Hot doggidy!

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Another weekend and another trip to Londinium. Primarily, I was there see Frankenstein at the National Theatre – Which I can’t recommend highly enough. The stage production, lighting and especially the performances are deserving of all the superlatives and plaudits that critics have been heaping upon it and if there is any chance you can get a ticket before the run ends, I highly recommend that you do. However, I also took the opportunity to head to East Dulwich before the show started and sample what is reputedly the best hot dogs in London..

I first read about the Dogfather from Eat St – A great site to keep up with the burgeoning street food scene in the UK and it piqued my interest enough to want to pay a visit. What I loved was the idea that Cooper has taken a very simple (and much maligned) food like the hot dog and made it into something almost gourmet – Similar to Yianni from The Meatwagon raising the bar when it comes to burgers. Again, like Yianni, Cooper has been inspired by great hot dogs found in the US and Australia (where he was raised) and has come up with some inspired concoctions to raise the hot dog into something more than what we used to get. You know, the vendors with hot dog sausages from a tin boiled in water and onions until they’re practically mush and require not teeth nor jaw action as a result. The bread is equally soft and bland, and let’s not forget the smell that would pollute the entire street the vendor was on. I do believe that Her Majesty The Queen banned hot dog vendors from outside Buckingham Palace because she was so appalled by the smell, if you know about the smell I’m referring to, I’m sure you don’t blame Her Majesty one bit.

So, I headed to East Dulwich on a sunny day to the North Cross Rd Market. I’m immediately struck by the number of food vendors all enticing you with their tasty treats but I was a woman on a hot dog mission and sure enough, the last stall was the Dogfather’s. Underneath the camouflage gazebo, you’re struck by the bright colours and various cacti for a kind of Tex-Mex feel. There’s an assortment of camping chairs and tables for you to sit down and behind the flat top grill, there is the Dogfather himself, Cooper. Friendly, charming and obviously passionate about what he’s doing, it was an absolute joy chatting with him. I learned that Cooper has managed to source an all beef Frankfurter which is also kosher. There’s no cheap franks used here that generally have pork added to them (to keep costs down) so in finding an all beef Frankfurter dog, Cooper was able to make a start. Then there is the bun, I believe they’re also custom made and rather than the standard ones you get from a supermarket which fall apart as soon as you fill them, these hold their shape and compliment the filling. And then there’s the filling themselves:

There are 4 different concoctions which Cooper has come up with on offer:

The Mexican Elvis – a beef dog topped with beef cooked with chilli and pinto beans, onions, cheese slice, hot cheese sauce and topped with finely chopped jalapeños. The Snoop Dog – a beef dog with bacon, BBQ sauce and creamed corn mayonnaise. The Slum Dog – a beef dog with sag aloo, fried onions, mild curried mango mayonnaise and onion bhaji flakes. The Collie Dog – This one had been tweaked earlier in the week by Cooper and is now with home-made coleslaw, BBQ sauce, cheese and bacon.

There are also other (more traditional) varieties on offer – with sauerkraut, plain and even a breakfast one called “Breakfast, doggy style” with the all important comma to indicate a pause in between otherwise it would raise a few eyebrows (as it already has, no doubt). But with 4 delectable choices as listed above, why would you?

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Partly because I was blighted by indecision (caused by hunger), but mainly because I was having a good time chatting to Cooper, I decided to let him recommend a hot dog for me. Cooper apologised for not having any chorizo, otherwise he would have recommended breakfast, doggy style (!), so he opted for the Mexican Elvis, so named after urban myth that when they broke down the toilet door, this was what they found in the clutches of the dead King. After Cooper showed me the slow cooker with his beef, chilli and pinto beans – the waft of which got me salivating, I was secretly delighted when he chose that for me. As he got all the components ready; slicing open one of those special buns to toast on the grill, grilling the dog to warm through along with some of the delicious beef, chilli and beans, I watched Cooper’s beloved Staffordshire Bull Terrier, Blue, sunning itself on the pavement. By the time I sat down with the finished (hot) dog and it was topped with a cheese sauce and finely chopped jalapeños, I was very much ready for it.

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And how did it taste? Absolutely sensational; The quality of the Frankfurter really shone through and there was a great snap to the dog itself. The toppings were all delicious and all complimented each other rather than overpowering or overwhelming. Above all, they were encased in a really good bun that not only enveloped all the fillings and complimented the flavours, but it held its shape and didn’t go all soggy as so many buns often do these days. In recent years, there has been more a leaning towards a good (pork) sausage or banger in an OK bun (look at the rise of Banger Bros.) but they’re not (in my mind) a hot dog, they’re sausage sandwiches. This was a proper hot dog – with a decent Frankfurter and delicious toppings and I had a huge smile on my face as I gobbled the whole thing up.

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Unfortunately, I had to dash off to get to the theatre but if I had time, I would happily have eaten another hot dog there. As I left, I did feel slightly jealous of the residents of East Dulwich and surrounding areas for having such a great place such as The Dogfather locally. I know that if I lived nearby, I would be there every week. For now though, I will be making the trek there at every opportunity instead and if you should ever have the good fortune to find yourself in East Dulwich on a Saturday, specifically the North Cross Road market, then I strongly recommend that you pay a visit to The Dogfather. Oh, and have a Mexican Elvis.

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All photos can be viewed at My Flickr

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