June 15, 2008

The Search for Flagstaff’s Top Dog

By Angele Sionna

Hot Dogs Tested:
Primo’s Hot Dogs
, 113 S San Francisco St
Mountain Top Dogs, 113 E. Birch (Hot Dog Stand on Northwest corner of Birch and San Francisco)
Route 66 Dog Haus, 1302 E. Route 66

The Food (taste/flavor/quality of food & drinks)
Primo’s Hot Dogs >>>>> = always great, unique, and flavorful no matter where you're from
Mountain Top Dogs >>> = good, but not great
Route 66 Dog Haus >> = mixed bag, can be good but can be bad, can’t count on it

The Atmosphere (environment, wait staff, comfortableness)
Primo’s Hot Dogs xxxxx= you'll love it
Mountain Top Dogs xxxxx= you'll love it
Route 66 Dog Haus x= if the food's good enough, still worth going, otherwise forget it

Price (what to generally expect to pay per person per entree)
Primo’s Hot Dogs = $ (Under $10)
Mountain Top Dogs = $ (Under $10)
Route 66 Dog Haus = $ (Under $10)

Value (what you get for your money)
Primo’s =
***** superb - lots of quality/taste for what you pay
Mountain Top Dogs = **** worth it - you won’t be disappointed with what you get for your money
Route 66 Dog Haus = *** fair -you get what you pay for, not in a bad way

With empty stomachs and a brown bag filled with two sodas, a water, and Poore Brother’s chips, my daughter, husband, and I loaded into the car on a mission: find the best dog in town. The stops on this two-mile road trip: Primo’s Hot Dogs, Mountain Top Dogs, and Route 66 Dog Haus. All three are known as the best in Flagstaff. But we wanted to know which was superior. To even the playing field, we opted to order the same “standard” all-beef hot dog at each location topped with mustard, ketchup, relish, and onions.

First up: Primo’s Hot Dogs, just south of the tracks downtown. Boasting Chicago-style dogs. Our hopes were really high. We used to live in Chicago and ate many a dog there. It would be hard to satisfy us.
Primo’s is a true hole in the wall joint. The door boasts seating for 1,000, four at a time. When you walk inside, you see what they mean. Four wooden bar stools line the wall on the right, a big menu board on the left.

I walked up to the counter and ordered the Easy Dog (mustard, relish, and onions) plus ketchup for $3 plus tax. It looked good. The bright green relish contrasted nicely with the crispy, diced white onion... with a little vivid red and yellow of the ketchup and mustard ever so slightly poking thru. It was pretty. So much so that it could be mistaken for a fake dog. But not too pretty to dive right in.

The ingredients were fresh. You could tell the bread was made today. The dog itself was plump, juicy, and flavorful. Just as it should be. Not soggy or dripping. The perfect proportion of toppings, bun, and dog. It exceeded the high expectations of our taste buds.

And vegetarians take note, Primo’s doesn’t want you to miss out on its goodness. They serve smart brand veggie dogs with any toppings for about the same price. In all, Primo’s has 14 types of hot dogs and sausages plus meat lover’s sandwiches and nachos. Enough choices to make everyone in the family happy and perfect for grabbing and going on a picnic on your way to the Grand Canyon if you’re just passing thru town. If you’re a local, Primo’s satisfies taste buds into the wee hours. They have hours late enough to pick up after the bars close for the college kids at Northern Arizona University down the street.
Primo’s may be a hole in the wall, but at least it has walls. Mountain Top Dogs, however, does not. It’s a true hot dog stand at the corner of Birch and San Francisco downtown about half a mile up the street from Primo’s. Only open when the weather’s good and run by the owner, Mountain Top Dogs is in a great location for tourists and business folks for lunch. Across the street is the old courthouse with a nicely manicured lawn and benches. Perfect for grabbing a seat and munching down a dog, which is what we did.

At Mountain Top Dogs, the hot dogs are flame grilled right in front of you. It’s the only one of the three places we tried that cooked the dogs on an open flame. Nice touch. It’s also the only place where you add your own toppings. That’s something that makes this stop fun for the kids. We loaded up our dogs and plopped down under a tree in the grass across the street.

The dog was a little less flavorful and not as thick as the one we had a Primo’s minutes before, but we liked the smoky flavor that comes from the grilling. The condiments were standard, just like the ones you’d have at a back yard cookout at home. But you can taste the personal touch and care of the owner in every bite.

My daughter loved her dog and sitting in the grass to eat it. (Grass being something we don’t have a lot of up here in northern Arizona.) But it’s a good thing we had baby wipes in the car. Not surprisingly, she got enough mustard and ketchup all over herself to need six of them and we forgot to pick up napkins at the hot dog stand. Still, she finished the whole thing lickity-split... something that doesn’t happen often with this picky little eater.

Mountain Top Dog has a handful of dog and sausage choices ranging from $2 for a standard hot dog up to five for a hand bacon-wrapped and grilled quarter pound dog. A claim to fame for Mountain Top. And you can upgrade to a combo for a buck and a half more. The prices are definitely a plus for families!

On to our final stop. The Route 66 Dog Haus is about a mile and a half east of downtown. It’s a little outside of the tourist hub and in a louder location with lots of cars quickly whizzing by, but we’d read good things about this place. We were anxious try it out and had saved enough room to have one more dog split between us.

The Dog Haus is housed in a red A-frame building. It looks like it could be one of those old buildings that the Wienerschnitzel fast food chain uses. You can walk up and place your order or drive thru. And I do mean drive thru. Cars pull up to the window in the center of the building. A novelty that catches kids eyes. Seating is limited to a few cement tables with umbrellas. Though with it being on the busy Route 66, it’s not very inviting or safe for small children.

We chose to drive thru and had to wait ten minutes for about three cars to get their orders in front of us. Too long in my opinion. With gas costing what it does these days, I opted to turn the car off instead of idling for so long.

When it was our turn to order, the woman on the other end of the speaker seemed to know less about the menu then I did. I decided to try fries with our dog and wondered how much larger the large was. To that she replied, “The large has more fries.” Oh, thanks. No help there. I went for the small with our all beef hot dog and the same toppings as the other places. But I was already feeling iffy about this one.

When we finally got to the window. The cashier had the wrong total and was confused. When I asked how much the hot dog by itself cost, she said, “I don’t know we just raised the prices. I don’t eat hot dogs anyway.” Not reassuring. The total ended up being $4.03. The dog itself, according to the receipt, was $2.35 plus tax. We exchanged money for the food and drove off to eat in the parking lot to chow down.

We opened up the bag and the hot dog packaging, to find ingredients oozing all over the place. The bun was super-soaked and soggy. I was not expecting much when I bit in at this point. It did not have the beauty of the first dog or the flame-broiled smell of the second. I took a bite and was pleasantly surprised. It wasn’t as good as the first two, but it tasted much better than it looked. You could tell that this one was just thrown together by people who don’t take much pride in their work. There was too much of the overly sweet onions and relish... ironically making this drive-thru joint the only place where the dog isn’t driver friendly.

With the sogginess of our dog and down right bad service, the Dog Haus is now in our doghouse. We may go back to try their breakfast burritos, which are supposed to be great. But, we heard all that before. That’s for another time and another article.

Overall, the mini road trip to Flagstaff’s most acclaimed hot dog spots proved that Primo’s lived up to its name. It’s the priciest dog, but it’s also the best one. We’ll definitely be stopping back in next time we’re in the mood for a classic Chicago experience. Mountain Top Dogs comes in at a solid second in taste but it’s probably the best of the three places we tried to take the family for dogs.

For more photos from these hotdog joints, go HERE.

1 comments:

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