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Dog House Drive In – Albuquerque, New Mexico

The Doghouse is a Route 66 fixture on Central Avenue.

The Dog House on Albuquerque's Central Avenue

Culinary history is in dispute as to the origin of the term “hot dog” to describe frankfurters, a cooked sausage named for the city of Frankfurt, Germany.  Some historians mistakenly credit a newspaper cartoonist for coining the term “hot dog” when, according to a popular urban myth, he used it in the caption of a 1906 cartoon depicting barking dachshund sausages nestled warmly in rolls. Not sure how to spell “dachshund” he simply wrote “hot dog!”

My good friend Becky Mercuri blows the lid off that theory in her fabulous tome, The Great American Hot Dog Book. She cites several sources which prove without a doubt that the cartoonist did not coin the phrase “hot dog.” So, just where did the term originate.  According to Becky, extraordinary word etymologist Barry Popik “doggedly pored over issues of the Yale Record, and triumphantly found the elusive evidence in the October 19, 1895 issue…describing students who “contentedly munched hot dogs.” Popik’s research is always unimpeachable.

Albuquerque's famous Dog House (Courtesy of Sarah Rose)

Albuquerque's famous Dog House (Courtesy of Sarah Rose)

There’s no dispute that hot dogs are as American as apple pie, baseball and well…hot dogs. In the Duke City, there may be no better example of the definitive hot dog than at the Dog House Drive In on historic Route 66.  The Dog House’s vintage neon sign, circa the 1950s, celebrates the cultural heritage of Route 66 with an animated neon sign that, when lit up, shows a dachshund wagging its tail merrily as it consumes several sausages strung together.

The Dog House is an absolute institution! Its first location was several blocks east of the current location which was built in the 1960s. The actual restaurant itself is the size of a shoebox, a bona fide hole in the wall with no ambiance of which to speak. With extremely limited seating (about five tables and an old-fashioned counter with stool seating), most diners park their cars (there are no shaded canopies under which to park) and wait for the sole (sometimes harried but seldom hurried) waitress to come take their orders. Mid-summer dining under the blazing New Mexico sun can be a smoldering experience.

The Chili Cheese Hot Dog with Onions

Still, there is always a phalanx of parked vehicles with hungry patrons willing to endure the sun’s scorching rays to partake of some of the very best hot dogs in New Mexico, maybe the southwest. The most popular dog is the foot-long chili cheese hot dog (with or without onions). This isn’t the Tex-Mex aberrational “chili” (a pathetic brown sauce with ground beef) we’re talking about. It’s a fiery red hybrid New Mexico style chile (albeit with ground beef) ameliorated with a pinch of cumin (its only flaw).

If, as a fellow Duke City gourmand and I have speculated, you’ve ever wondered about the psychological impulse of the purveyors of “quarter-pound” hot dogs–specifically whether these engorged hot dogs are some sort of “compensatory” machination–fear not. The Dog House wieners aren’t two inches in circumference. In fact, they’re somewhat waifish in comparison, but they’re sliced in half diagonally and are grilled to perfection. The buns are also toasted.

The Doghouse Burger with all the fixings (a much better burger than my photo might indicate)

The same chili offered on the chili cheese hot dog is also the star of the Dog House’s Frito pie which holds court with crisp lettuce and at least a bag of Fritos corn chips. It’s one of the very best, albeit least expensive, Frito pies you’ll find in the city all courtesy of that surprisingly addictive chile of medium piquancy.

Ironically not only does the Dog House make a great hot dog, its burgers are better than those served at many burger joints. A double meat and cheese burger is flavorful and chock full of great condiments, including a great sweet relish whose taste jumps out at you. Better still, order a chile cheese burger and treat yourself to the same great red chile that’s served on the chile dogs. Even the most stubborn of green chile cheeseburger aficionados will have to admit red chile does have a place on hamburgers–at least at the Dog House.

