Walter Mencken 11 a.m., May 24
Quality Social Gives Affordable Reasons to Celebrate Summer's "Dog Days"
Whenever I hear the words hand-crafted or house-cured in relation to any edible product, my wallet winces in anticipation of a hefty price tag. But, despite the lengths the folks in the back of the house at Quality Social go to in preparing from-scratch charcuterie, condiments, and pickled items, I've always found their prices to be quite reasonable. This was particularly true last night when, while downtown to catch a Padres game, I stopped into this "upscale dive bar" to find specials that were almost mind-blowing in their frugality.
From 5 to 7 p.m. on weekdays, Quality Social offers an extensive happy-hour menu where everything is in the single digits. There's a nice array of offerings and even $3 pints (we're talking Green Flash, the Lost Abbey, Black Market vs. PBR...but you can have that, too, which is cool in its own nostalgic throwback sorta way), but the gold in this treasure chest of values has to be the house-made hot dogs.
I'm a fan of totally tubular meat in all its forms and appreciate that care and respect is being given to this American classic, which comes in several varieties, including a TJ Dog featuring a weiner that's wrapped in bacon and topped with pico de gallo and a dice of fresh avocado. That south-of-the-border treat was no slouch, but the smokiness and saltiness of the bacon detract from what should be the star — a frankfurter that features an incredibly rich meaty flavor and a immaculately homogenous texture.
The best way to enjoy one of these dogs is to have it their way, and by that they mean Chicago-style — stuffed in a bun and topped with tomatoes, pickles, bright green relish, sport peppers, a squirt of yellow mustard, and a dash of celery salt. Given that Quality Social's culinary headman hails from Chicago and splits time between there and SD, you're not likely to find a more authentic version of this regional classic anywhere else.
It's a bit like having your salad, meat, and bread all at once, but it works big time; and priced at $5 on its own or $6 with fries during their happy hour, it's easy on the wallet and way cheaper than anything — hotdog or otherwise — that you'll encounter at nearby Petco Park (where their take on a TJ dog, the Sonoran Dog, is $12).