On a rainy Friday night in LA (visiting my parents), Mr. DG and I were wondering where we should dine while my parents were out to dinner with their friends (my parents have a more active social life than I do, not joking.). Wishing to avoid a long drive on slick streets, I remembered that the Tasting Table LA e-newsletter posted about a new upscale hot dog joint in Pasadena, The Slaw Dogs, opening officially the next day, on Saturday, February 6. While we had plans already on Saturday evening, we decided to try The Slaw Dogs and see what it was offering.
The Slaw Dogs is located on North Lake Avenue in Pasadena, north of the 210 freeway, near Roscoe's House of Chicken and Waffles and Orean, the Health Express. The Slaw Dogs is owned by Ray Byrne, a longtime veteran of the restaurant industry. He has created a menu featuring a variety of high-quality domestic and international links, including Vienna, jumbo 10" and kosher all-beef dogs; natural casing "snap dogs;" turkey and veggie dogs; spicy chicken and chicken apple sausages; Bavarian bratwurst, spicy Polish sausage and spicy Calabrese sausage.
You can pick your own toppings (first three standard toppings are free; rest are $.39/each; custom toppings are $.99/each) or go for one of ten "Slaw Dogs" or the special market dog of the week. The market dog is what Ray conjures up after seeing what's freshest and in season. The current "market dog" sounded very intriguing: kumquat chutney, curry ketchup, mint grilled onions with pickled habanero. Ray described it as "pilates in your mouth"! Salad bowls with your choice of meat offer a nice option for those who want a lighter meal. On our visit, there was a special wedge salad available with -- you guessed it -- your choice of meat. No lack of options here! I had a very hard time deciding.
Sauce Legend - Top left: spicy sesame mayo (kicky and creamy sesame goodness); bottom left: chipotle mayo (smoky and spicy); top right: roast garlic mayo (can't go wrong with garlic); bottom right: curry ketchup (looks like ketchup, but it's so much more).
While we were trying to make a decision, Mr. DG and I started off with the Slaw Dogs Basket. You can choose from two of the following: 1/2 Belgian fries or 1/2 sweet potato fries or 1/2 beer battered onion rings. Ray told us that he double-fries each item to get them nicely crispy. The beer battered onion rings had a light, nice crunch, surrounding tender onion. They weren't too oily or too heavily battered. Lovely.
We tried the Belgian and the sweet potato fries, too. (As you'll recall from my Cacao post, I have a hard time resisting carbs.) Ray was kind enough to give us a sample of four of the sauces, besides the usual ketchup and mayo, to try with the fries and rings. Mr. DG liked all of the dipping options, but, much to my and his own surprise, his favorite was the curry ketchup! He's not usually a big fan of curry. I thought all were great, but my favorite was the spicy sesame mayo. I would never have thought to make an Asian-inspired dipping sauce to go with fried carbs, but I really liked the flavor combo with the sweet potato fries, in particular.
By the way, the fries were also lightly crisp on the outside but tender and fluffy on the inside. Usually, when I've had sweet potato fries at other establishments, they end up being kind of soft and floppy....and sometimes oily. Not here at The Slaw Dogs! None of the fried items were oily at all. Big plus in my book.
I must say that Mr. DG has a real knack for picking the tastiest items whenever we go to a restaurant. And I'm not saying that the Rueben Dog was a lesser dish -- definitely not - it was very delicious! But the Thai Sausage Salad that he ordered was so fresh and aromatic. When Ray was bringing the dish to the table, the scent of the beautifully dressed salad wafted to our noses. I don't think that has ever happened to me -- where the smell of a salad arrives before it even reaches you. Usually, that happens with hot dishes, but not so much with cold. It was a lovely harbinger of what was to come.
The Thai Sausage Salad comes with your choice of meat. Mr. DG asked for Ray's opinion, and he thought the spicy Calabrese would be a good combination with the salad. Obviously, Ray knows his flavor combinations as the spicy Italian sausage was wonderful with the Thai flavors. The salad contained shredded cabbage, diced green onion, peanuts, cilantro, slivered green papaya, sliced carrots and cucumber, in a light, creamy peanut and sesame dressing. Topping it all off was the grilled sausage and crunchy wonton strips. I love dishes that combine cold/hot temperatures and contrasting textures in one bite. The dressing was not too heavy, and all was well-seasoned. Mr. DG really enjoyed the salad, and so did I (luckily for me, Mr. DG is very generous with sharing:) ).
I love sausage. I happen to love spicy Polish sausage, in particular. I remember the Farmer John polish sausages that my dad used to cook for breakfast on weekends when I was a kid, and I fondly recall the snappy bite and spicy kick. They were also plump little links, about an inch or more in diameter. My ignorance about Polish sausage is that I didn't realize they came in regular hot dog size, as well. That's the size of the sausage in the Rueben Dog I ordered. Not to worry, the size did not diminish the flavor. The Polish sausage was butterflied, grilled and piled on perfectly-sour (for me, which means, not too sour) sauerkraut, sliced pastrami, swiss cheese, and topped with Russian dressing on grilled rye bread. It wasn't too salty, which can easily happen when you're combining so many savory items together. The sandwich was seasoned just right.
Ray's hot dog pub is a family venture. His mom and wife also contribute in their own ways (front of house and dessert skills, respectively). Jennifer, Ray's mom, is warm and welcoming, as is Ray. The space is decorated in warm earth tones with wood tables, slate floors and brick red walls. Artwork will finish the walls, Ray told us, but Mr. DG and I did not feel that the space felt unfinished, and, in fact, we did not notice that the walls were bare until he mentioned it. We thought it looked great!
Go get your dog at The Slaw Dogs now. As I type this, Ray is hosting his grand opening bash with free samples of The Slaw Dogs paired with wines from Uncorqed and additional complimentary beverages. Vegetarians and gluten-free eaters, don't worry, Ray hasn't forgotten about you. He has a Soy Bomb dog available (veggie dog w/tofu and shiso ginger-ponzu sesame slaw), and you can make just about any dog gluten-free by wrapping it in lettuce instead of bread. The standard and custom toppings available are quite extensive (truffle oil! kimchi! beer chili!), so go check out the menu at The Slaw Dogs website. Menu items are subject to change.
We enjoyed meeting Ray and Jennifer, and we hope The Slaw Dogs pub finds great success. The food is high quality and the flavors are new and fresh. The prices are reasonable....what more could one want?
The Slaw Dogs
720 N. Lake, #8
Pasadena, CA 91104
11:00am - 9:00pm Sunday to Thursday
11:00am - 10:00pm Friday and Saturday
Full-service, onsite catering available