It’s about time for the hot dog to make a comeback, and the opening of the new Prairie Dogs Hot Dogs & Handcrafted Sausage at Lake and Lyndale is a promising sign.
For the past 90 years or so, ever since the first White Castle opened its doors in 1921, the hamburger has dominated the American fast food scene, meat-in-a-bun category, miles ahead of hot dogs and everything else.Which is a shame, because, let’s face it, burgers are boring – just ground meat and fat, and the fat is the only thing that gives them flavor.
Sausages, by contrast, come almost in infinite variety, with seasonings and ingredients as diverse as their cultures of origin – from British bangers and Polish kielbasa to Filipino longganisa and Czech jitrnice. And now that craft beers are making a huge comeback, the time is right for hot dogs to rise again. Sausage is the natural companion to beer.
The new restaurant in the former Gray house space is a collaboration between chef Craig Johnson (Spill The Wine, etc.) and veteran restaurant consultant Tobie Nidetz (Ike’s, The Sample Room, Rye Delicatessen.) After doing a bunch of pop-ups around town last year, (and an appearance at the 2014 Twin Cities Daily Planet Sausage Fest), they finally opened last month.
The basic hot dog on offer at Prairie Dog is a Vienna Beef all-beef hot dog in a natural casing, but it’s the preparations that earn the gourmet label: everything from the All-American, topped with crispy pork belly, morning potatoes, , sunny egg, sriracha aioli and cilantro ($7), to Pliny the Elder, which is fried in duck fat, and topped with a foie gras torchon and currant apple relish ($11). If you want to keep it simple, a naked dog costs $3.75, with toppings a la carte, and a classic dog with mustard, onions, relish, tomato, peppers and pickle is $4.50. My favorite so far is the banh mi Joy dog, topped with char siu pork, chicken liver pate, pickled carrot and daikon, jalapeno, shoyu mayo and cilantro ($8), but there are lots of variations that I haven’t tried yet.
Beyond the gourmet dogs, Prairie Dogs also offers a selection of handcrafted sausages, including a spicy merguez lamb sausage (two links in a natural lamb casing), topped with piquillo peppers, feta and mint aioli ($9), a basic backyard brat topped with bacon sauerkraut ($8), a bock-bockwurst (chicken, $9), and a smiked polish sausage with beef relish. The only meatless option is a vegan sausage made from shiitakes and blackeyed peas ($11).
If you aren’t a fan of tubesteak, other options include a four-ounce burger patty or chicken breast on a bun, with variations that range from the Prairie Classic (sweet onion, pickles, lettuce, prairie sauce, american cheese, $6) to the Hog (pork belly, hoisin glaze, pickled carrots & daikon, cilantro and sriracha aioli on a brioche bun; $9).
Whatever you order, leave room for dessert – the specialty is Thai-style vanilla ice cream in a bun, topped with a passionfruit chocolate sauce and candied pecans ($4). The wine and beer license is expected to arrive in early April.