If there is any type of culinary related snobbery going on in my life, I will readily admit to it when it comes to hot dogs. I am also slightly obsessed with sampling as many regional variations as possible, always comparing them to my beloved Detroit Coney Islands, Skyline in Ohio, the classic dirty water street vendor dog in NYC, and the recently discovered Dodger Dog. Hot dogs are about as USA as it gets and evoke the same passions as just about any food around. I’ve had fierce debates with friends who insisted on adding anything but pure yellow mustard to their Tiger Stadium Ball Park hot dog years ago, which still ranks as the best stadium dog I’ve had. That’s why I was delighted to hear about the Dog House Diner outside of the Encinitas Home Depot.
Sandy Cherman bought the former hot dog vendor out and transformed it from a decent hot dog stand into a hot dog nirvana that also has other regional specialties like Philly Cheesesteaks, BLT’s, a full-on soda fountain, and a breakfast burrito that has cracked my top 3 list. The Dog House Diner is the vision of Sandy and his family who moved to Carlsbad from New York 6 years ago after retiring from a 33 year career in the garment business. He worked as a short order cook in high school and college and began living his dream of owning a restaurant when he bought the current location in 2009. He collaborated with his son Justin, a CIA graduate, to create the menu of authentic specialty hot dogs from around the country. Sandy shares my passion for this type of food and backs it up by buying authentic ingredients found in the regional specialties on his menu. He is a hands-on owner and you can find him there working the window and engaging his customers in an endearing manner…for a New Yorker…kidding, he really is a great guy. And I might add that he listens to his customers. I suggested he add the famousDodger Dog served at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles. Two days later he called me up and said they were on the menu.
I made at least five “research” trips to taste as much as I could for this column, whether I needed something from Home Depot or not. I’ve sampled thirteen of their offerings and was not disappointed by anything I tasted. Standouts included the Chicago and New York dogs, Milwaukee brat, the B.L.T., Dodger dog, Philly Cheesesteak, breakfast burrito, chili dog, and the Wiener burger which is a moist and tasty burger shaped into a long sausage shape served in a French roll. The garlic fries rock and the malted shake was a delightful blast from the past. Their soda fountain serves up all kinds of regional drink specialties and also Mexican Coke which is my beverage of choice when chowing on dogs. I should add that the pickle served with some of my dogs and sandwiches is first rate, which is impressive as pickles are key to the hot dog experience and Sandy nailed it. In all, they offer around twenty five hot dog, burger, burrito and breakfast sandwich selections along with a full selection of sides and a coffee bar.
Visits to the Dog House Diner should not be limited to Home Depot trips. This is a destination unto itself and the tables outside offer plenty of room to sit down and watch the endless parade of humanity flowing in and out of that crazy busy store. I will be back on a regular basis for the breakfast burrito, the insanely good and hard to find around here malted shake, and a half dozen or so of the dogs. It’s a great place to educate your kids on the regional nuances of hot dog culture, something that should be taught at an early age. For those of you who are not enlightened to the simple pleasure a quality hot dog can evoke, I encourage you to stop by the Dog House Diner and give it a try. Sandy Cherman is the real deal and his passion for what he does is worth supporting.
Hours and exact location at www.thedoghousediner.com