For the dogs
Reno, NV 89509
I count my co-workers as friends, and boy, they are some critical individuals. As such, the idea of eating with me for a review appealed to a certain sense of unrelenting bashing they enjoy. While I’ve occasionally jumped onboard with the bashing, I do understand greatness is a rarity and the majority of Reno’s restaurants, while perfectly fine, do not wow. Freeman’s Natural Hotdogs falls into this category. Even worse, my friends Jerry, Matt, John and my brother Eric were feeling pretty salty when I took them out for lunch last Friday, and this was not a brilliant afternoon for Freeman’s Natural Hotdogs.
There are some things about Freeman’s that work very well, namely the location on California Avenue at Plumas Street. There’s also the whole hotdog aspect, which I love—especially the chance to buy hotdogs made with natural ingredients, organic ingredients, or hotdogs made from no animal parts at all. Yet, despite all of this, Freeman’s lacks innovation. For starters, their menu is pretty much just hotdogs. Healthy hotdogs or not, I don’t know many people who regularly eat the things. And when they do, it’s counted as a calculated risk, which really discounts the importance of all-natural ingredients.
Freeman’s has really done a good job with the design throughout the restaurant, to their credit—such a good job it could be mistaken for a chain. John said one of the signs looked like Japanese animation, while another reminded me of a communist logo. I finally placed it as the Chuck Taylor Converse star imposed upon the rising sun of Japan’s flag. The star looks good and says “don’t mess with me,” but I was there for hotdogs, and those do a poor job of standing up for themselves.
John ordered the Pinoy dog ($4.75)—a pork sausage with pineapple chutney, and Asian coleslaw. Eric, Matt and Jerry picked the F’n hot dog ($5.95), which claims to be a double beef dog with cheese, tomatoes, onions, relish, mustard, ketchup and jalapeños. I say “claims” because the hotdog’s stature was suspiciously delicate. I ordered the Bun Burner ($5.75) and a small cup of turkey chili ($2.95). Mine was a vegan chipotle sausage with jalapeños, chipotle-lime aioli and salsa. I ordered this for diversity’s sake and to see what kind of cross contamination occurred in its preparation. I like meat, so I didn’t flinch upon seeing Freeman’s recklessness, but I know people who would pitch a fit if they found out their lovely virgin meal had been tainted by the same plastic-gloved hands that just handled cheese, or worse. I would just ask the staff to make a habit of changing gloves. Also, all of our onion poppy seed buns were stale, so those should probably be pitched. The thing that stood out in all our meals was the condiments. To your dismay or pleasure, Freeman’s healthy hotdogs were completely buried by fresh-enough vegetables and avoidable, eccentric toppings like vinegary Asian coleslaw.
Yet Jerry was quick to note that Freeman’s doesn’t put out extra condiments for the customers. The thing that caused him the most ire was the absence of celery salt. I’ve known him for years, and I was surprised to see him upset about not having salt to pour on his hotdog.
The hotdog is a revered and demonized part of the American diet. I appreciate Freeman’s taking the sustainable high road with their products, but don’t let that come at the expense of value, especially when they’re selling something like hotdogs.