Sep 252011
 

Johnny’s is a place that has been around forever (since 1977) but hadn’t received much attention or respect, at least in my circles. That may have changed a little when His Doucheness Guy Fieri dropped by a while back on his “Kansas City Barbecue Tour” for Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.  This place came across very well on the program and the food looked great on TV, but everyone I know who had been there said Johnny’s just wasn’t very good.

Apparently not everyone feels that way, because when I stopped by recently, this fairly spacious BBQ joint on Broadmoor was full of people at the lunch hour. There is nothing to alarm the discerning barbecue diner upon entering. You order at a counter, jauntily accented with an old school menu board and a display of barbecue sauces that is dizzying in its comprehensiveness.

The staff persons are very friendly and helpful, particularly the owner who is typically present behind the counter expediting orders or out in the dining room delivering food. Simpler dishes like sliced meat sandwiches are presented right at the counter soon after ordering. Others are delivered to you out at your table.

Menu

The highly touted barbecued chicken is probably one of the better versions around town. As seen in the DDD video, it is smoked and then deep-fried to give the bird a relatively crisp crust. As a result, the chicken is much moister and has a pleasantly crunchy skin, unlike chickens I’ve had at other BBQ joints such as Zarda, who recently served me a dry-ish, flabby chicken that looked better but tasted worse than this one.

That being said, poultry is one of the most forgiving meats to smoke and I was hoping for more wood flavor from Johnny’s bird. While not among the best barbecue I’ve tasted, Johnny’s chicken had a hypnotizing effect on me, and I found myself stripping every piece of meat and gnawing on the bones. The portion is good too-a half chicken seems like a lot but really is only a pound and a half of meat which is rounded out perfectly by Johny’s decent baked beans which are cooked in the smoker but come across as a very traditional, molasses-flavored Boston-style baked bean.

Half chicken

beans

I suspect that the sauce turns a lot of barbecue purists off. It is extremely red, more pronounced than the color of ketchup and is applied liberally to most dishes unless you request that it be left off. While not particularly assertive, it has a distinctive tanginess that complements lighter meats better than beef or ribs. Some diners assume that the sauce is inferior because of its color while I find it acceptable, certainly better than the oddly sweet stuff at the otherwise superior RJ’s up the road.

The fries are nothing special: crinkle-cut frozen numbers that get the job done but really should be better considering the competition from other barbecue joints like Arthur Bryant’s and Oklahoma Joe’s who dish out superb, hand-cut fries.

The burnt ends are prepared well but lack the smoky punch that I expect from the best barbecue. The sandwich comes on a soft hoagie roll, topped with red onions and pickle slices, all of which are utterly unnecessary and ridiculous. At my core I feel that barbecue should be meat, sauce and white bread.

Burnt Ends

The decor is alas, drab as hell, reminiscent of a chain diner like Waid’s. The walls are sadly devoid of much artwork and the furniture is pure, cheap commercial dreck: Formica tables, vinyl booths, industrial carpeting.

Interior

The service is great here all around. The owner is very active in the daily operations and is typically out on the floor delivering food and making sure people are happy. At the risk of being indelicate, I should point out that Johnny’s employs a couple of developmentally disabled bus-people, a practice that I whole-heartedly endorse and appreciate. Those who have worked with such people (as I have have) or have them in your family (which I do) realize that providing a source of income is extremely important in contributing to their quality of life and promoting independence and self-sufficiency. One of the bus-women noticed that my paper towels had run out and chatted with me while replacing them with a fresh roll. I’ve never had a bus-person introduce herself to me before, but she did, and I found it a delightful exchange. Johnny’s gets big kudos for giving an opportunity to people who are often overlooked.

In general, this place is a lot better than I was led to believe, but not among the brightest lights of KC barbecue. I think Johnny’s is legitimate and probably unworthy of ridicule. It’s certainly worth a visit for those who want to familiarize themselves with the range of barbecue available in the area.

Johnny’s hickory House Bar-B-Que
5959 Broadmoor St
Shawnee Mission, KS 66202
www.johnnysbbqkc.com
(913) 432-0777

Johnny's Hickory House Bar-B-Q on Urbanspoon

Aug 292011
 

Update: Now called iPho Tower!

