943 Orange Avenue, Coronado
Maybe it's just me, but the term "gourmet hot dog" conjures an image of a guy in a white-tie tuxedo peering through a quizzing glass at a cocktail wiener, probably muttering something along the lines of, "Yes, yes. Quite."
Of course the truth is nothing like this, as evidenced by the statue welcoming guests to the doorway of Coronado specialty spot Delux Gourmet Hot Dogs. You encounter a man-sized hot dog, wearing nothing but striped socks, gold sneakers and a bun, gleefully slathering ketchup onto his forehead. I won't try to guess what he's muttering.
My instincts tell me to run, but foodie curiosity gets the best of me, and I simply must know to what degree these dogs surpass all others to earn the distinction "delux."
Apparently, it starts with the venerable Vienna Beef brand of hot dogs and sausages, and as I scan the menu I see you get your choice of bacon wrapped, cheddar filled and grass fed. To be honest, all three sound desirable in different ways. The Chicago hot doggery has been churning them out for 120 years, after all. But I fancy myself more a sausage guy than a hot dog guy, so I ultimately settle on the bratwurst.
Apparently, the other key to deluxeness is dressing the dog with a bunch of toppings: relish, guac, sauerkraut and the like. They'll dress your dog any which way, but offer a few standard arrangements with funny names to help the indecisive.
I settle on the Abe Froman, because a beer-braised brat with grilled onions, sauerkraut and mustard sounded just about like the hot dog ideal, which is close to delux, or at least has the whiff of sausage royalty.
And to drink I order a birch beer. Because when am I ever going to have that option again?
My dog arrives on a soft, steamed bun. Basically, if this lunch erupts into a hot dog eating contest, these things are primed to go down quick.
And it does, though at six-bucks-and-change per Abe Froman, I think my contest cap would be about three.
And there it is, the ultimate defining line that makes this a gourmet versus regular hot dog: the price. I could get a couple of bacon wrapped Baja dogs off a street cart for less, and make just as quick work eating them, and try to pretend I don't regret it.
Yes, it's comforting to know that the Vienna brat was probably made from a better grade of offal than a Baja dog. But context is everything — as a bratwurst, this really just scratches the surface. It did make a pretty delicious hot dog, though.
As for the birch beer, let's say it tasted kind of like a gussied up root beer.