5/22/06

In Praise of the Scholar Dog

My absolute favorite gourmet restaurant that's located within two blocks of my office, Scholar's Inn, serves eclectic cuisine in an unpretentious atmosphere, according to me and their website.

Why, pay the Inn a visit, and see for yourself. Ensconced in your high-backed, velvet-upholstered chair, you'll be positively regaled with hearty breads from the Bakehouse, specialty martinis from the Wine Menu, and all other manner of capitalized goodies.

Your entree could be the Crab Polenta Melt, or the Eggplant Burger, or even the Italian Chicken Crostini, if you're feeling fanciful. But if you're feeling somewhat different, somewhat... frank... you ordered my favorite item on the menu.

Now, there's a lot to be said for the lowly hot dog. All manner of hurtful things are said about it, particularly regarding its origin and content, yet still it soldiers on, holding its ketchuped head high. The hot dog is sold for a pittance by street vendors, and cheaper yet by your local grocer. A dozen for a buck, or some such insult.

But I stand by the hot dog. Four of five bites of solid nutrition, as I see it, and tasty to boot. And so agreeable! "Sure," the hot dog seems to say. "Drizzle me in mustard. Submerge me in a steamy bath. Cradle me in the coziest of buns or the crudest of bread slices -- I'll be okay."

You want to slap a 'dog in the microwave and nuke it 'til it's fizzing? Fine. Sear it on a backyard grill-top, scorched by licks of fiery propane? No problem. The hot dog will accommodate.

So when you see this regal, selfless cylinder elevated to its rightful place, treated like the royalty it is, hailed at last as the king of the lunchmeats, it's only natural to order one up.

The Scholar's Inn Scholar Dog is all-beef, baby, served with cheddar, tomatoes, Dijon-mayo & diced onion on a poppyseed bun that fits to perfection, garnished with a bold spear of dill pickle running the whole way through. It comes on a plate - a real china plate - accompanied by Scholar fries, a unique blend of regular and sweet-potato goodness.

It's poetry.

And executive chef Richelle Rider was right to put it on the menu. Imagine the outcry! "No, Richelle, no!" they must have wailed. "You can't do it! It's just not done! How can you have a restaurant with even a pretense of snazziness when your offerings include an item so pedestrian as the... the weiner?!"

"Do you know what's in those things, woman?"

And Richelle must have nodded slowly, patiently, smiling to the skeptics and assuring them that This Dog, Her Dog would be different. It would be exceptional.

It would have a pickle spear.

So yeah, I order the Scholar Dog. I do. I'm charmed by the quixotic, magnanimous act of making a Gourmet Hot Dog. I'm in favor of these culinary ventures, these daring slummings through the ghettos of world cuisine, these affronts to the snobbery, frippery and outright charlatanry running rampant in kitchens across the continent.

Plus it's pretty good.

Or, I should say, it was pretty good. You see, they killed the Scholar Dog. No longer will its charming visage greet you on the lunch menu. I ordered it every time I went to Scholar's Inn, but I guess I was the only one, and last week at lunch they gave me the tragic news.

An error has been made. A wrong has been done. A travesty has been, uh... travested.

Now I'm left with only one option, as far as fancypants frankfurters go: do-it-yourself. Luckily, there are some resources there, not least of which is the all-beef-all-the-time-take-our-word-for-it Hebrew National hot dog ("We answer to a higher authority"), as well as Claussen dill spears and French's mustard and fluffy, pillowy bakery buns from Kroger.

But it's not the same. There needs to be a commercially available alternative. There needs to be a gourmet hot dog offered to the general dining public. There needs to be a faithful reminder, doggone it, that at least one chef has her hat on straight.

Ladies and gentlemen, you know where I stand on this, and you know what we must do. We must stand up. We must be vigilant. We must cry out, I say, and DEMAND the Dog to which we are entitled.

Yes.

We must bring back the Scholar Dog.

So?

Who's with me?

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

you just need the right weiner.

http://www.viennabeef.com/

i ordered some with all the fixins. will send a few home with you and you can see the difference - hebrew national is barely a hot dog compared to these (though made in Indy).

once you get a vienna in all its natural casing glory...there's no going back.

- kohn

Anonymous said...

There is nothing much that can't be made more brillant with a pickle spear!

Fab post, Colin, truly! And ... just so you know, the A&W whistle dog is pretty rocking!

xo wee

Anonymous said...

And for me? You can keep your ketchup. The key to a good dog (or hamburger) is Keen's Hot Mustard and tons and tons of Relish. mmmmm. Eat it with relish. Relish it!

xo Wee some more

Colin said...

Hmm. Your points are well taken. Perhaps I'll need to devote this summer to a Quest.

Yes.

A capital-Q Quest. To find the finest hot dog in the land.

Kohn's Vienna looks like a good start... in the picture on the website it seems to even resemble my beloved Scholar Dog. Maybe I'll get Richelle on the horn and see if she'll tell me where Scholar's got theirs.

And this A&W whistle dog is intriguing as well...

I wonder how far I'd travel for a truly rocking hot dog.

Anonymous said...

if you're willing to go 3 hrs North to Michigan City, IN - there is a shop that uses exclusively vienna meat. the shop is called netties. make a day of it - take penny, go to the outlet mall, go the the lake michigan beach.

good day, and good weenies.

- kohn

penelope said...

Yeah yeah! That sounds like fun!
Plus, I haven't been to the outlet mall in MC in years...

;)

Anonymous said...

hot dogs, ewwwwwww! those things are made out of lips and assholes!
to each his own, i guess! ;)