Sandwich of the Week: HD1’s Eastbound & Down Hot Dog
Remember Humphrey Bogart’s great old line? No, not, "We’ll always have Paris." We mean the unscripted one, the one about the frankfurter: "A hot dog at the ballpark is better than steak at the Ritz," he once said. And while it’s true that Americans consumed almost 23 million hot dogs in baseball stadiums last year, not a single one of those could have been as quirkily delicious as this pulled pork, slaw, and barbecue sauce-drenched number from Atlanta’s HD1.
Who tops a hot dog with Carolina-style pulled pork? None other than Richard Blais, the so-called "mad scientist" and Top Chef All-Stars winner — and massive fan of Kenny Powers, the fictitious downtrodden former star pitcher who is at the center of HBO’s cult comedy Eastbound & Down, set in the real place of Shelby County, N.C. Although Blais is widely known for his ease with the liquid nitrogen tank and his affinity for sous vide cooking, the chef’s passion actually rests in the rediscovery of American classics — take his mini-chain of gourmet burger joints, Flip Burger, and now HD1, his modernist, open-tabled, and grungy-chic homage to hot dogs (the initials stand for "Haute Doggery").
Aiming for that sweet spot where "comfort food" intersects with "gastro pub," Blais spins out a menu of funky dogs handmade at Patak Bohemian Meats, a shop in nearby Austell, Ga., and lays each one in a "Ghanaian sugarloaf" bun whose dough is spiced with mace and nutmeg from local bakery La Baguette. And although nearly everything on the short menu is both amusing and tasty — an also-ran for "Sandwich of the Week" title is a merguez number topped with currant-chunked tzatziki sauce — it’s the "Eastbound" that keeps us coming back.
Like Kenny Powers himself, the dog is a messy, Southern-fried, and decidedly un-politically correct thing. And that’s what’s so fun about it: The pulled pork is correctly spiked with vinegar, the slaw is sweet without being cloying, and the "mop" sauce gives a zesty hit of tang. It’s a guilty pleasure if ever there was one. Enjoy it with a "craft can" of beer from the restaurant’s list (the Second Wind Pale Ale from Mother Earth Brewing Company in Kinston, N.C., is particularly right for this frank). For dessert: a two-buck cup of soft-serve ice cream — hope it’s "Whoppers candy" day.
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