Some let their dogs run wild and some like to ornately clip their canines and dress them in designer clothing. But how about this for a Haute Dawg: a spicy duck sausage resting in French bread and topped with pineapple chutney, cilantro, carrot slivers and chicharrones?
Franks 'N' Dawgs in Lincoln Park — in the space formerly occupied by What's the Beef — is using incarnations like this spicy-sweet blend to bring culinary sophistication to simpletons. According to Alexander Brunacci, who opened this upscale meat joint together with his sister-in-law, Lillian (wife of Frank Brunacci, executive chef at Sixteen in the Trump International Hotel & Tower, "the hot dog is the perfect vehicle for bringing fine dining to those who've never tasted it before, because hot dogs are the humblest of street foods."
On their first visit, most customers have stuck with what they know, and at prices that seem reasonable for a hot dog: the Classic Dawgs and Puppy Dawgs feature chili and chili-cheese dogs for $4-$5.75. But those with more adventurous palates dive into the more elaborate choices: Dawgs Gone Wild ($4.50-$6) includes the Mystery Corn Dawg (cooked with polenta batter in a deep-dish pizza pan), the Spoiled Brat (served with red cabbage, beer mustard and red pepper relish) and the Reuben Pulaski.
The menu will change constantly — just as it does at a quality restaurant — and Frank's Dawg ($8) invites a local chef to concoct his or her own hot dog recipe. On my visit, Frank's Dawg was a "Foss Hog" with a pork link, cob-smoked bacon, a fried egg and maple mayonnaise (from Lockwood chef Phillip Foss), and the Dawg of the Day was a "Posh Dog" with Bockwurst and Waldorf salad.
Chef Joe Doren's (ex Blackbird and Trump Hotel) menu gets even more adventurous: Dawgs Gone Global ($6.25-$8.50) includes Andouille, veal Percik with date chutney, ginger mayo, cilantro and toasted almonds, and also a Lamb Keema and Beef Curry.
The aforementioned Haute Dawgs ($7.25-$8.50) also include a Chicken Caesar dog, topped with greens and nudged into a tasty bun. If you're in the giving mood, order a Charitable Dog ($7.25) that supports a local good cause in addition to your meal.
Average cost: <$10
Centerstage Reviewer: Jacob Wheeler