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Is the bun steamed or grilled; is the hot dog beef, pork, turkey, or vegetarian? And the dog --is it steamed, boiled, flame-broiled, grilled or deep fried? It seems so easy to do, and it is, but mistakes can be made along the way and I've tasted my share, usually at large music events, at the ballpark (Dodger Stadium) or the racetrack (Hollywood Park). Too often these venues serve soggy buns filled with rubbery wieners; the watery relish is squeezed from a minuscule plastic pouch, and you’re lucky if the squirt bottles of mustard and ketchup are not empty!
But don’t worry – the dog, done right, can still be man’s best friend. Welcome to August Hot Dog Month -- where The 99 Cent Chef serves up some of the best hot dog shacks and street carts in L.A. Every week I am cooking up a new video featuring my latest frank find. From the grass-fed, hormone free, beef and pork artisan made wieners of Lets Be Frank, to a funky fresh grilled hot link dog from South L.A.'s Earlez Grille. I even throw in a video recipe of the underground late night hangover vaccine: a bacon-wrapped L.A. Street Dog.
First up is the exceptional Fab Hot Dogs, where chef owner Joe Fabrocini has brought virtually all of America to the San Fernando Valley, offering a menu of beautifully crafted dogs from every region worth its mustard. Recently relocated, Fab’s is in Reseda, in a corner store at Loehmann's Plaza, off the 101 freeway. Take the drive, it's worth it. Chef ‘Fab’ earns his name as a master carpenter of the humble hot dog, blending premium ingredients and a devotion to research to come up with museum-piece tube steaks as carefully constructed as a Stickley piece of furniture.
One look his Chicago Dog should give you the idea: behold the warm, rosy-red grilled frank topped with mustard, nestled in a black-speckled poppy seed bun, blanked by half wagon wheel slices of tomato, Day-Glo green relish, chopped onion, a wedge of pickle and two sport peppers, and finished with a sprinkle of celery salt. This is the real thing; just looking at it makes me shudder from the winter chill on a blustery, cloudy Chicago day.
I could go on; Fab’s offers franks from many regions: there are deep-fried New Jersey Rippers, a Carolina Slaw Dog, a Kansas City Dog (BBQ sauce, grilled onions, shredded cheddar ), and a L.A. Street Dog (bacon-wrapped, with jalapenos, grilled onion and peppers). And for those who can’t leave well enough alone, Fab’s offers an array of extra toppings, including sauerkraut, chili, American cheese, New York red onion sauce, pinto beans and a unique tomatillo salsa.
Ever had a New Jersey Ripper? It’s a deep-fried frank that splits after 6 to 8 minutes. Variations go by length of time in the fryer; there’s also the Weller (10-13 minutes) and the Cremator (20 minutes). The technique renders a crunchy-skinned frank that is still tender on the inside. The wiener is shipped in from New Jersey, and is made to be fried without absorbing oil.
I hear Fab's has off-menu dogs, too, like a Teriyaki Dog with grilled pineapple, and a Monte Christo Dog with strawberry jam, Taylor ham (from Jersey) and melted Swiss cheese. You can also build your own.
To see what I’m talking about, play my video, below, for in-your-face and bite-by-bite footage of some delectable dogs. You’ll also get impassioned commentary from the patrons and The Mayor of Fab's, plus explanations from chef Joe Fabrocini. And make sure to view the end, where the radioactive-looking green relish on the Chicago Dog sets off a comedic chain reaction in The 99 Cent Chef!