Registry Tampa Bay

I rarely eat hot dogs. Do I need to explain why?

When I do indulge, the tube steaks are usually pulled off of backyard grill. It’s yet to be determined if I’ll do so this Memorial Day weekend — although probably not, because I’m having four restaurant dogs for Friday Food Fight.

I chose two inexpensive, no-frills places in St. Pete that tout their hot-dog game: 4th Street Sandwich Shop in Northeast and V9 Eats on the west side. I ordered a chili dog and a Chicago dog at each joint.

4TH STREET SANDWICH SHOP

This place is easy to miss. Located in a small building between 62nd and 70th avenues, the restaurant is set back from the busy thoroughfare. Signage is minimal. A flagpole with no flag juts up next to the building. The vast parking lot, cracked and pitted, was empty on Tuesday, but it was 3:30 in the afternoon, a dead period.

Inside, 4StSS is clean and well-lit, with a counter and a half dozen basic tables. A few vintage black-and-white photos — many of them NYC-themed — decorate the walls, as does a Nathan’s banner. The eatery serves Nathan’s skinless all-beef franks.

I ordered a 4th Street Chili Dog with raw onions ($5.25) and a Chicago Dog ($5.95) along with a house-made Mango Lemonade ($3.95).

As I ate, Chef Gordon Ramsay was cussing out some poor restaurant owners on the TV behind me.

Appearance

It looked like a respectable tandem of basic dogs, laid out in aluminum foil. The franks themselves were obscured by the chili and toppings.

Texture and Taste

I sipped the lemonade while waiting for the meal to come out. It was tasty, if a tad too sweet.

Chili Dog: The chili was on the soupy side. I took a little scoop and it was not something I’d choose to eat in a bowl. Combined with the frank and bun, though, it was solid. This chili dog could’ve used a bit more raw onion to offer some textural contrast. The bun was puffy and gave way easily to my bites.

Chicago Dog: It’s more about the trimmings than the meat itself. A proper one should come on a poppy seed bun and be dressed with yellow mustard, sweet relish, chopped onion, a dill pickle spear, sport peppers and celery salt. 4thStSS scored on everything but the poppy seed bun.

I tried a bite with the sport pepper but it put out too much spicy heat, so I removed the rest of them. In all, this Chi Dog delivered a heady blend of sharp flavors, but was a bit too heavy on the celery salt.

I finished both hot dogs, then waited for the (gut) bomb to drop. It never did.

V9 EATS

At 3:30 Thursday, I pulled into the parking lot of V9 Eats, housed in a converted service station on the corner of 9th Avenue and 58th Street North. Upon entering, I asked the young woman at the counter if V9 was some kind of play on V8, as in engine. “Hmm, I don’t know what it means,” she replied.

No one else was around to answer my query so I dropped it.

I’ll describe V9’s interior as festive industrial — brightly colored tables, chairs and stools really pop, especially on the concrete floor. Fun but not obnoxious. The space is surrounded by garage doors — all closed on this scorcher of a day — that let in plenty of natural light.

I ordered a Hot Dog ($4.25) with chili ($1.25) and raw onions, and a Chicago Dog ($7), plus a bottle of Coke ($1.99).

Appearance

I appreciated the red-and-white checkered paper, which worked well with the restaurant’s decor. Like its competitor, V9 uses Nathan’s hot dogs. The Chicago Dog was a jumbo.

Texture and Taste

Chili Dog: With the the two restaurants using same brand of hot dog, the chili dog contest would come down to, yes, the chili. V9’s version was sweeter and chunkier, with pinch of spicy heat. The white onions, diced, added crunch.

Chicago Dog: The meat was fatter and juicier, with a skin that needed some tearing. The hot dog flavor was clear and present. Toppings included exemplary house-made dill pickles and diced tomatoes. The poppy-seed level was spot on. I didn’t detect much celery salt, which was okay by me.

This Chi Dog posed a problem, though. About halfway through, it fell apart, revealing a prominent smear of sweet relish, my least favorite topping. Each bite required me to re-assemble the pieces and quickly plunge them into my mouth.

And the Winner of the Chili Dogs and Chicago Dogs Showdown Is …

V9 Eats.

V9’s offerings had a bit more character and attention to detail. Although I visited both restaurants (by my lonesome) during a mid-afternoon dead period, V9 exuded more energy.

I’m pretty sure I’ve met or exceeded my quota of hot dogs for the year. If there is any grilling to be done this Memorial Day weekend, I’m going with burgers.

 

 

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