It's hard to imagine a restaurant better matched with its neighborhood than Po Dog. Capitol Hill has an abundance of urban riches, so why not a hip, gourmet hot dog dispensary? Then again, Capitol Hill can be abundantly annoying and smug, so why not an insufferably ironic, overpriced hot dog dispensary? In short, how you perceive Po Dog may have a lot to do with how invested you are in the Hill's meme.
Po Dog's dogs are as pricey as the purebred on its wall. Lauren Lynch
Phallic appearances aside, the hot dog has never been sexy. It's most associated with baseball games, eating on the fly, and poor dietary habits. It is the sort of "meal" that is purchased with the last remnants of one's last paycheck, and being broke isn't sexy--unless you're a bum who looks like Bradley Cooper. But people who look like Bradley Cooper typically aren't bums. (People who look like Zach Galifianakis, however, are.)But Po Dog's dogs are undeniably sexy. (So is its music--Depeche Mode, Pet Shop Boys, Morrissey--especially if you're a gay man.) The wasabi egg-roll dog is wrapped in a wonton, deep fried, and topped with wasabi aioli on a bed of cabbage. There's another dog with peanut butter and banana on it, another served with eggs and cheese, and yet another that's wrapped in pepper bacon and deep fried before hot chili and onions are piled on. No one can accuse Po Dog of half-assing its "specialty" concept, not even one little bit.
The BLTA dog (bacon, lettuce, tomato, avocado, wiener, bun) I sampled wasn't bad, but it was a tad bland in light of its potential for flavor. And if you're going to serve a knife-and-fork dog, serve it with silver on a plate, not with plastic utensils in a basket. But such a crime is easily correctable, and the availability of Olympia on tap (soon to be replaced by Pabst, or so I was told), late-night hours (open until 3 a.m. on weekends), and soon-to-open café-sports bar (under the same stewardship) next door make Po Dog something of a can't-miss proposition, especially considering how perfectly-pitched it is on Union Street.
But before racing up the Hill, ask yourself this: Do you want to pay $7 for a hot dog, even if it's really fancy? For most people, frankly, the answer is going to be no. And thankfully for those people, Shorty's--whose dolled-up dogs top out at a fiver, and where a can of Schlitz can be had for two bucks--is still around. Far edgier than its rival to the east, the Belltown institution believed in the viability of a well-dressed dog long before the culinary elite deemed them appropriate for couture.
Po Dog, 1009 E. Union St., 325-6055, podogs.com CAPITOL HILL
Shorty's, 2222 2nd Ave, 441-5449, shortydog.com BELLTOWN