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?