I don’t normally review chain restaurants on this blog, but as Mr. Ferruzza has pointed out, Pho Hoa is run much more like an independent restaurant. It fits nicely into the spectrum of Vietnamese joints on the near northeast side, and is perhaps a little hipper and more boisterous.

Exterior

Interior

Interior

The decor is not necessarily modern but it doesn’t incorporate the kitschy, old lady aesthetic that many Asian restaurants do. As many have noted, Pho Hoa is difficult to locate from the street, but that doesn’t seem to have stopped many people from finding it. My visits have found it quite busy, patronized by youthful Vietnamese, curious suburban whiteys, students from the nearby medical college and even some older folks. The sea of tables in the main dining room creates quite the upbeat atmosphere, as do the host of young employees who seem to share all duties, from hosting and sandwich-making to food running and bussing. One fairly clueless server with a poor grasp of English took our orders, but we were equally attended by other workers who delivered our drinks, appetizers and food, and others still who delivered our check and we found them quick and friendly.

The house special banh mi is quite delicious, although a little too sweet for my taste. Having tasted a similar version from Kim Long’s I find I prefer that sandwich.

Banh Mi

The namesake Pho was good, and featured the best treatment of tendon that I have ever tasted. We were disappointed not to see the accompanying plate of bean spouts and herbs that always come with Pho, undoubtedly an oversight due to the busyness of the place and the odd division (or lack of division) of labor.

Pho

The food all came out at different times, and the Pho was last, making it less desirable to ask for the accompaniments since we were already full. Indeed my partner received her drink almost immediately while I waited quite a while for my avocado shake. I made it through an order of spring rolls (they call them summer rolls) before I received it. The shake was only slightly sweet, but silky, rich and delicious. The avocado flavor was not particularly strong but I really enjoyed the beverage and would order it again. In general, I was a little disappointed at not receiving our dishes in any order that made sense.

Avocado Shake

Summer Rolls

Nothing at Pho Hoa struck me as being any better looking or tasting than other Vietnamese spots in Columbus Park. The selection of banh mi is a selling point for sure, but better Pho can be had almost anywhere else in town, particularly Hien Vuong in the City Market, Vietnam Cafe and Sung Son in Westport. I feel likewise about the spring rolls and the banh mi. But Pho Hoa does offer all these items under one roof and in a perfectly acceptable style.

Pho Hoa Noodle Soup on Urbanspoon

Aug 242011
 

The folks at Original Pizza know what they are doing. The guys who work behind the counter have exactly the demeanor to handle the significant lunchtime rush at this spot near Corporate Woods in Overland Park–jokey, effusive and quick-witted. The ordering process works well enough, although it can be hard to fully process the range of pizza slices available behind the counter when there is a line behind you.

Counter

Those who order salads step aside to the front of the counter where you can choose from among a dozen or so toppings for the tepid pile of iceberg and romaine lettuce. Not a great salad, but at least there is choice involved.

When original Pizza is firing on all cylinders, it’s hard to beat their slices. This is thin-crust pizza served in large-ish New York style triangles.

Pizza

Pizza

Despite looking somewhat undercooked on the top, the slices in the photo above have crispy, scorched crusts. You can order thick-crust (Sicilian-style) pieces but they are not nearly as delicious.

Sicilian style

All pies are premade and stored in the deli case. Upon ordering, slices are put into the oven for a minute or two to crisp up. This is not only a common practice among pizzerias, but one that effectively balances freshness with quickness. If there is a small line, your slices will probably be ready by the time you pay and help yourself to a fountain drink. My preference is to order the slices well-done, which can take a couple minutes longer. The guys here have a tendency to pull slices out of the oven too quickly which can deprive diners of the joy of a fully crispy bottom crust. So I recommend asking them to keep it in the oven a few more minutes.

