It wasn’t that long ago that anyone who referred to a “gourmet” hot-dog would have been laughed at. How could there be anything “gourmet” about a sausage made from suspect parts of the animal, served in a gummy bun with a squirt of mustard? Then people began to experiment with non-traditional types of sausages and a variety of tangy toppings and, suddenly, the humble hot-dog was reborn as a fun, tasty sandwich, an alternative to the fast-food hamburger, and the perfect thing to grab on the run. So, where does it go from here? We found out this week after a tip from a caller on The Restaurant Show led us to The Hawt Dog & Sausage Eatery in Cherry Creek.
Hawt Dog occupies a smallish space on the second level at Second and St. Paul. Originally a Quizno’s, the room boasts a handful of tables, and a long lunch-counter which faces onto the open kitchen. For warm weather dining, they have a smattering of tables outside the front door.
The easiest way to describe the food is to take you back to the days when the area now called the Highlands was referred to as North Denver, and had a heavy concentration of Italian families, and lots of Italian restaurants. Carbone’s restaurant served a dish called a cannoli. Not a cheese-filled dessert, Carbone’s cannoli was a link of Italian sausage wrapped in dough, baked, and served with a rich marinara sauce over the top. The dish got its name from its resemblance to a cannon in its cradle.
Take the idea one step further by using any kind of sausage you choose, topping it with a variety of ingredients, wrapping the whole thing in dough before baking it, and you understand exactly what a Hawt Dog is. So, at Hawt Dog they serve a Cajun version using andouille sausage with jambalya sauce and caramelized red peppers, or a Santa Fe Hawt with a smoked buffalo and jalapeño bratwurst, a spicy beef chili, pepperjack cheese and pickled jalapeños. And the list goes on and on, incorporating Polish sausages, hot Italian sausage and turkey sausage with lots of intriguing toppings.
But, if you can do it with a sausage, why can’t you do it with a hamburger patty? Elongate the patty so it sort of resembles a sausage, and you have a whole new range of products. And if you think you have a better idea of which toppings to include with your sausage or burger, go ahead and design your own.
However, we’re not done yet. Hawt Dog also offers side dishes, including their house-made Hawt Chips with a sprinkle of sea-salt and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar, or choose jalapeño and onion. The Tater Tawts, also house-made, are wonderful little nuggets of fried mashed potatoes with chives and a Maytag bleu cheese sauce for dipping.
This is one of those ideas that, after you try it, you’ll wonder why no one did it before. Then again, maybe the folks who served the cannolis at Carbone’s all those years ago were way ahead of their time.
The Hawt Dog & Sausage Eatery
3030 E. Second Ave. (second level, southwest corner of Second and St. Paul)