This is probably the most bizarrely happy-go-lucky place anywhere on the entire planet. On this day, torrential rain was falling from the sky, the shop’s WiFi was out so the normal music source was unusable, and many of the ingredients had not and were not going to be delivered. But, that couldn’t hold the Dat Dog staff down – it’s not in their nature. In fact, from the moment I laid my eyes upon that gigantic, two-story, neon, multicolored building on New Orleans’ Magazine Street, I knew there was something special about the place. I think passing through those Heinz mustard-colored doors functioned as a sort of portal to a comically super-happy alternate dimension.
Bad weather and the types of challenging, dire situations the Dat Dog staff were facing were never considered problems — just opportunities for creativity. The shop wouldn’t allow a lack of internet-enabled music or functional overhead speakers prevent them from pumping patrons up with music. Using a portable compact the speaker and the bartender’s personal mix, they pushed some of the most energized, upbeat, joyous music to its limits over a single, tiny, tinny cylindrical speaker. The little gesture actually did actually positively affect everyone’s moods. Every member of the staff continued to exude a radiance and undeterred joy, despite the poor weather and day’s adversity. Nowhere else have I ever had a bartender tell me about how he loves to literally sing and dance while he opens up shop in the morning – and I didn’t even slightly doubt his sincerity. I know they say that Disneyland is the Happiest Place on Earth™, but after my trip to Dat Dog, I now know that Dat Dog absolutely is the real happiest place on earth.
The interior is decorated with brightly painted colors and many flags of the world. Out back, the fast-casual eatery normally features a big, sunny, awesome patio – unfortunately it was in complete disuse due to the torrential downpours and tornado warnings that were occurring at the time of our visit. But, out there, Dat Dog also proudly features many reviews by major publication and bloggers alike right there on a wall near the restrooms. Maybe one day, this very post will grace those toilet-touching walls too!
To further cheer up from the dreary weather that was disrupting the flow of our NOLA trip, we decided that a cocktail was in order. When we inquired, our bartender painfully and remorsefully informed us that Dat Dog was in between a cocktail menu revamp, but that we were more than welcome to ask for anything that the fully stocked bar was capable of making. We requested a pair of Manhattans which he excitedly pranced off the concoct only to return moments later to deliver the deeply saddened news that their cherry shipment hadn’t arrived for the day.
But, I was quick on my toes. I spotted the entire line of Ole Smokey Moonshine proudly displayed behind the bar and pointed out that perhaps some of those moonshine soaked maraschino cherries would make more than suitable substitutes. The desperate despair and sadness wiped immediately away from the bartender’s face. It morphed into an uncontrollably excited smile at the prospect of actually being able to prepare the desired drink as requested, albeit with an extra-aggressive alcoholic kick in our alcohol. Truth be told, this drink was both potent and very delicious – exactly what we needed at the time. Bartender mission: accomplished.
I think you all already know, but I am by no means a gourmet hot dog novice (see: Crif Dogs, Los Perros Locos, 4505 Butcher, Super Duper Weenie, Rosamunde, and Underdog). In fact, I’d be as bold as to claim myself a black belt wild wiener connoisseur, but even my vast experience in the world of gonzo tubesteaks couldn’t fully prepare me for the excessively extreme innovations found at Dat Dog.
After a quick analysis of their extensive selection, my attention was completely captivated by two options that spoke directly to the swampy bayou lands nearby – the Crawfish Sausage and Alligator Sausage. But at Dat Dog, it’s not only the dogs that are unusual and interesting — there’s a ridiculously extensive selection of condiments that range from ordinary and mundane to the totally out there and “I’ve never even heard of that on a hot dog”.
For example, you can have as many or as few of the following toppings loaded onto your dog at no additional cost: Andouille Sauce, Shredded Cheddar Cheese, Chili, Creole Mustard, Yellow Mustard, Dill Relish, Sweet Relish, Dill Pickle Spears, Guacamole, Hummus, Jalapeños, Ketchup, Mayonnaise, Bacon, Ranch, Asian Coleslaw, Olive Salad, Onions, Pepperoncini, Sauerkraut, Sour Cream, Tomatoes, Pico de Gallo, Wasabi, Crawfish Étouffée, and/or Homemade Tartar Sauce.
Ok, now let me hold for a second and crunch some numbers. That would be 15,511,210,043,330,985,984,000,000 possible topping combinations and that’s before you even consider which of the seventeen sausage varieties will serve as the base. And sure, there are also a variety of funky preset builds you could choose from too, but I somehow knew that I was in more than capable hands and skipped over the presets and allowed the stuff to make all selections for me. I ordered the Alligator Sausage with Chef’s Choice of toppings. Lead me to the oblivion, Master.
What I ended up with was a big, meaty, juicy, snappy gator sausage fully covered in crispy bacon bits, fat jalapeño rings, cooling sour cream, tangy barbecue sauce, onions, and a crisp Asian slaw. Yeah, I know this combination sounds very all-over-the-place, but let me tell you – it was freaking incredible. This combination of disparate ingredients that drew influences from no less than five ethnic culinary disciplines was magical. Seriously, I don’t know how this wacked-out mish-mash worked at all, but it really did – real well. This was haute stoner cuisine at its finest and cranked to Level 11.
To really get in the NOLA spirit, perhaps go for one of their signature presets like the Crawfish Etouffee Dog. This crazy creation consists of a perfectly grilled crawfish sausage topped with a deep, dank, dark brown saucing of homemade crawfish etouffee with sour cream, onions, tomatoes, and a spicy creole mustard. This thing is killer. Gotta have it.
But, we didn’t just stop there. Even though we weren’t really planning to get any sides with our dogs, our cashier told us about their uber-popular wackadoo dish called Cheddar Bacon Ranch Fries and we just couldn’t resist their allure. Hell, if we’re gonna indulge in over-the-top dogs, why take any half-measures? And let me tell you – these fries were unbe-fucking-lievable.
Texturally, the fries were awesomely crispy, but still remained super-tender and creamy on the inside. And the speckled, glowing-orange spice blend that coated every fry’s entire exterior was deliciously bold and bizarre, yet somehow completely comforting and familiar. I think it was the exact spice blend my Middle School cafeteria’s curly fries used. Yeah, that has got to be it. I don’t know how or why, but it really hit the spot for me. And if that wasn’t enough to awesomeness to make me fall in love, there was enough crispy bacon, stretchy, melty cheddar cheese, and creamy white tangy ranch dressing to kill a moose.
I took my first bite of this dish and blurted out an uncontrollable and unmistakable “Ummmohhhmygoddddd” as the conglomerate of vivid flavors and textures exploded in my mouth. These was absolutely incredible. This dish was truly the perfect accompaniment to any and all of those cuckoo chef’s choice dogs you might end up eating with it.
Alternatively, give Anna’s White Trash Fries. These things come smothered in chili, jalapeños, sour cream, guacamole, onions, and cheese — kind of like french fry nachos. It’s pretty over the top, but I sort of prefer the flavor combination of bacon, cheddar, and ranch.
So, here’s what I suggest you do at Dat Dog – run wild – go absolutely apeshit. Really, close your eyes and point to any smattering of contradictory-sounding ingredients and just see what happens. Maybe your results will even come slightly close to my mind-blowing, transcendent, religious hot dog experience. Simply – I love Dat Dog.
Know of an even more insane sausage shop that I need to check out? Let me know in the comments below.
3336 Magazine St. New Orleans, LA 70115
5030 Freret St. New Orleans, LA 70115
601 Frenchmen St. New Orleans, LA 70116