Gourmet hot dog joint takes best in show

In the Bay Area — where practically every item on the grocery shelf has been rethought and reformulated to use local and sustainably produced ingredients — hot dogs, and their condiments and bun, all glow with new culinary luster.

Even a die-hard like me — raised on Chicago dogs on poppy seed buns heaped with kosher pickle, fluorescent relish, onions, salty pickled “sport peppers,” tomato, yellow mustard and celery salt, a truly magnificent, if destructively messy, piece of food — is won over by today’s artisan dog.

Show Dogs, a nouveau sausage palace from Foreign Cinema chefs Gayle Pirie and John Clark, redefines the concept of a hot dog stand. They serve 10 or so meticulously sourced hot dogs and sausages, with house-made condiments specifically tailored to each flavor profile.

Even though it’s made of pork, chicken and beef, Ryan Farr’s organic 4505 dog ($7.65) tastes like a spicy, garlicky, real hot dog so it gets a classic garnish of diced onion, sliced tomato, house-made mustard — yes, house-made mustard — and an excellent, kosher-style pickle. Ryan Farr, an itinerant butcher who holds classes on butchering and preparation of whole animals at
offbeat venues, made his first hot dog from scratch when he was 11.

On the other hand, an organic boudin blanc ($7.50) from Taylor Boetticher of Fatted Calf — a fine white sausage of pork and veal seasoned with herbs — is enlivened with crunchy-textured apple horseradish, arugula and the house mustard.

My favorite, a juicy organic andouille ($7) from Ryan Farr, has a generous topping of roasted red peppers, grilled onions and mustard, a soft, luscious, sweet and sour ragout. Wild boar sausage ($7.50) from Fatted Calf has so much animal character, it needs only a swatch of unctuous mayonnaise-based remoulade sauce and a scattering of arugula to tame it.

What makes all these sausages and dogs fly is a custom-made Acme bun — crusty but tender, and quite small — allowing the multifaceted fillings to take center stage. Nothing is more important than proportion in a sandwich, and all these carefully constructed Show Dogs perform.

I must admit that an old-fashioned, artificially colored, nitrate-preserved, pure-commercial, all-beef dog from Stewart satisfies me as well. This giant 49er dog ($5.75) is hot and juicy, slathered with the house mustard, sauerkraut and a few leaves of arugula. The same dog coated in wholesome-tasting, stone-ground cornmeal batter and cleanly deep fried becomes the 49er corn dog ($5.50).

This skillful deep frying produces some of the best onion rings ($4) ever, so light and crisp, battered with rice flour and buttermilk. French fries, reddened with house-made sweet and smoky barbecue salt ($3.75), are good, but not as brilliant as the onion rings.
The menu pairs each dog with a small batch of draught beer that can be ordered in a 4-ounce glass ($2), just the right size for a wine drinker like me.

Located on one of the dodgiest triangles of urban real estate in The City — at the convergence of Market, Golden Gate and Taylor streets at Sixth Street, across from the Golden Gate Theatre — the airy shop has an open kitchen, floor-to-ceiling windows, wooden floors, marble tables and seating on antique church pews — just the place to watch the parade of humanity flowing by as you eat organic hot dogs.

Patricia Unterman is author of the just-released second edition of the “San Francisco Food Lovers’ Pocket Guide.” Contact her at pattiu@concentric.net.


Show Dogs

Location: 1020 Market St. (at Taylor Street and Golden Gate Avenue), San Francisco
Contact: (415) 558-9560, www.showdogssf.com
Hours: 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Mondays to Saturdays; closed Sundays
Price range: $5.50 to $7.65
Recommended dishes: Ryan Farr’s organic 4505 dog; organic andouille; Let’s Be Frank dog; wild boar sausage; onion rings
Credit cards: All major
Reservations: Not accepted

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