Tag Archives: Hotdogs

Finally coming face-to-face with East Dulwich’s Dogfather.

27 Mar

A few weeks ago I got a call from a friendly sounding Australian food trader based in East Dulwich. Yianni had passed on my number because Cooper was keen to take his gourmet hot dog operation to the next level and wanted in on eat.st As soon as he started telling me about his ‘Slum dogs’ and ‘Cactus dogs’ I knew I had to get myself down North Cross Road and get my chops round one of them dogs.

This is what is so thrilling about being involved in eat.st – it’s in being told about all these new ideas that have started or are about to take off. People who have just returned from travels afar and want to bring something new to the party. So far the posh hot dog offerings have been fairly scarce though. (Big Apple Hot Dogs – if you’re reading this I have you on my list to come and see!). I had my first gourmet hot dog at the San Francisco Street Food Festival from 4505 Meats. It came with kimchi and chicharrones and had me all up in my eye-rolls. Cooper promised me a similar level of wiener-shaped titilation…

After a quick scan of the traders fringing the road yesterday (including a nice looking banh mi Ape called Viet-Van), I headed to the end of the line and discovered Cooper beneath a canopy of camouflage and kitsch. Rocking a shirt that would’ve made Lash LaRue weep and surrounded by illuminated cacti and Cholula hot sauce bottles, Cooper made me smile the minute I laid eyes on his set-up.

People often ask me what our criteria for bringing people into the eat.st fold are. Of course it is about the food on offer, the business ethos, community mindedness and about pushing the limits of what’s out there already, but there is a magical element which you either have or you don’t – and this is about transforming the space around you into something richer and more fun. The Dogfather has that and it is evident in the little touches, the general look and feel of the stall and just in the way Cooper is.

I called him ahead of arriving and he reassured me he’d ‘save me a table’. Sweet, when I arrived it was just me and a CCTV expert called Kevin (if I didn’t know much about CCTV before, I sure as hell do now), so I sat myself down at the ‘counter’ and ordered my Dog. Amidst the slightly unrelenting security stats bombarding me from matey to my right I got a full run-through of the menu from Cooper. It all sounded so generous and well thought out, with homemade red pepper sauce for one Dog, hot cheese for another. There were jars of pickles and chillis, pots of different mayos and a whole array of stuff for the ‘Slum Dog’ from the local Indian. Clearly, this was a guy who had put a lot of effort and imagination into his offering. I just hoped to God it tasted good too.

I went for the ‘Snoop Dog’ – a Cali riff on the hot dog theme: BBQ sauce, streaky bacon, creamed corn mayo, green onions, grilled onions and a cheddar slice, atop, around and within one of these top-end wieners, the source of which remains Schtumsville.

There it is, a dog of delight, and replete with its own identity so that loving it is made all the more easy. (Like all those stacked trading floors given friendly names like Shard, Cheese-Grater and Walkie-Talkie but without the public deception). I needed several napkins to deal with mine. Not as messy as a Luardos burrito and certainly helped by being sat at a table, but this thing was bursting with meaty company inside that warm toasted bun.

I dug my Dog and I dug Cooper and I’m delighted that there’s a new cat on the scene who comes with personality and swag as well as a great menu.

We want the Dogfather along with us over the summer but keep abreast of his movements on Twitter @Dogfatherdiner in the mean time.

(p.s – For a more in-depth description of Cooper’s sourcing and ingredients go to the ever brilliant Helen at her Food Stories blog).


San Francisco Street Food Festival

4 Sep

I heard about the 2nd Annual San Francisco Street Food Festival some weeks ago. Amazing, I thought. Then it nudged up against me again – probably in the form of a Tweet or some other such fleeting message. Then came the news that it would be followed by an entire two day conference on the subject – all organised by local business incubator La Cocina. Arghh! I wanted it – real bad. It played on my mind for the next couple of days until eventually I gave in. My gut urged me to go – both for the comida buena I would surely encounter, and for the dizzying array of great people who would be speaking at the street food summit.

More on the mind food later, but now onto the scoop on that three block section of the Mission district that, on Saturday 21st August, became a-throng with thousands of people, all wanting to get their grub on – and no one seeming to mind a bit that this meant serious queuing and hardcore shoulder rubbing…

After my three hour volunteer shift finished (I love a bit of box shaking in front of a sea of strangers – good window into the general and varied demographic pouring into the place too. And how clever of me to have known to wear hot pink jeans. No chance of avoiding me!), I hit the streets, having breakfasted abstemiously on one solitary banana.

Damn, do they like a bit of sweetcorn in San Francisco. One of my favourite snacks, elote, Mexican style, is only served in very few places in London. Covered in chilli, lime and Mexican cheese, you pretty much don’t care that it has your teeth all trussed up with spicy kernels – you just want to devour it whole. Rows of corn occupied almost every grill at the Festival. I got mine from Los Cilantros.

Next, my eye was caught by 4505 Meats. Meat experts supreme – and purveyors of the lightest chicharrones I ever did taste. I ordered my Zilla dog and squealed as it arrived garlanded in the things! Good, toothsome ‘dog, deep and tangy kimchie sauce, marinated scallions in a bun with those suckers crowning them? Gave me plenty of energy to return to the crowds with vigor.

Past the Roli Roti guys with their ‘flying pieces of pork shrapnel’ and onto El Huarache Loco – one of La Cocina’s great success stories. Here I went for a taco Alhambre. I love tacos and must have eaten at least three a day whilst in San Francisco. This was full of that great combination of smoky charred meat, good rich salsa and pricked with the sublime tang of cilantro and lime.

And straight into the arms of another of my favourite things in the world – ceviche! Famed Peruvian San Francisco restaurant La Mar were kicking it with the street traders – playing by their rules – and much in demand for their sudden accessibility to all.

Of course this meant that I missed this…

Yes, it’s a fish taco trike. Wild. The guy has a grill at the front and pieces of fish in a refrigerated box. Once given their food punters can go to the table at the back of the bike and tuck into their snack. He also has a handy beer bottle holder to his left. I stood and watched for ages. This is classic street theatre – an interactive fun-mobile that does more than just dole out food. I want them in London. (Why shouldn’t we have them in London?)

As the sun came out those crowds showed no sign of abating. A band played, people strummed guitars, the replete began to dance and places rapidly began to sell out.


But hope was on the horizon – a gourmet S’more proposition. I dived in as though I hadn’t eaten in weeks…

This little sandwich of joy was from Kika’s Treats. I love how, unlike every single other stall, this one operated a trust system where no ticket was issued after payment. They figure that if you’re prepared to queue to pay and then queue to get your treat, you must be a good sort and tickets are therefore redundant.

After this latest mini-splurge I felt replete myself. I walked through the rest of the Festival sucking up the airborne bonhomie that seemed to be everywhere – even in the penned-in drinking zones (now that is a bit odd). The fact that people’s days were spent almost solely on standing in line didn’t seem to matter. What felt right and good about all this was that it brought together people who love to eat (i.e. everyone) in one space. This space felt like it belonged to us all. Nobody told us where to stand or queue or eat – we negotiated this amongst ourselves.

This is what a satisfactory urban experience feels like. It feels like you’re in amongst it. And this is a true mark of a city’s character. La Cocina, San Francisco – we salute you.