Hot dog, we have a wiener

The Dog House’s new indoor location is a winner

Dog House owner Chuck Averill shows off the Big Chicago.

Dog House owner Chuck Averill shows off the Big Chicago.

Photo By jason cassidy

The Dog House 1354 East Avenue (in Safeway Shopping Center) 894-2242
Open daily, 11 a.m.-9 p.m.

The Dog House

1354 East Ave.
Chico, CA 95926

(530) 894-2242

If I said that I’d be willing to sit in the pouring rain just to sink my teeth into one of The Dog House’s off-the-charts-delicious hot dogs, I’d be lying. But barely.

Thank goodness The Dog House opened a second restaurant on East Avenue because until about a year and a half ago it was located only in that teensy red-and-yellow ex-Fotomat building in the parking lot of the Safeway on West Sacramento Avenue, with exclusively outdoor seating.

The big plus of the new Dog House, besides its awesome char-grilled specialty dogs (and burgers, too), is the indoor seating: two hi-top tables with two chairs each, two lower tables for four, and 11 counter seats—three of them located at the shiny, corrugated-metal front counter with a close view of the action in the little, spotless kitchen.

It wasn’t raining the day after Christmas, but it was chilly and overcast when my fiancé and I decided to go with my 8-year-old daughter to the East Avenue Dog House for a post-Christmas, lunchtime chow-down (with no cooking involved on our part). It was our first time at the new location.

A number of other families with young kids apparently had the same idea—the place was hoppin’ inside.

My daughter ordered a Chili Dog Royale ($5.95), a charcoal-grilled, quarter-pound, all-beef “premium dog,” as the menu states, on a grilled bun loaded with chili (not house-made, but darned good), mustard, fresh-grated cheddar cheese and chopped onions. I ordered the Seattle Special ($6.25), a quarter-pound Italian hot sausage, butterflied, and served on a grilled bun smothered with fresh Roma-tomato salsa, barbecue sauce, spicy mustard, diced onions and grated cheddar. My fiancé ordered the New York Style Italian Hot ($5.75), a quarter-pound Italian hot sausage on a grilled bun served with yellow mustard, chopped onion, sliced pepperoncini and grated cheddar.

While we waited a short time for our lunch, I sipped on my refreshingly tart fresh lemonade ($2.50; fresh cherry or strawberry lemonade is $2.85) and watched on the overhead TV a border collie blow doors in the weave-poles competition at the 2009 Purina Incredible Dog Challenge on ESPN.

My Seattle dog was (as I knew from past experience that it would be) delicious—the spicy taste of the sausage balanced perfectly by the mild barbecue sauce and tomato salsa. The bun, as always, was hearty and substantial without overpowering its contents—no low-quality, wimpy buns at The Dog House.

Of course, I tried both the chili dog and New York Style Italian Hot—thumbs-up for both of them. My fiancé, though, said that he would have preferred melted cheese to the un-melted, grated cheese topping his New York dog.

While we ate, we observed the meticulous way the man working the grill scraped it clean between orders, and carefully placed sliced cheese to melt on burgers, which were then laid carefully onto buns so as to make no mess. It was obvious that he cared about the food, and about the customers. And the two young women who were responsible for adding the lettuce, tomatoes, peppers and grated cheese to dogs and burgers (and for taking and delivering orders) worked no less painstakingly and neatly.

The Dog House is head-and-shoulders above any hot-dog place in town (and above a number of other restaurants)—the food is top-notch, the service fast and excellent and the place is absolutely spotless.

“Beware of Dog,” it says on the back of the employees’ T-shirts, and a dog from The Dog House is mean, for sure—in the best way.