Le Chien Chaud – Calgary, AB

Le Chien Chaud
3-2015 4 Street SW
Calgary, AB T2S 1W6
(403) 229-3641
Open Mon-Sat, 11am – 8pm, Sun noon – 5pm

Memories often play tricks on us. Dominant memories from our childhood – of taste, smell, and joy, are really just that; memories. Many foods of our youth are best left there. As a child, my local chip wagon made the best french fries one could imagine – skins on, doubled fried, in double brown bags with copious amounts of salt and malt vinegar, this was a oft-repeated treat. The chips my family loved. I’ve been searching for something that tasted as good ever since. I’ve never found it. The present never tastes as good as the past.

Just around the corner from my high school was a “premium” hot dog vendor. A small, dirty wooden shack set up in the corner of a parking lot, they dispensed a high brow version of  Bourdain’s “dirty water” dog – street meat. The pinnacle of premium was the “King” Dog. Chili, bacon, cheese, sauerkraut, onions, relish, mustard, ketchup and hot pepper rings, this was a veritable 3 course meal on a lightly toasted bun, all for $3.50. It may all be memory, but the times we skipped class, or dropped by after school for 2400 calories of companionship and joy were some wonderful days indeed. Since they’ve closed, I’ve been looking for another “King” dog.

Le Chien Chaud is a clean, tidy, and highly stylized storefront serving “gourmet” hot dogs.  Serving up 11 regular dogs, along with some daily specials, they have “ethnicized” street meat to try and appeal to the most diverse audience possible. From Italian, to Ukrainian, Mexican to Chilean, i feel like im dining at Buffet World.

Ingredients are fresh. I order a San Antonio dog ($5.50) – chunky vegetable and black bean chili, cheddar cheese and jalapeno rings in an effort to recreate the flavour of the King Dog. The all beef hot dog, also available in a variety of alternative fillings, comes on a soft, well-sized bun. The chili is warm, but mostly bland. The cheddar cheese, not in sufficient quantity to provide the gooey-ness that makes melted cheese its own food group. The Jalapeno rings lack punch. I am provided with a selection of homemade condiments to decorate my dog – these are good, but like the jalapeno rings, feel like they’ve been dumbed down for the masses.

Premium hot dog vendors are a bit of an enigma to me – they are trying to capitalize on the nostalgia of our youth, by deceiving us with modern toppings that might attract our attention in the present. Le Chien Chaud is not the panacea in my search for the King Dog. They serve up a nice quality product, at prices that do not belie the term “gourmet” in their name.  While they have a nice, tidy business, they fail to wow me, or even, hold my attention for more than a brief moment. Of course, it is all but impossible for them to compete with a memory, but life isnt always fair now is it?

Le Chien Chaud on Urbanspoon


5 thoughts on “Le Chien Chaud – Calgary, AB

  1. Really enjoyed the nostalgic references, I think that is a huge driver in our “quests for the bests”, as the lingering tastes of the past serve as such strong guides for our ingrained perceptions of what quality really is. I’ve got a similar strong memory of a favorite burger joint that I frequented as a teen, not sure if its still running today, but reading this post made me want to go back and find out…

  2. Shokutsu – I agree completely. I think the concept of taste and quality, is a lot more subjective than most people realize. Out of curiosity, what was the burger joint of your youth?

    John – thank you for the recommendation – I will try the potato salad if I find myself there again. I would like to clarify that I have no issues with their product. It is good quality stuff. The only issue I have is a value issue – which would exist for any hot dog priced at $5.50, unless they were able to recreate the emotions and taste of my youth.

    Question for you though. Do you think that having fewer offerings, and concentrating on producing 3 or 4 killer hot dogs would be a better approach than maintaining 13 to 14 offerings? It can’t be easy to keep 13 to 14 different types of toppings fresh, and at a high quality. I feel they would be better focused on making a killer chili than trying to maintain potatoes, bacon and sour cream for a Ukrainian dog. Thoughts?

  3. foodosopher – T’was in the ‘burbs. Will try to make a trip there to see if its still around and post for your viewing pleasure. 🙂 They are of the “less is best” philosophy when it comes to their burger choices, so if I may answer the question you posed above, I’d say a strong focus on a simpler selection usually tends to work out best, for both proprietor and customer.

  4. I have to wonder myself if the food I remember as a kid was actually as good as I “remembered” it.

    I’m sure there are other things coming into play like sights, smells and the company you may have kept.

    Mine was a simple one as were the fries … Simple cheese pizza, but I have still not found one as good as I remember from my childhood.

    The fries with vinegar made my mouth water 😉

    • Lol. They make my mouth water too everytime i think about them! Though i will be posting about some great fries i had recently. Those just might compare!

      I agree that many things must have come into play. It’s likely too complex to ever really puzzle out. I mean, cheese pizza – simple, but yum! You had me at cheese. Or pizza. Love simple pizzas…. that’s a great memory – thanks for sharing! 🙂

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