Few all-American foods can claim to be a stable or urban living more than the hot dog, with Richmond being no exception.
While you can find a few of your typical pushcarts selling dirty water dogs around town, Richmond is lucky to have a few restaurants founded on serving up fantastic franks, and two of the best are within walking distance of campus, City Dogs and Unleashed Gourmet Hot Dogs.
City Dogs is the go-to restaurant for many students in need of a hot dog fix.
The restaurant has the look of a well-tended sports bar, complete with a great selection of beer and televisions tuned to Sportscenter. A good thing too – service was slow, despite being one of only three other people in the restaurant.
That said, the food itself was not too much to write home about – the hot dogs, each named for different cities and topped with appropriate fixings, were okay.
I had a Philly dog, which was a hot dog topped with onions, peppers, provolone and mayo, and a Carolina dog, a hot dog topped with BBQ and coleslaw.
The hot dogs were rather bland an unexceptional – the Philly tasted mostly of onions and mayo, while the Carolina was somewhat saved by being topped with some savory BBQ.
By and large though, they were just your run of the mill hot dog, no better or worse than one boiled on your stove top.
Unleashed Gourmet Hot Dogs is an entirely different animal – it’s instantly recognizable for the grinning pit bull on the well painted store front.
It’s the hot dogs that are the big draw however, with each named after after a breed of dog, with the hot dogs inspired by the breed’s nationality, all made with generously portioned meats and fixings of differing types on a French bread bun.
I ordered an Italian Mastiff (Italian sausage, green peppers, onions, marinara sauce and parmesan cheese) and Mutt International (Frankfurter, Pulled Pork BBQ, Coleslaw).
From the first bite, there was a noticeable difference between the two, given the upgrade in quality of the meat used, and the generous portions for both the dogs and the toppings.
The toppings stood out due to the mix of flavors it brings to each hot dog, and unique enough that I plan to come back to sample the rest.
In addition, the sides offered offer some variety, most interestingly a selection of Russian dishes, like stuffed rolls or blintzs.
In many ways, it depends on what you’re looking for – City Dogs is better suited for a night out with some friends, while Unleashed is better suited for grabbing lunch or a quick bite between classes.
When it comes down to it, Unleashed is simply a better breed, offering better hot dogs for a better value, and the restaurant is one of the best-kept secrets on campus.
For hot dogs on VCU, Unleashed is simply best in show.