Tuesday, February 19, 2013

A frank conversation on hot dogs, brats, and sausages

Posted By on Tue, Feb 19, 2013 at 9:01 AM

Brats from The Pantry
  • Brats from The Pantry

Nearly any form of meat undergoes a type of special transfiguration when stuffed inside the intestines of another beast. The recent departure of Hot Dog Mike from our distinguished city had many loyal followers bemoaning the loss if his fair franks; it was an exit that hit the central Arkansas foodscape with the force of a wrecking ball. Yet, I am reminded of a good number of restaurants that continue to put out some truly fantastic tubed meats. There are plenty of extraordinary sausages, brats, and hot dogs in central Arkansas to act as a soothing balm to the painful burning Mike’s departure may have left in your heart. Then again, that may just be your GERD acting up again. So before you all go rushing off for the Oscar Mayer wieners, here are a few joints around central Arkansas serving up the luscious links that’ll help stave off the hot dog withdrawals.

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  • Green Cart Deli's Facebook
The Pantry: This West Little Rock landmark in well known for their exemplary charcuterie, terrines, and pates. They are certainly no strangers to ground meats and they take pride in producing all their products on site. They serve two varieties of link, each one is worth your time. Their housemade bratwurst is a dark, finely ground combination of pork and beef stuffed inside a delicate, thin sheep casing. These have a smooth, homogenous texture that makes for a lighter, leaner tasting brat. They’re herbaceous and rich, and pair well with the house’s spicy ground mustard. Secondly, the Pantry does a fine Hungarian sausage. This link is more heavily spiced, its strong flavor profile the result of a healthy dose of smoky paprika. These pair best with a relish made specifically for this sausage; this “lesco” is a Hungarian staple made from a warm blend of sautéed peppers, onions, and paprika. It’s got a mild sweetness that complements the spice of this brat exceptionally well.

Green Cart Deli: Conway residents are not strangers to fabulous franks as they’ve been fortunate to have the likes of Green Cart Deli in their midst. Not living in the area and wondering if it’s worth the trip out to C-town? Here’s what you can expect from this wonderful, forward-thinking little cart: The “Warrior” dog with bacon, house made slaw, relish, and Memphis sweet sauce; the “Ranch” dog with bacon, slaw, fried onions, pepper strips, and chipotle ranch dressing. That not enough to entice you to visit? How about the “Cobbdog” with hard-boiled egg, bacon, blue cheese crumbles, sriracha mayo, and green onion? Suddenly, Conway feels like it deserves your undivided attention.

Scoop Dogs dogs
  • Scoop Dog's dogs
The Original Scoop Dog: This North Little Rock roadside stop boasts a sizable number of desserts based primarily on their excellent frozen custard. But they’re not slacking in the hot dog department either; while the selections may not be extensive, what they do have is worth pulling over for. Their classic Chicago dog is done right, with all the usual suspects: mustard, neon green relish, onions, red tomato slices, and spicy sport peppers. You’ll also want to take the Detroit dog for a spin, with all-beef chili, mustard, chopped white onion and nacho cheese. I typically shun the processed, goopy yellow liquid cheese, but somehow it seems to work well here. The dogs are served hot and the buns warm and slightly steamed. A respectable dog stand by all accounts.

Lynn’s Chicago Foods: You’ll not find a better representation of the wares of the Windy City than at this long-time Southwest Little Rock establishment. One should not visit without slurping down one of their famous, sloppy Italian beef sandwiches but you’ll also find one magnificent Chicago dog on the menu…likely not a huge surprise there. Standard arrangement, but done right, served fresh. Close your eyes and dig in and you can almost make yourself believe you are eating in the shadows of the spaceship-like Chicago Civic Opera House.

Lynns Chicago Dog
  • Lynn's Chicago Dog
Mr. Dunderbak's: It may be housed in a shopping mall, which is almost enough to completely deter me from ever returning, but the truth is, you’ll be hard pressed to find a finer representation of German sausages and brats in all of central Arkansas. As you first approach the entrance to this McCain Mall establishment, you’ll likely be spellbound by the sprawling, scorching hot flat-top cooking up a wide spectrum of bratwurst and sausage options. Try the Polish dog or the spicy Italian; they come served in a soft white bun and you can toss on raw red onion, ketchup, sauerkraut, and mustard to your heart’s content. I hear they’ve got vegetarian sausages too, if you prefer to avoid eating a little pig’s flesh.

The Root Café: This South Main institution is serving up bratwurst produced from pork sourced locally from Freckle Face Farm in Searcy. If you are able to drag yourself away from their superb burgers and banh mi, you’ll find some equally delicious wurst waiting to be discovered. The Root serves them two ways: first, Old World Style—house garlic mayo, dijon mustard, and their homemade sauerkraut on a freshly baked Boulevard bun; secondly, State Fair Style—house garlic mayo, yellow mustard, and grilled onions and peppers on a Boulevard bun. Regulars at The Root are probably already aware that these folks rarely, if ever, make a misstep, and their quality brats are no exception.

Sausages from HAM
  • Sausages from HAM
Hillcrest Artisan Meats: No list involving the savory parts of a pig would be complete without inclusion of the finest butcher and charcuterie shop in Arkansas. Brandon and crew are, not surprisingly, grinding up some of the best sausages I’ve ever eaten. Their sausage selections change regularly and the variety served is quite impressive. Of course, all meats and spices are locally sourced whenever feasible. I made a stop recently in preparation for the Super Bowl and was treated to a number of fabulous links: a spicy Italian with basil, red chili, black pepper, fennel, and oregano; the “Toulouse” with white wine and garlic; a spicy Mexican chorizo heavy with cumin, oregano, and paprika; and the “Oak Town” with sage, red and white pepper, allspice, and clove. You’ll need to bring these puppies home, however, and cook them at your earliest convenience. HAM suggests searing them in a medium frying pan and then finishing them in a 350-degree oven. This method prevents overheating the delicate casing which is prone to breaking if not carefully handled.

This list is certainly not exhaustive. So, where do you like to grab your dogs and sausages? Give your favorites a shout out.

(For addresses and hours of the locations listed above, please click the highlighted links provided)

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