Eatery - Dirt Dog (CA)
2528 S. Figueroa St. Los Angeles, CA 90007 (Neighborhood: University Park)
Pricing - $ | Dining - Casual, To-Go | Cuisine - Hot Dog
One of the iconic food items of Los Angeles when it comes to street food is the bacon-wrapped hot dog, a meal that has wound its way through the communities to even appear on television as the indulgent, underground meal of choice. Bacon lover? Why wouldn't you want that extra touch to your hot dog? There are plenty of other street food options found in the carts that move around LA too, and one spot that recently opened in University Park is looking to be home to those dishes. Dirt Dog is a newly opened eatery that focuses on the "dirt dog," the creators' own name for the bacon-wrapped dog, and the occasional sides (only "dirtified"). We decided to stop in one evening to check out how they spun the typically-on-the-street food into restaurant fare.
First impressions count, and the first takeaway we got from entering Dirt Dog was just how friendly and helpful the staff was. As it was our first time in, we were helped through the menu with some suggestions of popular orders and plenty of time to make our own decisions. We watched as people came in and out including (somehow) regulars even though the restaurant had been open for not too long. There were also several take-out orders, and every single customer was heartily greeted and helped. Design-wise, the interior had a good urban feel to it without being too edgy or dirtied up with graffiti. I only mention this considering the restaurant's name. Well-lit and spaced out, the room continued the tones of dark red and browns from the logo, and one entire wall was dedicated to a blown-up map of southern California where one could stick a flag of where they drove from.
We begun with some sides: Dirty Corn ($2.50 - grilled corn topped with crema, Cotija, cilantro, bacon bits, and chili powder) and Dirty Fries ($2.50 - 3/8" cut skin-in fries fried in beef tallow and tossed in a housemade limon chile seasoning served with "ketchatio" - chile ketchup with Tapatio). The other options on their purposefully small menu were Dirty Chips and Dirty Fresh Cut Fruit. The Dirty Corn was oddly not sweet despite that we were in the peak of summer corn season. We both thought that it could have done with a liquid sauce instead of so many dry ingredients which just fell off with bites instead of stayed with the corn. The bacon bits were especially hard to keep on. As for the fries, while they were good when we were able to find hot ones, the horizontal arrangement of freshly fried potatoes led to soggy pieces since they steamed up all on each other. Perhaps setting them vertically would have helped. Otherwise, they were fairly standard with a bit of flavor imparted from the beef tallow.
The sides did not impress us so we were hoping that the signature items - the hot dogs - would win our attention. Each of their four offered Dirt Dogs are made with a 100% Premium All Beef Nathan's 5/1 dog wrapped in center-cut bacon with the option of being set in a traditional, Portugese, or lobster roll (+extra) bun. We went for their House Dirt Dog on Traditional Bun ($5.95 - bun spread with green chile spread, onions and bell peppers in housemade Thousand Island bacon sauce, and topped with ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise, and bacon bits) and Green Dirt Dog on Portugese Bun ($5.95 - guacamole spread on bun, onions and bell peppers in housemade chimichurri, and topped with cilantro, lime slice, and bacon bits) with remaining options being their Red Dirt Dog of spicy tomato chile sauce with spicy mayo and the Brown Dirt Dog with teriyaki sauce with sweet mayo spread.
For both dogs, we were unable to distinguish the bacon because of the sheer amount of sauces. The actual dog was easy to pick out because it was so thick and cooked well but the bacon jacket it was to wear was only visible but hardly tangible. However, it was not completely necessary. The House dog was our preferred of the two because the combination of sauces came together into an indulgent mix. The house sauce must have been what brought it over the top because it was creamy, salt, and somewhat savory. The bacon bits hardly mattered here but the bell peppers were a welcome touch for this vegetal crunch and the sweetness they carried through. The Green dog was enjoyable as well when it came to the guacamole but the chimichurri was weak and too cilantro heavy; yet, the bell peppers once again shone. Both were certainly messy to eat and required several napkins to handle but that added to the charm of the place. Some elements overall were misses though but the restaurant is still on its newborn legs; we'll have to come back in another time to see what more they will be doing to their spot! Maybe we'll even try one of their seemingly fair-inspired desserts: Fried Twinkie, Fried Cookies, and Ice Cream Truck.
Photography by Duc Duong.