A foot long hot dog with mustard, relish and white onions

As for “American style” hot dogs (mustard, relish, onions), the Dog House doesn’t disappoint. The only Albuquerque hot dog in the same class (until it closed) was the incomparable “Ripper” at Howley’s. The Dog House is also an absolute rarity in that it serves decent French fries. These fries aren’t flaccid and oily like at many other restaurants. They have a crispy texture and are excellent for dipping into the red chile.

Milk shakes and malts are also available. Alas, the chocolate shake has that indistinguishable “generic” shake taste that makes you wonder why they call it chocolate.  It’s also cloying, almost tooth-decaying in its sweetness.  Still, they’re served cold and can put out the fire in your tongue from that oh-so-good red chile.

Foot long hot dog with green chile, cheese and onions

Okay, you’ve read my take on the Dog House Drive In. Now let’s get the perspective of Bob of the Village of Los Ranchos (BOTVOLR) with whom I’ve shared Jack Handy level deep thoughts for a few years about the Albuquerque dining scene. Over the past forty years or so Bob has consumed about 400 feet of chili dogs with onions from the Dog House, so you can trust his observations. Bob observes that:

  • The dogs are split to be cooked on the flat plate grille which I’m guessing is the original. Going that extra mile of splitting obviously brings out the true essence of hot dog flavor which is obviously also enhanced by the grille being seasoned after so many years.
  • Newbies should eat inside till they master not slopping chile all over their fingers and thus, possibly their clothes by eating in a car.
  • Ketchup with one’s fries will help cut the heat for newbies.
  • Wait till after 1 to avoid the lunch crowd.
  • Lastly, a coke to accompany your meal is sooo gauche; besides, its sweetness clashes with the chile. I recommend the orange soda (any year is fine) to really enhance the chile’s flavor ! Muy Sabroso !

When it comes to chili dogs at the Dog House, Bob is E. F. Hutton (remember the commercials touting “When E.F. Hutton speaks, people listen.”). Heed his advice.

The Dog House made a “cameo appearance” and was one of the few saving graces of a sophomoric (sophomoronic?) 2004 movie called “Elvis has Left The Building” which was filmed mostly in the Land of Enchantment.

Dog House Drive In
1216 Central, S.W.
Albuquerque, NM
243-1019

LATEST VISIT: 7 April 2012
# OF VISITS: 7
RATING: 19
COST: $$
BEST BET: Double Meat Cheeseburgers, Chile Dogs, Chile Hamburger, French Fries, Frito Pie

Dog House Drive In on Urbanspoon

  • Craig says:

    You hit the nail on the head for this review. The Dog House is the best chilidog I’ve ever had. The chilidogs at Bob’s Burgers in ABQ are pretty similar tasting, but not quite as good as The Dog House.

    I brought some red chile pods home to Utah with me, and tried to make a chilidog similar to the Dog House, and it turned out pretty good. Just missing some of their secret ingredients. :) I watched the lady making a fresh batch of sauce one day in there, and she had a pre-mixed packet of spices.

    Thanks for this review! Makes me want to come back to ABQ soon.

    May 1, 2009 at 5:09 PM
  • Teresa says:

    I remember over 50 years ago that the Dog House used to make a steam burger, does anybody have that receipe?

    November 24, 2010 at 5:55 AM
  • Bob of the Village of Los Ranchos says:

    Ok guyz and guyzettes! Come on….we all know…unless no one is telling…there is no such thing as The Kobe-Dog, but Geez, hasn’t anyone stopped into The Dog House of late? Did I convey the epitome of describing a New Mexican Chile(i) Cheese Dog con las Cebollas? Is there such a thing elsewhere that Y’all are keeping secret???? Let us know!!! For Pete’s Sake, at least take in the tin art work going back to when it was refurbished in the ’70s!!

    February 11, 2011 at 5:12 PM
  • Michael says:

    I really like my dogs grilled and that’s the way they serve them. The foot long with musard, onions, cheese and of course the chile is a great meal. I do wish that they put some really good meat in the sauce as it has great flavor and heat. The chile fries are good as is the chile cheeseburger. During lunch the wait can be kinda long but worth it.

    May 27, 2011 at 2:55 PM
  • Doug B says:

    The chili is no more New Mexico red chile than it is Texas chili. It tastes to me like a spicer variation of the sauce served on “Texas hots” in every Greek diner in western New York and Pennsylvania. I would be surpised if whoever came up with the recipe was not of Greek descent and possibly even from New York state.

    July 4, 2011 at 12:57 AM
  • Bob of the Village of Los Ranchos says:

    Alas, while my love of close to now 500 feet of sshile ssheez dogs con onions continues and while I appreciate the “updating” of things in general (albeit elsewhere), I continue to moan, for the past several months, to staff about the taking down of the panelling and tin ‘pics’ made during the update of the inside of about 30-40ish years ago and particularly in light of the current, new multi-colored (ugh) cinder blocks that have replaced the panels!!! If it ain’t broke (e.g. shabby/dirty/bespeckled etc.), why ‘fix’ it!!??? Isn’t there some federal law to protect us, at least till we die off, from the whims of private business owners?

    April 10, 2012 at 10:17 AM
  • Michael says:

    Bob,

    It’s never been about the decor, it’s all about the Chile Cheese Dogs.

    “sshile ssheez dogs con onions” Really?

    April 12, 2012 at 9:52 AM
  • Bob of the Village of Los Ranchos says:

    OMG!!! For anyone avoiding sampling the Dog House’s (half or)foot-long chile cheese dog con onions fare that’s been around since The 50s on Route 66 (without killing anyone) per not knowing lest it be HN (which I can neither affirm nor deny!), this article may or may not be of use in letting you now enjoy sampling this ‘alternative’ world of hot dogs…whatever they may be!: “Hebrew National hot dogs not kosher, lawsuit claims” http://tinyurl.com/7movfwb (Agreed: Nathan’s is their own ‘recipe’, but is it so sacrasanct?) (Just yankin some of Y’alls’ chain!! ):-)>

    June 20, 2012 at 2:42 PM
  • Bruce Schor says:

    Re Nathan’s Hot Dog: would one expect Harlan Sanders to open the vault on the secret spice that make KFC special?
    Would one expect Coca Cola to reveal the secret recipe allowing that would allow Pepsi ( a Coke wannabe) to tweak their recipe and thus move from Avis territory into Hertz status?
    Well, BOTVOLR, don’t expect Nathan Handwerker to reveal that which makes his dog the King of the Tube Steaks.
    Every wiener lover should make a Haj-like trek to Coney Island, ride the fabled bumper cars, down a few dogs and see a Coney Island Mets game. And while at Nathan’s the Hajis owe it to themselves to try another Nathan’s Famous item, the fabulous Lobster Roll.
    Sacrosanct?
    Yes, now and forever! And do not mess with the best Fries between the Atlantic and the Pacific!!!

    June 21, 2012 at 6:31 AM
  • Bob of the Village of Los Ranchos says:

    Aah Bruce…sounds like you suffer a bittersweet, overactive nostalgia section of brain as I. Alas, never made it to Coney Isle, but…”at a different level” sorta speak…LOL…did make it to the NYC’s Windows of Macy’s et al one December!

    Whoa…despite not making it to Coney…found a bit of connection to Nathan in finding out now in life (NiL), he has roots as a Polack!!! as I, so maybe his wife extrapolated a bit of Kielbasa recipe for his ‘tube steak’??? BTW, just learned, NiL,…am I the only one not knowing?….that ’round steak’ is actually bologna!!! Got a hankering this week to fry some up and learned that when I picked up a couple of slices from The Deli….of WallyMart!!!

    Come on Bruce…speaking of Kings, Pepsi is NOT a wannabee….Pepsi is King!

