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Desert Companion

The dish: Haute diggity dog

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Panchero from Cheffini's
Photography by Christopher Smith

The Panchero from Cheffini's

The new wave of decadent, loaded, gourmet hot dogs is, frankly, amazing

There are two narratives surrounding hot dogs, which is inherently weird when you think about it. Hot dogs shouldn’t have narratives. Hot dogs should have mustard, maybe some onions. (Not ketchup, though. What are you, six? Good lord, are you watching My Little Pony and wearing mismatched socks? You’re 37, for God’s sake. Put mustard on your dog like a grown-up.)

Back to the narratives: The dog is at times either a populist statement against bourgeois food encroachment — an American menudo, or haggis, or whatever “authentic” cuisine your foodie friends are currently championing that you’re pretty sure is just mud stuffed in a pita — or else it’s an object of revulsion, some terrifying mélange of pig faces, hoof scrapings and the shattered dreams of Oscar Mayer employees.

Which is really overthinking things. Hot dogs are perfectly fine! Maybe better at the ballpark than at some Michelin-starred restaurant trying to pass them off as upscale comfort food, but perfectly fine nonetheless.

They’re also having a moment. Two new dog-purveyors are setting up outposts in Las Vegas this spring. DogHaus opened at 4480 Paradise Road last month, and Dirt Dog is expected at 8310 Rainbow Blvd. in April. Heck, even Burger King is in the game with a pair of hot dogs on its menu. Why don’t more fast food joints offer a layup like that? Is it because Sonic has the market cornered? Is it because every shady gas station in America beat them to it? It’s probably that. Anyway, where should you go for frankfurter bliss when Yankee Stadium is too far a drive? Oh, we have a few ideas.

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The Wiener’s Circle: Hailing originally from Chicago, The Wiener’s Circle set up an outpost between Red Rock’s sports book and poker room. The Wiener’s Circle offers bettors a Chicago-style dog, with hot peppers, pickles and tomatoes. The dog itself is the star here. We tried the Cheddar Char Dog and the char is as advertised. Shades of your uncle leaving them on the grill a little too long while he went fishing in the cooler for another High Life. But it gives the dog more heft to carry over the vegetables. Word of warning: Stick to the original. Radioactive-yellow nacho-cheese gloop is our jam, but the “cheddar” doesn’t work here. It’s like inviting Jennifer Lawrence to an all-Christina Hendricks slumber party. Delightful on her own, but probably not needed at this one. (In the Red Rock hotel-casino, the wienerscirclelv.com)

 

The Stage Door: This. This is the kind of joint that should specialize in hot dogs. It’s grimy, unabashedly populist, and vaguely menacing, just like hot dogs themselves. Let’s just say not a lot of bars in Vegas still sport “No Weapons Allowed” signs over the door. The dogs here come served up from a Mad Max torture rack/carnival ride contraption that keeps ponderous beef franks rotating in individual cages until a half-annoyed bartender can fish one out, slap it on a bun and shove it in front of you with a few mustard packets, for two bucks. The dog itself is burly, but oddly light on salt. By hot dog standards, not normal food standards. It will still desiccate you like a slug. (4000 Audrie St., 702-733-0124)

 

Haute Doggery: A short stroll past Batista’s and into another socio-economic world is the Haute Doggery at The Linq, with its reclaimed wood and faux-Warhol wall art. The Longhorn here offers brisket, coleslaw and onion rings on top of a dog, for four flavors that don’t play together at all. Individually, they’re all decent-to-great. But the dog itself gets lost, and that’s a shame. Of all the dogs on the list, this one had the best snap, and the most interesting spices. Was that paprika? Cardamom? Whatever it was, it was intoxicating. (In The Linq Promenade, hautedoggerylv.com)

 

Cheffini’s: The Panchero piles on caramelized onions, a pepper aioli, chimichurri sauce and grilled chorizo chunks onto a relatively mild wiener. But doctor, if you didn’t think you needed chorizo on your hot dog, you were grade-A, capital “W” and also capital “RONG” WRONG. Between the smoke from the chorizo and the tang from the chimichurri, you’ve got one of the best-balanced street meats on this list. Our only quibble is that the lightly toasted bun offers the only texture here. There’s no snap to the frank itself. But there is chorizo so you’re coming out on a net positive. (In Container Park, 702-527-7599)

PBB&JJ

The PBB&JJ at Steamie Weanie.

Steamie Weenie: When we ordered the PBB&JJ (that’s peanut butter, bacon and jalapeño jelly), the guy behind the counter told us it would “change our life.” If by “life-changing” you mean “discovering there’s a way peanut butter can work on a hot dog,” then yes. This one shoots for the moon like a precocious child in a world full of naysaying adults. Yes, PBB&JJ, you really can grow up to be a big movie star, because not everyone has your gently spicy jalapeño jelly, or your secret-weapon crunch of a protective layer of bacon before hitting frankfurter pay dirt. Nor your honest-to-god bun that doesn’t taste like it was wood pulp and discarded Mondale/Ferraro ’84 bumper stickers pressed into bun shape. (1500 Green Valley Parkway #130, 702-333-1383)

The Bulgogi from Buldogis

The Bulgogi from Buldogis

Buldogis: And here we end up at Las Vegas hot dog nirvana. The Bulgogi is Buldogi’s flagship dog, with good reason. The naturally hefty sausage gets a healthy dose of beef bulgogi, a smattering of Asian slaw, green onions and a bit of mayo. It’s a teriyaki bomb of muscular, meaty goodness that makes you want to relocate Korea to the middle of the country (like maybe just replace Iowa with Korea — we haven’t thought this through) just so the two countries could work in even more perfect harmony to keep on pumping out these clearly meant-for-each-other foodstuffs. Even the substantial sesame bun can’t hold the heft of all this meat. You don’t eat it so much as you crawl inside the Bulgogi and give way to its smothery, artery-wrecking embrace. There are worse ways to go. (2291 S. Fort Apache Road, 702-570-7560)

 

DogHaus: Yet if there’s any place that might be Omar Little to knock off Buldogis’ Stringer Bell, it’s newcomer DogHaus. Just like Omar, DogHaus knows that if you come at the king, you best not miss. Enter buns that are actually just grilled King’s Hawaiian rolls, which may be made entirely of flour, sugar, and the preserved memories of little girls who actually met unicorns. An immutable life rule is that when you have the opportunity to order cured meat named for Chachi, you take it. The Scott Baoli gives you a tremendous, spice-rich dog topped with melted white American cheese — the good, fresh, deli kind — caramelized onions, crisp bacon and garlic aioli. It’s so good you want them to do one for Willie Aames next. (4480 Paradise Road, 702-435-4287) 

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