But this pizza evokes the classic New York style unlike any other I’ve had in Kansas City. Order a plain cheese and see if you don’t agree. Interestingly Original Pizza has a location in the Oak Park Mall which is highly regarded by some. I actually ate there once and couldn’t get past the utter drudgery of eating in a food court. I also remember the plain, premade salad and the undercooked pizza being inferior to the flagship location.

Original Pizza

Original Pizza has a number of other Italian menu offerings but in limited varieties: sausage stromboli, ham and cheese calzone, and a very good meatball sandwich on excellent crusty bread. The sub is hard to eat, but worth ordering. While not perfect, Original Pizza is a highly worthy lunch spot in the heart of Overland Park, perhaps better suited than any other to satisfy a pizza craving.

Original Pizza & Pasta on Urbanspoon

Aug 202011
 

Sobahn on Shawnee Mission Parkway west of Metcalf is probably the best of the five or so Korean restaurants the Kansas City metro has to offer. Cho-sun, Choga, Rainbow and Kokoro Maki House are the only other places that offer decent Korean dishes in town, but I think Sobahn surpasses them all.

I was privvy to an off-menu private dinner at Sobahn earlier this year which enabled me to experience the full extent of their skill, but rest assured the regular offerings present a number of enticing options for casual lunch diners. As is the case for most Korean restaurants, lunch at Sobahn will cost a few dollars more than your average lunch spot, and it may take a little longer to get in and out.

Fans of meat will find plenty of pleasing items on the lunch menu including the region’s most delicious beef bulgogi, pork (jaeyukk bokkeum) and short ribs (tong galbi) which arrive on sizzling cast iron trays, accompanied by rice and banchan, the traditional side dishes that typically include kimchi among other pickled or fermented foodstuffs. Banchan are never quite the same on each visit, and recently I’ve found them a little less pungent and spicy than I prefer. Sobahn does prepare delicious Korean pancakes which can be stuffed with any number of items, including kimchi, and is usually served with a thin, tangy sauce.

Jaeyuk Bokkeum

Banchan

Service can be hit or miss at Sobahn. On my last visit, I had to wait a full ten minutes before being seated, and a good fifteen minutes to get my check after plates had been cleared. I was also charged dinner prices during lunch hour, which was hard to argue with since I received the large portion due to a misunderstanding and ate it all. Regardless the server was eager to please that day, and talked to me at some length about the food and my personal tastes with regard to Korean cuisine. Perhaps I’m not the average diner, I don’t know, but most ethnic restaurants would do well not to assume the worst about their white American patrons. In general, Sobahn does well in this respect.

While I’ve eaten a fair amount of Korean food over the years and tried a number of items at Sobahn, this strikes me as a menu that contains many pleasures for the uninitiated diner.

Korean Restaurant Sobahn on Urbanspoon

Lunch on Independence Square

 Posted by at 6:20 pm
Aug 142011
 

Those who follow me on Twitter know that I served on a jury a few weeks back. Unlike more fortunate people who served downtown for awesome murder cases, I had to truck out to Independence every day to help settle a civil matter.  I don’t head out east very often and from what I hear that side of the metro excels at drive-in burger shacks like Mugs-Up and Teresa’s Drive-In. Normally that’s not a problem but this was during the heat wave and I drive a car with non-functioning air conditioning. So I stuck to Independence Square for the few meals I did eat there and came away largely unimpressed.

Cafe Verona is the obvious choice for someone wanting good food, so naturally I didn’t go there. The place didn’t exactly get ringing endorsements anyway. I had been to Ophelia’s several years ago and, while I don’t recall the specifics of the experience, I know that I didn’t care for the food, ambiance, or the service.

Exterior

Ruling out those two basically leaves Square Pizza. This place has very pleasant decor and a jaunty vibe, with black and white checked floors and yellow and red color scheme. The fellow manning the cash register was extremely friendly and helpful as I tried to figure out what to order.

Square Pizza

There are only a few kinds of pizza available as individual slices. On that day it was cheese, pepperoni, and “supreme.” These are fairly large pieces in the deep-dish style. The crust is extremely doughy and soft, reminiscent of Pizza Hut pan pizza. It didn’t taste bad, it was just an utter gutbomb. The salads are actually pretty good for a pizzeria. I mean, there was actually a cucumber of my salad – cucumber, in a pizza place!

