We have a wiener!

Seeking out the best hot dogs before the weather gets hot, dogs

WHO LET THE DOGS OUT?!<br>The Dog House, looking dapper in the Safeway shopping center on Nord Avenue.

The Dog House, looking dapper in the Safeway shopping center on Nord Avenue.

Photo By Mark Lore

There was a time many moons ago when a 59-cent pack of Bar S hot dogs would suffice as lunch and dinner for a week. Thank god those days are over. But I still enjoy a good dog every now and then—especially when the weather starts warming up. There’s nothing like firing up the ‘cue with some friends, or, even better, heading to the ballpark for some baseball, cold suds and the classic sound of the vendor yelling, “Get your hot dogs here!”

I decided to go on a quest in search of the best dog in town. I was even willing to resort back to my old eating habits to do so—I was more concerned with the culinary than the coronary. Over the last week I hit up five of the top dogs in local hot doggery. And I lived to write about it in order to give you, the consumer, the straight beef (product-paste-body parts-stuff) on an American classic.

Scrappy Dog, downtown Chico

My first stop took me to the late-night din of downtown Chico, and the classic Scrappy Dog cart parked outside of Lost On Main. Jacob Boehm has been at it on and off for at least a decade, although the cart first rolled out back in 1990.

They used to be a steal at a buck apiece. But, oh how things change with inflation and recessions, which brings us to the current $2 price tag. Still a deal, although there’s a reason they’re sold outside of bars late at night.

Not the best quality of dogs, but a decent selection of condiments. I went with a little Sierra Nevada Porter Mustard and a stack of onions. Scrappy also offers tofu dogs for those looking for healthful post binge-drinking options.

Zot’s Hot Dogs & Deli, 225 Main St. (inside the Garden Walk Mall)

Another longtime Chico hot dog biz, Zot’s rests all snuggly wuggly in the Garden Walk downtown. The dogs here are pretty tasty, and make for an inexpensive lunch. The Zot Dog lunch special will run you a mere $4.25, and includes a bag of chips and a soda.

I got the standard footlong, which comes with relish, mustard, onions and sliced tomatoes. The dog snapped as I bit in, always a good quality. Zot’s offers a solo footlong ($2.40) and the quarter-pound Great Dane ($2.99), as well as the quirky burrito dog (chili cheese, onions, tomato), wrapped in a flour tortilla. ¡Dios mío!

The Dog House, 1008 W. Sacramento Ave. (in the Safeway parking lot)

The old photo mat (remember those?) in the Safeway shopping center on Nord Avenue is home to The Dog House, whose red and yellow exterior screams, “Hot dogs sold here!”

This wiener wonderland opened in 2002, and is the only place I visited that charcoal-grills its hot dogs—almost as good as a backyard barbecue.

The classic Top Dog (all-beef quarter-pound kosher dog with ketchup, mustard, relish and onions; $3.25) was damn tasty, easily the best of the bunch. The Dog House also boasts the most creative assortment of dogs: dig the Seattle Special (Italian hot sausage, homemade salsa, barbecue sauce, spicy mustard, onions and grated cheese).

EJ’s Dogs and Subs, 672 Mangrove Ave.

I walked into EJ’s to an older gentleman sitting at a table reading the E-R while Oldies 102.1 buzzed in the background. He got up and made his way to the counter, and I ordered a basic dog for $2.75 (quarter-pound, $3.25). He promptly rang me up, steamed it up, and sat right back down. Definitely the fastest service.

The dog was tasty, but not very interesting, although I did like the sliced tomatoes—always a nice touch. Like Zot’s, EJ’s also offers a burrito dog ($3.10), and serves a Reuben Dog with kraut, onions and mustard for $3.

Costco Food Court, 2100 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Pkwy

Everyone’s favorite. People go into Costco sometimes just for the hot dogs. Definitely the best deal in town—a big quarter-pound kosher dog for $1.50 (including a drink).

I used to work at Costco, and we called them Death Dogs, which was a term of endearment. They are tasty … just don’t eat three in a week. Everything in moderation.