Saturday, May 22, 2010

Stand Off!

A Tour of the Downtown Dog carts, Part I
There are many signs of spring here in Anchorage - citizens shedding layers of clothing, flowers sprouting in flowerbeds and planter boxes, and the hot dog carts appearing downtown.  Only one of these signs is in our purview, so that is where our story starts today. 
Our hot dog adventures started today at Tia's stand, next to the PAC on the side closest to the Egan center. 

We were originally going to try the same thing at every stand, but quickly concluded that then we would be eating a lot of the same thing, which would get pretty boring pretty fast.  So we decided to try whatever we were hungry for when we were standing in front of the stand.  Not the most scientific method, but why not?
  Anyway - Tia's. 
The thing Tia seemed to be emphasizing the most was her reindeer dogs.  For those of you not from the Anchorage area, this is a taste of Alaska which you will not find anywhere else, as far as I know. They are actually made of reindeer, which are farmed near here.  As I have written previously, it is a unique taste sensation, kind of beefy, kind of slim-jim-y.  Mostly it just tastes like itself.  It is pretty good.  Tia's reindeer dog was precooked when she fished it out of the depths of the cart, but then she split it and threw it on the grill to char a bit.  She also grilled the bun a bit, then put it all together with some cooked onion.  The sweet, soft onions were a good complement to the hearty meat of the 'deer. Generally reindeer is a bit too meaty for me, but it was so good I took two or three bites, instead of my usual one, before ceding the rest to Mr EA.  Tia also says she will be getting reindeer and elk steaks for her stand, so there's something to look forward to!

Our next stop was MA's stand by the Federal Building.  MA was featured as the signature Alaska dog vendor in The Great American Hot Dog book, making him famous among people who read books about hot dogs (which, I must confess, includes me.  I read books about hot dogs on a fairly regular basis.) 

As you approach MA's stand, you can't help but notice a series of wacky signs with directives telling you to stop conversing with your party and get off your cell phone while ordering your dog, and I was getting ready for a Soup Nazi-like experience.  However, the proprietor was pretty pleasant, and nothing untoward happened, except for he was playing something on his stereo system that sounded like Celtic rap.  But that was actually kind of fun. 
Anyway, from MA we got a kosher beef hot dog, with grilled onions.  It too was precooked, then grilled after we ordered and topped with a lavish amount of onion.  He also asked if we were splitting our dog, and as we said yes, gave it to us cut in half crosswise, which I thought was nice of him.  Especially since I like a little hot dog with my mustard, while Mr EA is a bit more restrained with his condiments.  The dog itself was tasty and juicy, with the nice texture of  quality hotdog.  (And yes, I do know what's in hot dogs.  I just want it ground up fine enough that I don't need to think about it.) MA's onions really elevate the dog above the ordinary - they are mellow and oniony without being sharp. 

Our last stop of the day was not dog-related, but was instead Smitty's stand, situated near the big sun (start of the planet walk). Smitty's is a fine purveyor of many things, but their big claim to fame is poutine!  I had read about this dish, but never got to try it.  It was everything I hoped for, and so much more :)

So what's poutine?  For those of you playing along not from Canada, poutine is french fries and cheese curd covered with gravy.  Mmmmmmmm!  I will be honest with you - this dish will not do your arteries any favors, but your taste buds will be happier than you can imagine.  The personable young man staffing Smitty's dishes up a sizable cup of crispy delicious fries, tops them with a generous portion of cheese curds, and then ladles savory gravy over the whole thing.  He made sure we took forks, without which we would still be washing our hands.  This dish was the most delicious fast food I have had in a good long while.  The gravy was richly beefy and oniony and the cheese curds started out as a cool contrast to the rest of the dish, and then melted into cheesy goodness.  It was one of those things where you are involuntarily mmmmming, even with your mouth full.  I urge you to drive downtown right now and try it.  You'll be glad you did.  Also, to make sure they will be there when you are, friend them on Facebook - they post when they will be there and when they will not - this is good to know, as they don't plan to head out in rain or poor weather. 
We plan to visit more carts next weekend, or whenever we get back downtown.  So there's something to look forward to!

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