    Bottom line re the Dog House’s FLCCD: like the spray of salt water on Nathan’s, it’s not the dog nor the (red) chile that makes it so sought after. It’s the Gestalt of a dog and bun split for grilling on a seasoned grill of 50+ years and the ‘secret recipe’ chile eaten while in this hole-in-the-wall with its neon wagging dachshund going back to the glory days of The Rt. 66 MotherRoad, that makes it The Best.

    June 22, 2012 at 9:26 AM
  • Bruce Schor says:

    BOTVOLR, Pepsi Vs Coca Cola is a no contest contest but I will give you props for understanding and appreciating the complexities of “round steak”.
    To me, then, now and forever, there is nothing like a good, freshly sliced bologna, American cheese and yellow mustard, the kind I put on Mr. Handwerker’s tube steaks, on fresh rye bread.
    My curiosity has been aroused and I will check out the fare at The Dog House.
    on a more personal note I have never gotten used to the toasting of fresh breads of any kind. That a freshly baked roll, bread bagel etc would need, any toasting is beyond my belief system.
    I have never toasted a fresh bagel in my 67 years.
    A really good bagel fresh from the bagel shop can stand up to any accompanying cheese, fish or yes even thinly sliced baloney.
    Even the lowly dirty water dog from a NYC vendors cart needs no toasting.
    A quick aside, Im in Chicago for a wedding and have tried my first Chicago deep dish pizza…………
    Underwhelmed is the word that comes to mind.
    I’m just saying.

    June 22, 2012 at 5:14 PM
  • Bob of The Village of Los Ranchos says:

    Du…uh!!! ‘Open Kitchens’, ‘Exhibition Kitchens’ have often been proffered as a sign of “Haute” dining the past few years…the ‘in’ thing. Last night, as I sat at the counter of the Dog House munching my 500 something Foot Long (NM red) Chile Cheese Dog con onions, folks musta thought I was some sort of ‘lost soul’ per bursting out loud in my affected giggle for a half minute per having an epiphany after close to 45 yrs of ‘dining’ here: YO… The Dog House has been on the forefront of “Haute” as it has probably been one of the very first of the Exhibition/Open Kitchens anywhere!!!!
    - Whao, not only can ya see it…almost be in it… from the counter, but ya see it through the window as ya walk up to the door. Last night was particular eventful as I was just in time when a new, fresh, and humungous olla full of its chile being on the, who knows how old, i.e. well seasoned, grille!!!
    - As is typical, the 1/2 dozen booths and half the spinning counter stools were full of…contrary to some public opinions…sophisticated, i.e. being in-the-know-where-it’s-at, New Mexicans as I and a family of Gabachos chowed down on a Sunday eve!
    - An aside note to Brooklyn Bruce, lest I be repeating myself: toasting the bun, while offering a slight different taste experience, gives the bun a stiffness to minimize the weiner holder from becoming a soggy, unenjoyable mess. As it is, a Newbie typically uses about a dozen napkins to eat their first several FLCCDsco. And, as such, I don’t recommend till you’re down to 3 as I, that you venture eating one in your car, albeit I do not know why! “Chow!”

    August 12, 2013 at 11:29 AM
  • Jim Millington says:

    After Mr Los Ranchos, Mr Schor, Mr Scott, Mr Garduno, Mrs Child Bride and I dined here today I decided to write a review, I had trouble finding the listing because BOTVOLR’s description I was certain that The Dog House would be listed under “Fine Dining.” Alas, no. Finally in desperation I looked under “Sandwiches.” This was the finest steak in tubular form that I have eaten since the Louisiana Redhots that I prepared with green chili, shredded cheddar, chopped onion, and mayo with chipolte garlic sauce and sesame oil to relax after the suspense and excitement of the Super Bowl. The red chile was indeed hot and the onions stunk just the way I love them Mr Los Ranchos is truly a culinary genius.