Pizza & Salad

Square Pizza on Urbanspoon

Around the corner The Rheinland serves up a small menu of traditional German food and hearty sandwiches in a space with the decorative sensibility of someone who is at least 112 years old. Frilly curtains and white china don’t make me want to mow down on sausages, chug beer and revel in Aryan superiority like your average festive German. The Knackwurst was fine, if a bit chewy and salty. My plate was rounded out by some very nice tart potato salad with bacon and a pile of sauerkraut. The roll that came with the meal was among the worst tings i have ever put in my mouth. Dense, stale, chewy and gross.

Knackwurst

Rheinland on Urbanspoon

Wanting a simple sandwich one day, I popped into Dave’s Bakery and Deli, practically next door to Square Pizza. Dave’s is old school in the sense that it seems unfazed by culinary developments of the last three decades. It is a simple dining area, anchored by a long bakery counter and cash register. This is a place to get a cheap sandwich and a coffee from a styrofoam cup. A display case under the register offers an assortment of cigarettes and chewing gum available for purchase. This strikes me as a basic, blue collar joint with a huge menu but average food.

Ham Sandwich

I had a ham sandwich on wheat bread that was so fluffy and chewy, it might as well have been white bread. Only mayonnaise and yellow mustard were available as condiments, since dijon is clearly too fancy for a place like this. The Swiss cheese looked and tasted like white American cheese. Basically we are talking about very cheap ingredients here. But I didn’t hate it, and it was easy on the wallet.

I wanted to make it to Courthouse Exchange but couldn’t squeeze it in. Any other places on the Square I should have tried?

Daves Bakery & Deli on Urbanspoon

Aug 082011
 

This building has housed more decent Mexican restaurants in the last five years than I can count. Actually, wait, I can count them. Tarahumara started there and later moved to 87th and Farley before closing a year or two ago. Later Coyoacan/Tamales to Go moved into 5816 Merriam Drive, giving way to Pollo Loco, then La Cabana del Pollo, and now, Carmen’s Cocina. I have been a somewhat muted fan of all of these establishments over the years, but I think Carmen’s may actually survive longer than a year because it demonstrates a little bit of business savvy and some very good, if slightly adulterated Mexican fare.

Exterior

First of all, this place is cheap. I went there last week and got three soft tacos, a Mexican Coke and a basket of chips and salsa for $5.95. The menu is significantly scaled back from previous incarnations: tacos, gorditas, enchiladas, burritos, and cheese fries, wait–cheese fries? Yes, this is an extremely curious addition to an otherwise authentic Mexican palette but don’t let it bother you, just ignore it.

Interior

Unlike other restaurants in this space, Carmen’s asks diners to order and pay at the counter. Table service never worked really well in this joint since the dining area is out of view of the kitchen. After you order, one of the nice folks will bring a basket of freshly fried corn tortilla chips and a generous bowl of salsa to the table. These are among the best chips and salsa you will experience in Kansas City. The chips, as I mentioned, are fried to order or shortly before, and are thicker and more lightly salted than those from a bag. The salsa is a thinner variety with good heat and a nice tomato and chile flavor. Truly excellent and free.

Chips

Carmen’s typically offers a special (of which the aforementioned 3 taco deal was one) and they are sometimes quite enticing. For instance while tamales are not typically on the menu, they do offer them periodically as specials. I’m kicking myself for not trying them when they were offered on a visit a couple months ago.

Tamales

Nontheless, the meats are very good. My only complaint is that they are sometimes a little dry as the carnitas were on my last visit. The offer a very tasty shredded beef–known as desebrada at other Mexican restaurants-which could use a little moisture but is very well flavored. The chicken “fajita” meat is absolutely delicious though somewhat unusual for tacos. It consists of white meat, marinated in lime, chiles and spices, grilled to juicy perfection. I usually prefer a more homestyle shredded or picked chicken but I can’t argue with the taste of Carmen’s pollo. This place is somewhat geared toward the American taste profile so you’ll find no lengua, cabeza or tripe on the menu. These tacos come with a layer of melted cheese on the bottom of the tortilla which is wholly unnecessary tastewise, but serves to keep the moisture from eating through the bottom of the taco. They also come with a little  tomato and sometimes lettuce in addition to onions and cilantro which is somewhat unusual.

Tacos

Don’t miss the gorditas. For a little more than the price of a tacos, you can get a lovely little meat pocket which makes for a nice accompaniment to a taco or two on days when you are a little more hungry.

Tacos and gordita

As previous tenants have been, this place appears to be a family-operated business. A white guy typically takes orders and works the register. A couple of Latina women and a teenage girl work the back of the house, while a really young kid wanders around and occasionally helps out by delivering baskets of chips to tables. These folks are very friendly and I assume that they are related to one another in some fashion or another. Having a meal at Carmen’s will make you happy that you are supporting these folks.

Carmen's Cocina on Urbanspoon

Aug 062011
 

Pretty much any town in the United States has a serviceable Chinese restaurant or two. Hell, even bad Chinese places can cook up frozen egg rolls and pre-made lo mein with inoffensive results. But buffets turn me off, particularly when it comes to Chinese food which is best eaten quickly after cooking. In Kansas City Bo Ling’s has a stranglehold on the sit-down casual Chinese market, but there are other decent places out there, some of them offering a much quicker and cheaper lunch experience, without a lunch buffet.

Out in Lenexa, Rice House does a steady business of takeout from a tiny building on W. 87th street near Lackman road. They do have four tables and five small booths for in-house diners, and surprisingly have table service for those patrons.

Update: It appears that Rice House has caved in to the allure of the lunch buffet. I haven’t had it.

Interior

The lunch specials are very cheap, a number of them go for $4.95, and come with soup and spring roll or crab rangoon. The hot and sour soup at Rice House is among the best I’ve had, with chunks of pork, ribbons of egg and a very rich broth. It was not overly sour which frankly I prefer. The chicken with garlic sauce I ordered came out very quickly and despite the presence of loathsome baby corn, was quite satisfying. Part of the appeal of Chinese food is that it typically hits your mouth within one minute of leaving the hot wok.

Hot & sour soup

Chicken with garlic sauce

Rice House on Urbanspoon

Just east of Rice House lies Babo Teriyaki, an Asian joint that serves Japanese, Vietnamese and Thai inspired dishes in addition to a very typical Chinese menu. But I haven’t had any Chinese food here. Babo sits right next door to Callahan’s and must be a welcome respite from pizza, burgers and chicken wings for those who work nearby.

Exterior

I had to try a Vietnamese dish since this cuisine is hard to find in that part of the metro after Cafe Song’s demise a couple years ago.

Alas the noodle bowl I had there was not quite right, although it looked beautiful.

Bun Thit Nuong

Containing a tougher cut of beef with a minerally undertone and bad texture, the bowl was pretty disappointing. The nước chấm, poured over the top of the dish, was too sour and tasted like the subpar versions I’ve created at home. There was a lot of liquid at the bottom of the bowl too. In general, not a great choice.

The spicy pork teriyaki I ordered on the other hand, was excellent and attractively presented, as was the yakiudon with chicken. My advice? Stick with the Japanese menu items.

Spicy pork loin teriyaki

Babo Teriyaki on Urbanspoon

Fortune Palace, just west of Quivira, is by far the nicest-looking of these three spots, and it has the best food too. A dramatically-lit bar area and recessed chandelier make this restaurant veritably suitable for date-night. Everything I’ve tried here has been prepared well and tasted good. The General Tso’s chicken, a very guilty pleasure for me, is fantastic, lightly breaded, crunchy and doused in an incredibly rich, spicy and sweet sauce. The twice cooked pork may be even better.

General Tso's Chicken

Twice Cooked Roast Pork

Lunch specials include the area’s best egg drop soup or very good hot and sour, and your choice of crab rangoon or egg roll for $6.95.

Egg Drop Soup

And the service is very attentive and friendly. I’m hoping this place stays around a long while. Located steps from Flavors of India and Cafe Augusta, this aging strip mall is a solid lunchtime destination.

Fortune

Fortune Palace on Urbanspoon

Chinese options on 87th street, a bustling Johnson County thoroughfare at lunch hour, are generally very good. I didn’t even mention the illustrious Lucky Wok which is notable for its Chinese menu, not the substandard buffet. There may even be another joint I’m forgetting or have yet to visit. Feel free to comment and let me know what those may be, or if you have other Chinese places without buffets that you like, shout it out.

New Feed for KC Lunch Spots

 Posted by at 2:57 am
Jul 252011
 

Greetings folks. I have migrated Kansas City Lunch Spots from Blogger over to a self-hosted WordPress installation. I should have done this a long time ago. Old links to specific reviews will no longer work and the feed URL will be different if you used the blogger feed. If you subscribe to the blog in a feed reader check your subscriptions and change to http://feeds.feedburner.com/kclunchspots/IgnZ if necessary

Gordita and taco

The site looks a lot better and will be easier to manage and navigate. Rest assured, despite the fact that I haven’t been good about posting consistently this year, I do have lots of reviews waiting in the wings. Thank you everyone for your support.

Jun 292011
 

I made a weekend jaunt out to Philos Grill recently with high hopes. The admittedly scant information I dug up about it indicated that this place dished out tasty, Greek-inspired diner food from a counter. Located on the city’s east side on the once-great thoroughfare of Truman Road, I expected an old school joint and I got it.

Exterior

The place is a classic urban pit stop, featuring a huge menu and a confoundingly schizophrenic interior.

Interior

Interior

The walls are covered with a combination of handwritten signs, promotional materials straight from food vendors, cheap European tchotkes, and faux nostalgic elements including a huge mural featuring Marilyn Monroe, James Dean, Humphrey Bogart and a crazed Elvis in a sort of re-imagining of Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks.

Interior

Mural

Adjacent to the counter is a small area with condiments, a small tabletop ice machine and the cheapest plastic utensils known to humankind. There is no beverage fountain, just a cooler of Coca-Cola and a few random off-brand sodas. There are also several arcade games, at least one of which was out of order on my visit.

The gentleman at the counter, who I can only assume was the owner, was a surly sort, not one to make small talk or sell you on anything from the extensive menu. And boy what a menu. It offers everything you’d expect like gyros, Greek salads, burgers, and chicken wings but also strays into dubious territory with offerings like spaghetti, steak dinners and pulled pork. My take on Philos Grill is that the owner falls for every new product that his Sysco sales rep pitches to him. I saw slick posters for a ton of menu items that are likely purchased already made, frozen, bagged or cryo-vacced, and heated up to order. There is no way the Grumpy Greek is smoking meat or aging steaks. To me, this was a warning sign that I was going to get mass-produced, premade food.

So I ordered a gyro, seeing the skewered Kronos gyros meat cone behind the counter. Some salad, some hummus rounded out the meal. Once it arrived, delivered after a perplexing 15 or 20 minutes in flimsy styrofoam containers I was admittedly disappointed. I recognized not just the meat, but the pita as being a packaged, frozen product. I’ll bet the tzatziki sauce came from a jar too. The Greek salad was comprised of iceberg lettuce (perhaps prewashed, from a bag) topped with a mushy stuffed grape leaf, a couple of black olives and some onions and stuff. The gyros and the salads were both dusted with smoked paprika, a bitter and offputting element to say the least. The paprika, mixed with the brownish dressing created the appearance of eating a salad well-past its prime, despite the fact that the lettuce was sufficiently crunchy and fresh-tasting.

Greek salad

Gyros

The restaurant was also pretty dirty, not something I normally like to complain about. But the owner had at least two guys there on the payroll to buss tables and stock the condiment area. The floor and half the tables in the joint had food detritus on them. A couple of ancient televisions rounded out the ambiance, playing an infomercial through a staticky haze.

Philos Grill is old-school for sure, but it represents a class of restaurant that we would just as soon forget. There is ample opportunity for a reasonably priced counter service diner in this neighborhood, and Philos may in fact be doing very well, but they can do a lot better.

Philos Grill on Urbanspoon

May 212011
 

It has only been a few short months since the New York Dawg Pound popped up on Shawnee Mission Parkway like a beacon, shining through the darkness of the economic downturn.

Exterior

There are a few places around town to get a good hotdog: Dog Nuvo, Pizza Man, Clay’s Curbside Grill and some other joints that dish out a serviceable sausage of one kind or another. This places focuses on hot dogs; with the variety of specialty restaurants that seem to pop up daily around town, this was no surprise. In fact I’m surprised in didn’t happen sooner.

Actually it did happen sooner at a little joint called Relish that closed before I could eat there. If specialty hot dogs can’t survive in Westport, can they make it in a nondescript shack on a busy suburban thoroughfare?

Yes they can.

Stop by the Dawg Pound at noon on a weekday and see if you don’t find the joint hopping. It’s not exactly Oklahoma Joe’s but it’s clear that these guys are doing a very good business these days. And why not? They offer a varied but manageable menu of fancified hot dogs and a few sides for very reasonable prices.

Exterior

This place is hard to see from the street, even if you are looking for it. It lies is a free-standing building just east of Sobahn Korean restaurant and sort of across from Parkway Liquors.

Interior

The counter operation works well. You order from one person who compiles your dog, placing it on either a plain or poppy seed bun and topping it with anything from cheese sauce to peanut butter. A second employee asks about your choice of sides: fries, cole slaw, onion straws or sweet potato fries make up the heart of the choices.

By the time you get to the end of counter and pay for your lunch, a tray of deliciousness is delivered. Drinks, straws, napkins, utensils are all a self-service operation. They even have dispensers for the plasticware. Be sure to grab plenty of napkins because this food is seriously messy.

Utencil dispenser

The “Bulldog,” topped with chili, cheese sauce, mustard and onion proved to be one of the most frustrating things I have ever eaten, as the bottom of the bun disintegrated, causing the dog to slide around like a greased pig.

Dog w/ Chili, Cheese, Mustard & Onion

But I conquered that greased pig and while I found the cheese to be somewhat overwhelming, I enjoyed it a great deal.

Dog w/ Chili, Cheese, Mustard & Onion

I don’t recommend the onion straws as a side dish. They are simply too insubstantial to eat effectively, and the greasiness lent by a mouthful of the things can be unpleasant. The onion straws work much better as a judiciously applied topping, such as on the “Ol’ Blue,” accompanied by BBQ sauce and a dill pickle spear.

Ol' Blue

I also enjoyed this dog, but wish that they would use Gates sauce rather than the run of the mill, generic tasting sauce. It would be a nice local tie-in and would taste even better.

The “Spike” is probably my favorite specialty dog on the menu. It features sauerkraut, spicy mustard and “onions in sauce” which are slightly sweet sauteed onions in a mysterious reddish liquid.

The "Spike"

The Dawg Pound also offers bratwurst, Italian sausages and a veggie dogs which cab be prepared with any of the toppings. I tried the brat with the “Spike” preparation and found it just as good as before, though the sausage itself was a little mild in flavor for my taste.

Brat

The fries here are solid, likely a higher quality frozen product. For 2 bucks you’ll get a cute little paper bag full of the things. I opted for the Asian-style cole slaw one day and found it a little under-flavored, but still a respectable accompaniment to a good hot dog.

The interior is bright but no frills, simply a sea of tables occupied by smiling, hungry suburbanites. The floor has been stripped and treated in a weird way, causing it to be a little sticky. A minor complaint I know, but it always feels like someone spilled Coke underfoot.

Interior

Generally this place has good vibes, I think because the owners enjoy themselves. They are both friendly guys and it comes through in the oeuvre of the restaurant. One day during lunch a customer led the entire restaurant in singing “Happy Birthday” to his wife. At another joint this may have been an annoyance, but at the New York Dawg Pound it’s just par for the course.

New York Dawg Pound on Urbanspoon