THE PLACE: The folks at Bam! Dog Righteous Hot Dogs are not minimalists. Not for them a simple squiggle of ketchup or swipe of mustard or dollop of relish. For them, less is not more.
Instead, these folks are maximalists, devotees of the culinary baroque, celebrants of the myriad ways in which hot dogs can be supplied, loaded and topped with ingredients. I think they would call this approach righteous, as the restaurant’s name suggest.
Toys “R” Us might dominate the western half of the Smithridge Center, where the restaurant sits, but from the look of the menu, the real playtime occurs next door at Bam Dog.
BAM! DOG RIGHTEOUS HOT DOGS
Address: 5000 Smithridge Drive, in the Smithridge Center next to Toys R Us
Hours: 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily
On the web:www.bamdoghotdogs.com
What’s $10 or less: Everything but the full order of wings ($13)
THE LOOK: The restaurant occupies a storefront space that once housed Momiji Ramen, a noodle shop with famously random hours.
Inside the family owned Bam Dog, signs variously offering hot dog trivia and history garnish one wall. Across the small dining room, a menu meticulously detailing the construction of 15 different dogs stretches along another wall. You order at the counter, maybe adding some extras like wings or sliders.
THE MEAL: Late the other morning, I meet a friend (Blonde No. 1, for you longtime readers) at Bam Dog for an early lunch. By noon, the handful of tables and a shallow counter are filled.
“So what’s this vegan thing?” a guy asks a table of co-workers after one of them describes being unable to avoid ingredient terror during a recent trip to L.A.
That’s one fella, I think, who’s not going to be getting the Veggie Delight soy jumbo hot dog. Nor, for that matter, am I. Nor is Blonde No. 1.
Beyond that, we can’t decide. A New York Bomber, an All-American Picnic, the Cheeseburger in Paradise — the names alone keep our eyes skittering across the menu board.
The Buffalo Bill, a sort of Buffalo wing experience between the bun, finally convinces me: chicken kielbasa, house-baked roll, shredded carrot, chopped celery, blue cheese dressing, spurts of hot sauce.
My friend succumbs to the blandishments of the Wisconsin Cheesehead, enthusiastically reciting its ingredients: Great Basin pale ale and cheddar bratwurst, housemade poppy seed roll, macaroni and cheese (yup), and a flurry of chopped bacon, green onion and Roma tomatoes.
Our starter, a gooey jumble of chili cheese tots, arrives at the same time as the main events, so we alternate hoisting our hot dogs with bites of tater. A pile of napkins rises between us.
KUDOS: The creativity of the dogs deserves its due. Counter ordering, which could easily be impersonal, is very friendly. The housemade rolls are a nice touch, and those tots are dangerous. Plus, every menu item save one is less than $10 (as in $8 or less).
QUIBBLES: The toppings can obscure the flavors of the dog underneath (I like mine best eating some dog, some topping, a bit of bun, repeat). Also, not a quibble, but I’d like to try the buns soft instead of toasted, as they’re served.
ALTERNATIVES: New York bomber (beef brisket dog, sauerkraut, onions) for $5; a Texas Throw Down (beef brisket dog, chili, cheese, jalapeños) for $6; or a Little City Roller (Basque chorizo dog, grilled vegetables, cumin lime crema) for $7.
RETURN TRIP?: Yes. I want to try a soft bun.