You know… they tell me that reading is fundamental. I should have listened to what they said!!!! To clarify, today’s lunch destination was supposed to be JOËL. Had I took the time to read (or for that matter … just remember), I would have known not to show up. JOËL is closed on Mondays … so much for a burger! So we darted up I-75 for the burger’s partner in crime: the hot dog.
Ask someone in Atlanta where to get a hot dog and more often than not, Barker’s Red Hots [sic] will show up as one of the responses [and here]. Though Barker’s offers an all beef varietal, their “original” dog is a Sahlen brand pork and beef dog. It’s what they are most known for. If you dig swine, take it for a spin … if not, stick the the moo cow. In addition, if you are looking for old school European, you can always get a Polish or Italian sausage.
I’ve been to the storefront a handful of times since they opened it a few years back. I find there to be two universal truths about their decor. A) It’s memorable B) It’s highly likely to blind you. Awash in a thick blue and neon green, it’s the type of place that you won’t soon forget. There are a handful of tables outside, and some half-booths inside.
The staff sits attentively behind the long counter, waiting patiently for each customer to decide what ingredient(s) to throw on top of his or her pup. Recently, Barker’s added a handful of non-hot dog selections to the menu. I’ve never seen anyone order off that portion of the menu.
Originally, I planned on keeping it light. However, I quickly realized that I had never gotten out of here without eating two dogs. For those with tight stomachs, one dog and a side will suffice. For me, I need two. Each dog comes freshly grilled and topped with your choice of all the basic fixings’. A condiments section sits in between the grill and the register. While things like slaw, chili, cheese, and kraut, all come at a cost … the stuff here is gratis. Just say the words and one of the kind servers will load you up with whatever you want.
First up for me was my de facto dog … the Texas Tommy (pictured way up at the top). While not as widely known as some other hot dog variations (wiki), the ingredients aren’t as off the wall as the name would imply. Simply put: this is a dog with cheese and bacon. To perfect the Texas Tommy, you really have to “cook one.” That is, I can’t hold this place to the same standards as a joint that offers this up as a viable option. Here … it’s a special order. While I could have ordered it with nacho cheese, shredded is where it’s at … I got two turn tables and a microphone… Where it’s at!
Served on a Kaufman roll, Tommy sat in front of me well charred with bacon dandruff and the aforementioned cheese. After a bite, I felt like I was being teased. Without the crispness of a full bacon strip or honestly melted cheese, this thing really didn’t have a chance. Oh well, the meat stick itself had the expected meaty flavor and the saltiness definitely came through. The roll was a disaster. It tasted just like any basic hot dog bun that you’d get at your local Kroger.
Meanwhile, I eyeballed my man date’s kraut dog and the two “Signature Red Hots” that sat on the table. The signature is simply an original dog topped with some hot sauce, diced onion, and a dill pickle spear. To my surprise, I realized this was the first time I had ordered one. By the end of bite one, I was flustered. I’ll admit that my tolerance for spice seems to exceed that of the usual eater; however, I really felt this dog lacked punch. It certainly fell short of the menu description! Take a look at the bottom where it says: “It’s Awesome!!” I’d lean more toward “It Ain’t Half Bad.”
To remedy the situation, I grabbed some extra mustard and a bottle of Tabasco … dolled this thing up and promptly downed it.
Somewhere in between all this dead animal, I found some time to dine on our large order of rings. Visually speaking, the o-rings are top notch. The batter is light and these things come out pretty crispy. However, like everything else, they just did not show as strong as I would have liked. These rings are the junior to the Varsity’s senior. The onions here were too thin and lacked the sweetness of the V’s Vidalia onions. Each bite tasted more like batter than it did an onion ring.
Though I did not try the kraut dog, it sounds like it was as noteworthy as everything else on our table. That is to say: the dog was reasonably tasty, but failed to sufficiently carry with it the lofty expectations doled out by its patrons.
What you soon begin to realize is that the bread and the extras do a disservice to the dog at hand. While this particular brand of hot dog may or may not suite your fancy, they always taste the same. The charcoal grill is a big plus here. It’s just a shame that the extras do little to propel this stuff into the upper echelon of the hot dog universe. Is it one of the better hot dogs in Atlanta? Sure thing. Does that mean it’s that great? Nope. Maybe one day, we’ll be lucky enough to have a Swiss Hot Dog Company to call our own!
ATLANTA BLOGGERS ON BARKER’S RED HOTS: