H. K. Duff VIII: Why not break your fast with our brand-new Isotope Dog Supreme?
[Homer sniffs the hot dog.]
Homer Simpson: Oh, so hard to resist. Mesquite-grilled onions. Jalapeño relish. …
Wait a minute, those are Southwestern ingredients. …
Mango-lime salsa? That’s the kind of bold flavor they enjoy in … Albuquerque!
Lenny: He’s right.
Moe: Yeah … and the wrapper says “Albuquerque Isotopes”!
Within three months after the Duke City’s Triple-A baseball team, the Albuquerque Isotopes, co-opted its team name from The Simpsons animated television series, it sold more merchandise than the city’s previous Triple-A team, the Albuquerque Dukes, had sold in any entire season. That was even before a single game had even been played. In that magical, inaugural year of 2003, the team led all of minor league baseball in merchandising revenue.
Unfortunately, the Isotopes moniker wasn’t accompanied by the fictional Isotope Dog Supreme. Who wouldn’t love a hot dog with mesquite-grilled onions, jalapeño relish and mango-lime salsa? It certainly would be oh, so Albuquerque. Alas, the Isotopes Park concession menu doesn’t include a hot dog nearly as imaginative or, ostensibly, as delicious as the Isotope Dog Supreme. A case could easily be made that there isn’t a hot dog that cleverly constructed in the entire Duke City.
My friend Paul “Boomer” Lilly would take a stance contrary to that contention. Paul has become perhaps the Duke City’s biggest fan of Tickles & Snooks’ “Junk Yard Dog,” a quarter-pound all-beef hot dog battered and deep-fried then topped with onions, mushrooms, bacon, pepper Jack cheese, sauerkraut and Cheddar cheese on a hoagie roll. If this behemoth on a bun was available for breakfast, Paul would be there to get his early morning picker-up.
We expected that when Paul’s birthday arrived, he would ask his friends, me among them, to celebrate his thirty-somethingth birthday with a Junk Yard Dog or ten. How the engineers among us would adorn the dog with candles would be our problem, not his. Instead Paul surprised us by asking for his birthday celebration to take place at a brand new restaurant, one to which his joyous surprise, I had not heard of, much less tried.
That new restaurant, Señor Dog, opened for business on November 16th (with a grand opening on December 9th), the day after Paul’s birthday. Not wanting to fight the maddening throngs which seem to congregate any time a new restaurant (particularly a chain) launches, we decided to wait two days before making our inaugural visit. It was a good decision. Though there was a long line of curiosity-seekers and hot dog aficionados placing their orders, the staff was quick and efficient.
Señor Dog is ensconced in the Ventana Square shopping center on Paradise Boulevard, almost as far west as you can go in Albuquerque before you run out of city. The burgeoning Ventana Ranch area is in dire need of non-chain restaurants to sate the growing population so Señor Dog is Juan-on-the-spot. The marquee on the restaurant’s frontage depicts a sombrero-sporting hot dog while the restaurant’s motto is “Chillin’ in the Heat,” which we hoped would portend piquant and potent New Mexico chile and not that inedible stuff Texans call chili.
Brightly-painted walls festooned with posters; high ceilings; a painted concrete floor and functional tables and chairs give the restaurant a modern, almost antiseptic, industrial look and feel so many strip mall restaurants have nowadays. The menu over the counter lists fourteen different hot dogs, each available as a basket (with your choice of fries, onion rings or a combination of the two) or as a super basket (two dogs and your choice of fries, onion rings or a combination of the two) plus a medium drink. The caveat on the super basket is that the hot dogs have to be two of the same kind. You can also upgrade from a medium drink to a milk shake for a dollar.
The shake menu one-ups Baskin Robbins “31 flavors” slogan by offering up some 42 plus different flavors of shake: apricot, banana, black cherry, black raspberry, blackberry, black walnut, blueberry, bubblegum, butter pecan, butterscotch, cinnamon, cheesecake, chocolate, coconut, creme de menthe, English toffee, espresson, lemon, malt, mango, mocha, orange, peach, peanut butter, pear, piña colada, pineapple, pistachio nut, pumpkin, root beer, strawberry and tutti frutti. These are thick shakes served cold, not some runny, room temperature fiasco.
Save for sides and beverages, the menu is all about hot dogs. There are no burgers or sandwiches on the menu, the type of specialization which usually bodes well. Alas, the spelling on the menu “chili” seemed to forebode disappointment. To mitigate the potential disappointment and improve the odds that at least one hot dog might be good, my friends Boomer and Señor Plata all ordered the super basket and had each hot dog cut in half. That way we could all sample a half of each type of hot dog.
We need not have worried in the least. The hot dogs were quite good, not ordinary in the least. First of, they’re deep-fried, starting off frozen before being immersed in the fryer. Unlike the famous “Ripper” style hot dogs served in New Jersey, the deep-frying does not tear the dog’s skin. The frying does impart a chewy exterior texture while retaining a soft, juicy interior with a nice garlicky flavor profile. Except for the Polish dog and the corn dog, the hot dogs are all beef. They’re thick and delicious dogs served on a conventional soft bun.
The Guacamole Dog (guacamole, pico de gallo, jalapeños) may be the closest hot dog on the menu to the Isotope Dog Supreme of Simpson’s fame. It’s a hot dog whose aroma arrives at the table before it does. The pico de gallo and jalapeño combination is especially olfactory-arousing combination that goes very well with the velvety smooth guacamole. Coupled with the garlicky, deep-fried hot dog, it’s a nice adventure in flavor appreciation.
The Chili Dog (red or green chile and cheese) is not redolent with the offensive aroma and grainy beef composition of Texas chili. This chili is good enough to be spelled chile. It’s good enough, in fact, to be served on a bowl separately from the hot dog. A friend of mine who’s in the process of putting the finishing touches on a cookbook calls it “New Mexican chile,” better than the chile served at some New Mexican restaurants. Alas, the gloppy processed cheese topping is not only messy, it detracts from the flavor of the chili and the hot dog. This type of cheese belongs on ballpark nachos, not on hot dogs. Without it, I’d still be raving about this hot dog. Thankfully, Señor Dog also offers shredded cheese, a great improvement over the gloppy processed cheese.
The green chili on the Señor Dog (green chili, cheese and onions) is nearly as good, albeit not as piquant as the red chili. The green chili is made with ground beef and has somewhat of a soupy consistency, but it’s a good green chili (again, good enough to be spelled “chile” and served in a bowl). As with the aforementioned Chili Dog, the gloppy cheese does this hot dog a great disservice. Evermore I’ll remember to ask that the cheese be omitted (or preferably, taken outside and buried).
The most prominent flavor on the Reuben Dog (1000 Island dressing, Swiss cheese, sauerkraut) is that of the sauerkraut, a lip-pursing, tangy variety with a nice flavor. We didn’t discern much of the 1000 Island dressing’s influence nor that of the Swiss cheese, but did enjoy this hot dog nonetheless.
Señor Dog’s menu also includes a fire-eater’s challenge–a half-pound, foot-long hot dog called the “Volcano Dog” with “fire chii”, cheese and onions. You can have this hot dog with regular chili, but then it wouldn’t be a challenge to eat. Any diner intrepid to try the fire-eater’s challenge must agree to and sign a waiver of liability form. Challengers must consume the entire Volcano Dog with fire chili and all its contents within ten minutes. There won’t be any relief from the heat during or for five minutes after all Volcano Dog contents have been certified as consumed by the manager. Winners will have their photos posted on the restaurant’s “Wall of Flame.”
The ingredient which gives the chili its incendiary kick is the infamous Naga Jolokia, commonly known as the “Ghost Chili,” the most piquant pepper in the world. On the Scoville Scale which rates the piquancy level of all peppers, the Ghost Chili pepper tops the scale at 850,000 to 1.3 million Scoville units. As of August, 2011, only six photographs adorn the restaurant’s “Wall of Flame.”
As more restaurants like Señor Dog make their way out far west, my friend Paul, a resident of the area, will be there to alert me to them. We won’t even wait until another colleague’s birthday to visit.
6541 B Paradise Blvd NW
Albuquerque, New Mexico
LATEST VISIT: 8 August 2011
1st VISIT: 18 November 2010
# OF VISITS: 3
COST: $ – $$
BEST BET: Guacamole Dog, Reuben Dog, Chili Dog, Bacon Dog, Chicago Dog