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Trottin’ down Fifth t’other night around ten, into the belly of the beast, da Gaslamp. Course my own belly's bawling out for something. Anything.

Problem? Tapped out.

Seems like I always am, this time of night. So definitely looking for a bargain.

And what’s this?

Arrow wars?

Down on G, this guy James and this other guy Stephon are in the heat of a sign-waving war.

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James

James has the one telling us to eat a slice at Pizza on Fifth, a few doors up.

Stephon’s twirling for Hot Dogs.

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Stephon

Hmm. Could use a snack. But which? This kinda fork in the road can change lives. Like the butterfly flapping its wings off West Africa can start a hurricane in the Caribbean sorta thing.

Then Fate intervenes. Bunch of rowdies cram their way down the middle. I’m left on Stephon’s side.

“So the dawgs really good?” I ask.

“Really, man. I’d eat them all the time if I could. Specially the chili cheese dog. You’re 20 yards away from one of the great experiences of your life.”

What can I say. Twenty yards later I’m at – oh yeah. I know this place. White with green and orange neon strips.

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Turkish-American guy, Savash, ran it last time I was here. Worked as a translator in Iraq. He used to take, like 100 hot dogs down to the Salvation Army to give away every Wednesday. Cool guy.

This is Hot Dogs @ 428 (428 G Ave., near Fifth Avenue, downtown, 619-544-0428). “He left the business about a year ago,” says the dude behind the counter - dang! Forget his name - when I ask about Savash. “What would you like?”

They start with the Naked Dog & Bun for $2.99. Most others are a buck up on that. The "Diego" is salsa, jalapeño and avo. Texas has cheese and BBQ sauce. Sushi (and this is only $3.59) has wasabi, ginger, soy.

The two biggies are the chili cheese dog for $4.59 and the Big Daddy, with, like, everything, for $4.99.

The guy’s looking at me. Me, I’m looking at Joey Wallet. Three buckeroos. That’s it? Lawdie.

“Waddaya got that’s under $3?” I say. No point in beating around the bush.

“Guess that’d have to be the naked or the corn dog, $2.99.”

"The corn," I say. Minute later, I take this naked-looking golden thing on a stick.

“$3.25, with tax,” he says.

Oh man. I search in the jingle pocket. Just make it.

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Hot dog guy with my corn dog

I squish some ketchup on it and it’s fine. Always did love that bready coating on the dawg anyway.

Notice the place is pretty empty. “When’s the busy time?”

“Come back in a couple of hours, after the bars close. We’ll have a line outside.”

I know what I’m gonna get next time. As I come out I see the sign. “Any dog and a Bud, $6." Except it’s a buck more with the Big Daddy or the Chili cheese dog.

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But a bacon dog and a brewski would be nice out here at the sidewalk table

Actually, a bacon dawg and a Bud would go down well right now. Not good. When your pocket's empty your belly needs to be full.

Sigh.

I pass the arrow guys on the way back.

“Was I right?” says Stephon.

“Far as it went,” I say.

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