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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).

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4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
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