Joel Bohlin grew up in Chicago, where the definitive hot dog comes topped with a dill pickle spear, tomato wedges, a shockingly bright-green sweet pickle relish, chopped onions, sport peppers, yellow mustard and a sprinkle of celery salt.
All of this is piled onto an all-beef dog in a poppy seed bun. Bohlin, who started the Fetch Hot Dog Co. food truck a little over a year ago, frequently pays homage to his hometown dog in the form of a special called the Big Shoulders dog.
You’ll find it among the half-dozen or so variations on the hot dog theme listed on a chalkboard by the order window. The eclectic offering ranges from Detroit Coney to Carolina Chili to the Falafel dog, a vegetarian delight topped with olive tapenade, tzatziki and lemon. Besides the Big Shoulders dog, there’s usually a second special that playfully explores the versatile hot dog’s potential. The El Xolo, for instance, is a recent special featuring chorizo, avocado, pico de gallo, queso blanco and sour cream.
You won’t find a dogged (sorry, couldn’t resist) insistence on regional authenticity at Fetch but, instead, a commitment to quality ingredients tempered by a sense of fun that yields gratifying results across the board, from the most elaborate dog to a deceptively simple side of potato chips – hand-cut and fried to order.
You might even say that the menu is a freewheeling tube steak travelogue of Bohlin’s culinary career. His impressive resume – including a degree from the Culinary Institute of America and externship under internationally acclaimed chef Marcus Samuelsson at Aquavit in New York – is reflected in a belief that even the humble hot dog deserves quality ingredients. More recent experience in North Carolina, at Durham Catering Co. and as general manager at Hillsborough BBQ Company, no doubt added to his appreciation for pork.
Bolin exclusively uses natural casing frankfurters made by Weeping Radish Butchery with a blend of beef and pork and no artificial flavors, colors, fillers or nitrates. And he serves them on potato rolls baked by Neomonde Bakery in Morrisville. Such dedication to quality natural and local ingredients, when applied to the Chicago-style hot dog, requires a little ingenuity.
Those locally baked hot dog buns don’t have poppy seeds, so when David Petitpas (“our hot dog wizard,” according to Bolin) assembles a Big Shoulders dog, he gives it a finishing sprinkle of poppy seeds. Chicagoans might not recognize the natural green color of the sweet relish or the banana peppers that stand in for sport peppers, but having lived in Chicago for a couple of years myself and downing my share of the native version, I can’t imagine even the most diehard Cubs fan complaining about the Big Shoulders dog.
It’s a safe bet, too, that Detroit natives will give a big thumbs-up to the Classic Coney, featuring a sauce that Petitpas makes from scratch using a recipe he got from his Michigan grandmother. Evidently, North Carolinians would second that opinion: the Classic Coney is even more popular than the Carolina Chili dog.
Another best-seller – and a surprising one, at that, according to Bohlin – is the corn dog. “We put that one on mainly for the kids,” he explains, “but it’s turned out to be a hit with grownups, too.”
No wonder. It’s hand-dipped in a cayenne-tinged batter of cornmeal and Maple View buttermilk. And, even though ketchup is generally a no-no at a serious hot dog joint, it’s possible to score some if you tell them you’re getting it for your kid’s corn dog.
After all, Bohlin may boast gourmet chef credentials and own a restaurant on wheels, but he’s clearly not a “my way or the highway” kind of guy.
Fetch Hot Dog Co.
Prices: hot dogs, $6-$8, sides $3-$5