    February 5, 2014 at 4:17 PM
  • Bruce Schor says:

    Had lunch with an esteemed group of FOGies including Gil G, Ryan Scott of Break the Chain fame, the Millingtons and BOTVOLR. Can anyone think of something better than good food and great company?
    My only disappointment was No Suzie Q and no La Gloria. I had gone to my local ATM in anticipation of SQ calling in my offer to pick up her/his tab.
    Since it was my first time at the Dog House so II echoed Bob’s order of a footlong with chile, cheese and onions plus excellent fries and had an iced tea instead of Bob’s choice of a soda.
    Great flavor and heat in and on the foot long tube steak. I do prefer a good kosher hot dog ala Nathan’s Famous with its snapping good casing with sauerkraut and delicatessen mustard but must say the Dog House dog was very good.
    We talked about our next meeting of the FOGies and all agreed a next time was in order.
    Perhaps we can make it a bigger more inclusive group.

    February 5, 2014 at 5:14 PM
  • BOTVOLR says:

    Come rain or snow, met up with The Child Bride and therefore one lucky Jim; The Break the Chain Dude; cantekerous El Brute; and Gil for foot long chile cheese dogs con onions at The Dog House. Alas, we all lamented missing everyone else including SuzieQ and La Gloria. As I’ve commented on the FLCCD in the past, I’ll defer repeating it being up to my usual high standard!
    NB: While exchanging mitote, we all agreed that perhaps some more Folk would like to join in but at a more traditional venue some eve and perhaps Joe’s Pasta House http://joespastahouse.com/index.php/menu/ might be an option per their ‘side’ room. In addition, Wednesday’s could be considered per their Prime Rib Special…for optional tastes. On the other hand, a Fri/Sat affair would afford us some easy listening with Ivan Rane https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GdJq9wnVXGo Well, I’ll let all that float out there.
    In deference to my obsessing and to Jim’s sage counsel awhile back about setting a date for a Gathering, i.e. “…there will always be someone who can’t make it”, I proffer that he show us his Nike philosophy and name a date and time! (If truth be told, I was surprized he did not throw in that old ‘saw’, it’s like trying to herd a bunch of cats. Lo that he didn’t and BTW if anyone hasn’t been out here in the SouthWest long, that phrase is not just some idle abstraction from some ivory torreon…check it out!!!! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pk7yqlTMvp8
    “Chow!”

    February 5, 2014 at 5:19 PM
  • Jim Millington says:

    After Much thought I have decided to accept BOTVOLR’ challenge to schedule a more elegant Friends of Gill Dinner. Because so many people have the type of job which will not allow them to disappear for a couple of hours on a weekday I have selected 7pm on Saturday, February 22, Mr Washington’s real birthday at Joes Pasta House at 3201 Southern Blvd SE Rio Rancho.

    WE will be honored to have Gill make a short speech at the event explaining how he became so dedicated to putting so much time and effort into this blog which benefits and entertains us all.

    I know that about 5 of us can be counted on if we are not out of town but am very unsure about total attendance. To reserve the side room we will need a total head count. Please RSVP by the 15th if you plan to attend.

    This does not constitute an offer on my part to pick up the tab.

    February 6, 2014 at 8:17 PM
  • BOTVOLR says:

    I cannot tell a lie: Bravo to Jim for “Just do(ing)it!”… setting a time for a Gathering. It goes without saying,IMHO,that Folks’ SO’s are more than Welcomed.
    ~ Save me a seat.
    ~ Hopefully, Joe’s mate Kassie might be around that eve!

    February 7, 2014 at 10:37 AM
  • Bruce Schor says:

    I’m in with my beloved with one caveat, BOTVOLR cannot ghost write Gil’s introductory remarks. Unless we have a 6-7hour lock on the room and a translator on call
    Besides Gil certainly does not need any help.
    Hope we have a good turnout!

