There’s nothing quite like a perfectly grilled hot dog on a fluffy white bun adequately topped with only ketchup and mustard. Aside from a classic cheeseburger, is there a more satisfying Summer food than a plump frank with a slightly charred exterior? Who needs anything other than good ole ketchup and mustard, other than maybe a light dose of relish. Why the hell would anyone need more than that? Hot dogs aren’t supposed to be exotic, are they?
This was my line of thinking on my way to Red Top Hotdogs, a new spot at 1127 Logan St. that is quickly gaining popularity for their specialty, gourmet hot dogs. I hate to lay my cards down so early in this review, but my early assessment of what a hot dog should consist of was abruptly changed during this dining experience.
EDITOR’S NOTE: As tempting as it was while putting this review together, I didn’t include one single dick joke. I deserve some sort of award, right?
When I looked up the location for Red Tops in Google Maps, I thought to myself, “oh shit, isn’t this the old Keswick Democratic Club?” Sure enough, it was… sort of. Red Top resides where the little bar/restaurant used to be on the side of Keswick. I don’t have any vivid memories of this space (as opposed to the actual venue on the other side of the wall) other than it being a smokey, dirty little place that offered shitty beers at low prices.
Joined by the rest of the Never Nervous crew, we arrived around 5:30PM on a Friday evening, and as I walked through the door it was immediately evident that major aesthetic changes have been made, all for the better. The space is surrounded by gorgeous exposed brick and mustard-yellow painted walls, complete with a good sized bar and an ample seating area (indoor and outdoor seating is available). As I took in the warm, cozy atmosphere, the mouthwatering scent of cooking hot dogs and baking bread started to tickle my nose like one of those old Merrie Melodies cartoons.
I ordered a PBR to hold me over while looking over the menu. It should be mentioned that Red Top offers plenty of fantastic brews on tap (many of them local), but due to the harsh, hellish Summer heat, I settled with a refreshing Pabst which for my money may be the best beer to wash down a hot dog.
We started off by ordering a couple of sides — the Bourbon Blue Fries and the Sauerkraut Balls (pictured above) — treating them both as appetizers. The kraut balls were big and heavy, perfectly fried with a crispy exterior and a classic, tangy cabbage inside that made my knees weak. It was topped with bourbon molasses and a lightly colored sauce that I wasn’t able to identify. The fries were topped with a delicious blue cheese spread, bourbon molasses, and smoked bacon, all of which came together for one hell of a snack.
Considering that every hot dog on the menu sounded really good, we ordered three different dogs for good measure. The first one we tried was the Germantown Dog, which is centered around a Wild Boar sausage link which is served on a pretzel bun. The sausage is topped with heavenly gouda beer cheese, bourbon grilled onions, apple bacon, sauerkraut, with a drizzling of bourbon molasses to bring it all together.
Next, we went got spicy with the Nirvana (pictured above) which features a more conventional grass fed all-beef wiener on a pretzel bun enhanced with a roasted garlic cream cheese. The dog was topped with fresh jalapeños, crunchy french fried onions, and a tasty jalapeño jam. If I weren’t forced to share this with the rest of the NN crew, I would have requested more jalapeños as I’m a fiend for spicy punishment, even in the scorching hot weather. Nevertheless, this dog was damn good.
Finally, we dug into what ended up being my personal favorite dog: the Black and Blue Dog. Like the Nirvana, this wiener-iteration was centered around a beef hotdog on a pretzel bun topped with a blue cheese spread. Also featured are sticky, delicious bourbon grilled onions, smoked bacon and a local blackberry jam which was surprisingly the ingredient that really took this dog to the next level.
As we feasted on these three hot dogs, something else on the menu caught my eye: The Coney Tots. Although we’d just consumed enough food to fatten us up like Yokozuna, tater tots may be my ultimate weakness, especially when they’re prepared with a unique twist. The tots are topped with cheddar beer cheese, Coney sauce, and raw onions, all making for one hell of a creation centered around fried potatoes.
As we ate and ate, over the course of an hour or so the place started to fill up, so after finishing the last morsel, we migrated to the outdoor seating area for a few more beers. It was a Friday night, afterall, and this place has a fun energy behind it that made it hard to leave. Considering how much of a good time we all had, it’s easy for me to heavily recommend Red Top as an unassuming, quaint little spot that makes unconventional, delicious hot dogs, not to mention their killer sides and brews. I’m looking forward to my next visit, anxious to try more of these wacked out wieners, only next time I won’t be sharing with anyone.
All photos by Miranda Hellman.