Hot Dog Bar’s cream cheese and bacon Philly Dog
  • Hot Dog Bar’s cream cheese and bacon Philly Dog
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Gaslamp. Monday night. It’s a concert, for one. Sarah the street violinist has got me glued to her spot on the sidewalk at Fifth and F. Because, hey, she’s playing Umm Kulthum’s “Enta Omri” — “You Are My Life.”

Umm Kulthum? You might call her the Barbra Streisand of Egypt. Back in the day, when Carla and I were mere striplings, we were living for a while in Cairo. Sigh. The coffee houses, the hot nights, the hookahs, the passionate discussions, the music. And, especially the songs of Umm Kulthum. And especially “You Are My Life.”

Hadn’t thought about Umm Kulthum for, like, ever, till tonight, when Sarah says she knows “Enta Omri.” I’m hearing it all again for the first time.

This is what I like about Monday nights in the Gaslamp: people you meet are more interesting. And also, for some reason, it feels kinda Wyatt Earp Wild West. Maybe it’s the characters cruising the sidewalks, the open honky-tonk bars, and the crazy-lit pedicabs dinging their bells for business.

Also, it’s slack enough that people have time to talk.

Me, I’m on a mission. Got a craving for hot dogs. But not just hot dogs. Interesting dogs. Original dogs. Here in the Gaslamp, what else can a guy afford? I bypass all the cool places with the smiling gals out front at their lecterns and head straight for the brand-new-looking “Hot Dog Bar.”

Hot Dog Bar

738 Fifth Avenue, Downtown San Diego

Place has been open a couple of months. An offshoot of Hot Dogs @ 428 on G. Yes, this place is obviously designed to catch everybody stumbling out of Gaslamp bars who need a bit of solid food to help them sober up. It has a wall full of hot-dog possibilities. All $6.99. From chili cheese dog to a veggie dog. But it comes down to seven of them that look kinda interesting. The Diego dog, with salsa, jalapeños, and avo. The Texas, with cheddar, onions, and BBQ sauce. The New York (sauerkraut, onions, spicy mustard); the Chicago (relish, tomato, pepperoncini); the Bacon Dog (with bacon, jalapeños, and onions); and the Philly Dog.

This is basically bacon and philly cheese.

Huh. Cream cheese and bacon. I ask the gent for that one. And — what the heck — their salad. Also costs $6.99. Has turkey, cheese, jalapeños, avocado.

Hot Dog Bar's salad

The salad’s actually great, and plenty of it. And lots of cut-up pressed turkey, generous strips of avo, and cheese, too.

But it’s this idea for the dog that is the winner. Combo of frankfurter, bacon, and the big daubs of cream cheese is dee-licious. So simple. Maybe I’m the only one who hasn’t seen this around, but it’s a first for me and just g-r-r-reat. Also great: you get a catbird seat on the avenue, while everybody in the cafés nearby is paying Gaslamp prices for the same privilege.

Tivoli Bar & Grill

505 Sixth Avenue, Downtown San Diego

Now I’m starting to crave another. Yeah, another dog. But where? I get talking to this receptionist at the hostel on Market. “Tivoli Bar,” she says. “Just a block away. Besides, you’ll be drinking where Wyatt Earp drank.”

Wyatt Earp burped here if he drank here.

’Course I know about the Tivoli. But at this hour (like, 10:30), there’s not many kitchens open downtown.

“Don’t worry. The kitchen is open late there.”

“You’re my lady!”

Café 505 chalkboard sign at the end of the bar.

Uh-oh. Customer’s got the mike. He’s singing his heart out. Ayee! Half a tone off. But, this is Monday night. Karaoke night at the “oldest bar in the Gaslamp.” Bunch of students, looks like, crowding the eatery/karaoke end of the Tivoli’s bar. Big blackboard sign says this is “Café 505 @ Tivoli Bar.”

“We’re only doing fried stuff now. Like, wings, nachos, tacos,” says the guy in the “security” T-shirt.

“Dogs?” I ask.

“Guess I could do you one,” he says.

“Because I still love to wash in your old bathwater,” this gal is singing. Girlfriends cheer her on. Pretty good voice, too.

I end up getting a dog with grated cheddar, a combo of mayo, mustard and ketchup, and fresh-cooked broken-up crunchy chunks of bacon.

My $7 bacon dog from Café 505 @ Tivoli Bar — sweet, savory, crunchy.

Somehow, man. This dog is delishimo. Maybe it’s that slight sweetness from the ketchup. Plus the sexy smokiness of this one’s beef frankfurter. Whatever, it even edges out the Philly Dog from Hot Dog Bar. What sets it ahead? It’s sweet, smoky, and totally crunchy, man.

They need to give the “security” guy who made my hot dog a raise...and a chef’s toque!

“I got me a car that seats about twenty…Love shack, baby!”

The voices ring out behind me as I pass below the pictures of “Republican Wyatt Earp” and his sexy wife Josie and head out onto Sixth and Island. I stop and look back. Just think, folks have been drinking and singing and probably shootin’ in this saloon since 1885. I wonder if they did dogs this good back then.

The cantaloupe-flavored gelato from Cremerie Chocolat

I head down Fifth toward the trolley. Carla’s been having a girls’ night out. Should be back by now. Except — erk! I pass that dessert place called “Chocolat” (at 509 Fifth). Oh, man. Can’t stop myself. I go in, order a pretty expensive ($4.95) coffee and hand over another $6.30 for a tub of cantaloupe-flavored gelato.

I sit out in the white chairs of the streetside patio, slurping my frozen cantaloupe, next to a bunch of Arabic-speaking students.

Want to ask them if they know Umm Kulthum, but they’re too busy talking up Taylor Swift and Beyoncé.

Hot Dog Bar

738 Fifth Avenue, Downtown San Diego

Hot Dog Bar

Hours: 11 a.m.–3 a.m. daily (Sunday, 10 a.m.–6 p.m.)

Prices: Diego dog, $6.99; Texas (with BBQ sauce), $6.99; New York (sauerkraut), $6.99; Chicago (relish), $6.99; Philly Dog (with bacon, cream cheese), $6.99; salad with turkey, $6.99

Bus: 11

Nearest bus stop: Sixth and Market

Trolleys: Blue Line/Orange Line or Green Line

Nearest Trolley Stops: Fifth Avenue (Blue/Orange Lines), Gaslamp (Green Line)

Tivoli Bar & Grill

505 Sixth Avenue, Downtown San Diego

Café 505 @ Tivoli Bar & Grill

Hours: 11 a.m.–2 a.m. daily

Prices: Hot dog, $6; chili dog, $7.50; tenders and fries, $8; chicken wrap, $8; cheeseburger, $8; double cheeseburger, $13; crazy fries, $9; taco, $4; carne asada fries, $10

Bus: 11

Nearest bus stop: Sixth and Market

Trolleys: Blue Line/Orange Line or Green Line

Nearest Trolley Stops: Fifth Avenue (Blue/Orange Lines), Gaslamp (Green Line)

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