    February 7, 2014 at 10:44 AM
  • Bruce Schor says:

    Just going over some previous comments by Los Ranchos Bob I have to add one more comment.
    The Dog House hot dog cannot stand alone, it must be smothered in all sorts of toppings to achieve its unique flavors.
    Any one who has had the pleasure of eating a Nathan’s tube steak at the temple of tube steaks, Coney Island, Brooklyn (hence the name Coney Island Red Hot) knows the difference between a dog that can stand alone and the Dog House variety which is reminiscent of the Dirty Water Dogs available from any cart curbside in NYC, or even the venerable Los Angeles hot dog at Pinks.
    I will give props to the very good fries from the DH but alas they too are not in the same league as Nathan’s fabulous fries.
    While I’ll admit to enjoying the DH pretender smothered in all sorts of toppings I’d sooner drive to the Original Nathan’s, some 2000 miles, rather than the 1/2 hour trek to Central and have a great dog topped with good sauerkraut and simple yellow deli mustard. Odd ball toppings gave me the same feeling I had when asked if I wanted pineapple pizza. Simple answer: NO.
    Call me an eastern elite, so what, who cares to quote that quintessential NYer, Joy Behar.

    February 7, 2014 at 12:12 PM
  • BOTVOLR says:

    Yo Eastern Elite! LOL! Oy Vey! Despite my elaborations, I apparently mislead you about the focus of my dining pleasure. Alas, the DH’s hot dog per se (http://www.thefreedictionary.com/per+se), is not the message! Indeed, I am Not enraptured by the ‘dog’ itself and I’d agree Nathan’s, or possibily other brands in a pinch, offer a unique, stand alone, gustatorial experience including the crack of the casing. In terms of tubular steak, I’d take munching on a Kielbasa draped with Kapusta over a dog, but if offered Kielbasa in lieu of the DH’s dog, I’d not want it as its flavor would compete with “the sauce con onions”. So… the nondescript bun and dog, despite being grilled, are just a “medium” for what I call the red chile sauce…upon which Gil might be dying to comment? Kinda. Maybe. Heck, fried and rolled up SPAM might serve the same purpose!

    Perhaps in fairness to some first timers, I’m overlooking there’s a Gestalt that probably builds up: for me it would include a hilarious memory of my Vieja (whose 2 sisters had worked there previously!) bringing me to ‘try’ to eat one in the car while wearing a jacket/shirt/tie/dress slacks…LOL; similarly inside, watching burly cops try to fit in the booths along with suits n ties/pearls-hose-heels from downtown, gulping one down at the noon hour adds a variable. Then there’s the avant-garde open kitchen with its 50ish year old “seasoned” grill (try to find one!) where ya see ‘thousands’ of mamacita types (i.e. I’ve never seen a Chicana like Linda Carter, Jessica Alba, Christina Aguilera, Eva Longoria, et al) come and go tho still skillfully slicing that dog (albeit nowadays they wear gloves) while standing barely tall enough to work that grill. Add in watching ‘generations’ of everyday families enjoying a ‘night out’ as their kids scrunch-up their faces saying ‘This ain’t a hot dog!! While I was a bit taken aback seeing those laminated booths appear back in the ’70s when they ‘spruced up’ the place by putting up paneling of a similar color, I was recently saddened when they took the paneling down along with the “typically Mexican’ tin ‘punched’ mirrors. Where do you find spinning bar stools out here and who doesn’t take a credit card? Uh Oh, I think ya missed the bathroom too…LOL Now…. all this is ‘ambiance’ for the Gestalt!! Then there is the pride in getting to a point of only needing 3 napkins versus a dozen. I can only wonder how many DH car hops met up with their first loves. Bottom line: I take umbrage: there is NOT all sorts of toppings smothering the dog! In contrast to sauerkraut and mustard…mega Folks have been coming for over 60′s years which, IMHO, challenges your Eastern Elitism even tho Nathan’s been around a few years more. As Rodney says: Can’t they both just get along? (I can drive a few miles for a FLCCD, but you can’t for a Nathan’s…Nana, nana, nana!!!) After all, per Nathan Handwerker being a Polish Jewish fellow and my 1/2 Polack Gentile roots, you and I have a certain awkward kinship!!!! OMG/LMAO!!

    February 8, 2014 at 3:43 PM

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