Edward: The area of Albuquerque that’s home to the small building to which I’m confined each weekday, having my soul ripped and gnawed over the course of nine hours by rotating packs of ravenous weasels — an experience happier, more fulfilled people than myself typically refer to as “a job” — is chock a block with eateries of all kinds, catering to all manner of tastes…so long as your tastes run towards soulless global chains serving up the best the industrialized food processing system can offer.
A good lunch — what Hemingway would call an honest lunch — is hard to find in this culinary desert. So when I stumbled across a mysterious coming-soon “Urban Hotdog Company” a while back, I was…intrigued.
Today’s their official opening day, and since I was driving by there anyway — funny how that worked out — I thought I’d check it out.
Upfront, Urban Hotdog Company is impressive, with hip, modern styling and a bright, clean, open space. At the ordering counter there are a couple of big placards displaying the two-page menu. I wish I’d gotten a photo of the ultramodern “cash register” — I don’t know what you call these things now, since it’s more like an iPad than something you clack numbers onto. When you pay with a credit card, the counter person swipes the card, then flips the thing over so you can sign the screen…with your finger! (You know I’m a New Mexico resident since I’m super impressed by stuff like this.)
You order at the counter, get a little card bearing a mysterious code name that you take to your table and stick onto a…thing you stick these things onto…and presently your food gets brought over to you. I was told it would be about a 15-20 minute wait, which is fine because the dogs are made to order and I figured on a wait on the first day anyway.
The menu is quite ambitious, starting with your “Standards” — six dogs, ranging from the basic mustard-ketchup-onion-relish to chile (both kinds, the standard chili dog with onions, or green chile with cheddar cheese, tomato and onions) and Chicago dogs — to the more elaborate “Urban Dogs.” There are no less than 14 different creations here, many of them using imaginative, unusual combinations. There’s a “Crafty Dog” with house-made mac & cheese and chopped bacon, a “Tiger” with house-made Asian slaw, spicy dried peas and fresh pea shoots, and for vegetarians, a “Curry” with marinated grilled tofu, green curry vegetables, chopped peanuts and cilantro.
Two particularly original choices (neither was available today, but they’re in the works): the “Good Dog,” which can be pretty much any kind of hot dog, the “Good” coming from the fact that part of the proceeds from the sale are given to charity; and the “Not Dog,” a mystery (non-hot dog, natch) item that “could be a burger, a sandwich, or even a salad).
I ordered a couple of dogs to try out. The first, the “B&B,” is a bratwurst soaked in Guinness, grilled and topped with house-made sugared beets, locally-sourced goat cheese, and fresh mint. Bratwurst ‘n’ beets isn’t a combo I’ve ever had before, but it makes sense — I enjoy Polish sausages and pickled red cabbage. The bratwurst is juicy and flavorful, and the essence of the beer is right out front. The fresh flavors of the goat cheese and mint balance out the earthiness nicely.
The only thing I didn’t love was the bun — it’s a traditional brat bun, but with toppings that aren’t particularly wet, there’s really nothing for that big, bready, chewy bun to do except overwhelm the ingredients. I don’t think UHDC has a liquor license, but this behemoth really cries out for a pint (or two) of good beer.
Next up, the Le Bleu, which is a bacon-wrapped dog that’s fried and covered in sauteed mushrooms, bleu cheese, and thyme, on a standard hot dog bun. (The bun is a premium article, by the way, substantial, moist, buttery and a little sweet.) Honestly, what’s not to like here. Hot dog, bacon, bleu cheese, mushrooms. This thing is intense. Toppings are not skimped upon. There’s nothing I didn’t love about this dog.
By the way, I ordered two dogs for testing purposes, but I do not recommend that anyone try this at home. These things are filling.
Fries with that? UHDC offers fries in a variety of configurations, including rosemary & garlic, chili/chile, and with bleu cheese, chives, and truffle oil, but I wanted to try them plain just to see how they do them. These were okay — thick-cut with a dusting of seasoned salt — but on the limp side. Now, I happen to care for soft fries (really, I love all fries), but if you need your fries to be crispy, you probably ought to request that when ordering.
This is the kind of modern, upscale eatery I thought was legally confined to downtown by city ordinance, so I’ve gotta confess that I’m inordinately excited to have Urban Hotdog within lunchtime driving distance. I wasn’t sure what to expect — with the whole “urban” thing and the Tom Haverford-esque branding, it could’ve gone very, very wrong. Initial impressions, however, suggest that this is the real deal. Places serving “different” food tend to shrivel up and die around here, but I hope UHDC sticks around.