Haute Dogs as their known. Better quality dogs topped with a wide array of toppings from the simple to the extravagant.

Fancy FranksLocal restaurateur, Angelos Economopoulos knew the hot dog craze would thrive in TO. Our hot dog carts are are rather ubiquitous and considered among the best. Simply put, we love ‘em. His plan, take them indoors and dress them up. Angelos would venture south on some scouting missions and craft his own Haute Dog strategy. In October of 2012 he threw open the doors of Fancy Franks and was an overnight sensation. The hype created by the mural had done its job. The city was instantly hooked.

Interior (1)Outside of the mural mentioned above, Fancy Franks is just another in a series of storefronts.
Inside the mix of exposed brick, wood and a collage featuring vintage photos of people eating hot dogs, including a cameo of JFK, dress the place up.
Interior (2)There’s a long communal table in the middle and a ledge around the front windows. Stools numbering about 20 provide seating.
Following another trend these days there are two kitchens. One in the back where the prep work is done and another in front of that where some cooking and final assembly takes place.

I should point out that these types of dogs, weighed down with toppings aren’t really my thing. A chili cheese dog is about the high end for me. That said, I still love this concept and am glad to see this type of place in the city. It’s also great that I can build my own dog from the bun up. So there’s a little something for everyone here.
Let’s have a look shall we?? 

Fancy Franks SignI got a sample of the dog just plain and lemmie tell ya, it's great. Not as garlicky or spicy as I like, (like Nathan's) but terrific otherwise. They're made by a local butcher to the recipe supplied by FF. I'd like to see it cooked just a bit longer. Maybe get some charring on that baby for added flavour. I think, and this is just me personally, that a more robust dog may stand up to some of the more assertive toppings a bit better. What is likely to have doggie fans excited in the city is these franks have natural casings. For that added snap.You can substitute a a sausage for an extra dollar as well. I have yet to try one so I can not attest to it’s taste.

Chi-town FancyThe Chi-town Fancy (tomato, pickle, mustard, relish, peppers, celery salt) was my first Chicago Dog and it was pretty much what I expected. (Keep in mind it’s not a "True" Chicago dog. The sport peppers and neon green relish are replaced by pepperoncini and Heinz relish). It's good but for my tastes, too much with the vegetation. “Drag it through the garden” as they say. The dog is almost lost in there. If you like Chicago dogs I'm guessing you'll be happy with this incarnation but in future, unless I'm in Chi-town, I’ll pass. It's also quite messy, which I'm sure you know doesn't bother me in the least, which is surprising considering this is basically a street dog in the Windy City.

Franko Fancy-aanoThe Franko Fancy-aano (wrapped prosciutto, arugula, reggiano, balsamic Dijon mayonnaise) is not really a favourite nor was it of my friends Vicky, Nancy or Peter. Not that there was anything wrong with it per se. It just didn’t work for us. Others may love it. As they say in the Twitterverse, YMMV.

Franks Got SeoulA definite favourite is the Franks Got Seoul (beef rib, kimchee, sesame seed, green onion). The kimchee isn’t as assertive as you’d think and the beef rib somewhat steals the show. That said, the dog can still be tasted and all in all, it’s quite good. I think next time I’ll add some hot sauce to kick it up a notch or two.

Frankie Goes to BuffaloFrankie Goes to Buffalo (deep fried in panko, carrot, blue cheese, Buffalo wing sauce) is a terrific contrast of tastes and textures. The deep fried, panko crusted crunch is nice though I think a little more of the wing sauce would be good. It smelt a lot more vinegary that it was.

FrankaphoneThe Frankaphone (smoked gruyere, horseradish cheddar, squeaky curds, honey dijon mayo) was certainly the favourite among the group of us. It was closer to a hot dog in general and as such, was destined to be my favourite. It really let the wiener shine. The toppings nicely added creaminess and tang.

Coney FriesI opted to create my own fries. I thought for sure they'd have Coney Fries on the menu and they didn't. They do have Chili Poutine but the thought of both chili and gravy didn't appeal to me. So I opted to swap smoked gruyere (yes I know it should be cheddar but they don't have plain cheddar) and hold the gravy. I ended up with a pretty reasonable facsimile of Coney Fries and they were great. The fries themselves are fresh cut. Not the best I've had but solid none the less. The chili is really good and a bit unique. It tasted like there was a hint of curry powder in it. (Now, before you go getting upset that there's curry powder in it, should it actually be there) just keep in mind that curry and chili powders are basically cousins. They work very well together. In hindsight I think the addition of chopped onions would have made it even better.
Another new trend that is popping up is a donut robot. A machine dedicated to cranking out tiny donuts. Their is right there in the kitchen and spits out warm, soft, delicious dough rings. They come with a variety of toppings. Some of which are as follows.
Chocolate Sauce & Caramel DonutsChocolate Sauce & Caramel: These babies are just about everything I could’ve hoped for. The sauces, while inherently sweet aren’t too much. I thought, though my dining partners disagreed, that it was missing a little something to put them over the top. Upon reflection, I think whipped cream would’ve done it. That said, the others were happy there wasn’t any more sweetness added.
Lemon Curd & Strawberry DonutsLemon Curd or Strawberry and Powdered Sugar: These are a really nice combination. Pretty much like a lemon filled donut. This sampler of the two flavours, in my mind could’ve used a tich more sugar.

So there you have it. A great place to get your hands on some dogs in the city.

You can find Fancy Franks at 326 College St in Toronto, On.

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You can also find them on the web, facebook and Twitter.
Fancy Franks Gourmet Hot Dogs on Urbanspoon

Well that’s all for now folks, see ya next time in the food court.


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