First Look: Craft Dogs, King Street’s new alternative to street meat
By Caroline Aksich
The Spicy Thai Dog with chicken, green curry, peanut sauce and mango slaw, $8 (Images: Caroline Aksich)
After bidding for 12 separate locations, Craft Dogs co-owners Brian Morin and Kathleen McGinn (previously of Beer Bistro) were getting worried that they would never find the ideal location for their nascent hot dog-focused restaurant. But they’ve finally set up shop — along with the former Beer Bistro sous, Craig “Krusty” Smith — in the spot formerly occupied by Pastabilities.
With ketchup-red and mustard-yellow walls, the space pays homage to the hot dog’s simple roots. The franks on offer, however, are anything but simple. The artificial nitrate- and phosphate-free dogs are cradled in specially commissioned buns from Fred’s Bread. The buns ring in around six-and-half inches in length, allowing for the wiener’s head and tail to poke out.
“I want people to bite into the dog and taste the meat before anything else,” says Morin, who believes that gourmet hot dogs are more than just fancy toppings.
For Morin, a Craft Dog starts with the meat, which is broken down, spiced and stuffed on site. Sheep and pork casings are filled with everything from duck to kobe beef to artic char. There’s even a rotating game special (this week’s was rabbit, with caribou slated for next week). For added indulgence, the fat rendered from the duck and kobe beef is used to cook the fries — best enjoyed with some house-made smoked ketchup.
Nearly everything is sourced from local farms, when possible, and even the apple wood chips used to smoke the dogs are organic and pesticide free — but Craft Dogs is too laid back to make for good Portlandia fodder. In fact, the vibe is so relaxed it doesn’t even seem apt to call these gourmet weenies haute dogs, despite our love of said pun.
“It’s traditional fast food done slowly,” explains Morin.
The dogs take up to eight minutes to prepare, so don’t expect speedy hot dog cart service. While waiting, there are house-made sodas ($3); on one visit, the roster included peach ginger ale, blueberry up (like 7 Up but with blueberries), vanilla cola and maple lemonade. Alternatively, there are pie milkshakes ($7). Yes, you read that right; they’re making milkshakes with pies (baked, you guessed it, in house).
Craft Dogs, 95 King St. E., 647-748-2033