Oct 2, 2010

Dog Nuvo = New Dogs in KC

Restaurant: Dog Nuvo
Food: Gourmet hot dogs, house-made condiments and sides
Service: Quick counter
Atmosphere: Incomplete. 
Price: $4-$6 dogs, $3-$5 sides 
Rating: One napkin (with potential)

My life, it seems, now revolves around hot dogs.

It all started with a hankering for a Chicago Dog at the place that turned out to be Rock-n-Moroccan. That morphed into a decision to try every Chicago Dog in the city (still on the hunt - one more place to go).

Then Ink Magazine called for a quote in their latest issue, which features a giant article on the city's boldest hot dog eateries, with special attention paid to the same place this review is about: Dog Nuvo.

So what is Dog Nuvo? Well, right now it's a walk in, carry out only hot dog joint that consists of a tiny waiting area and cashier's counter with several outdoor seats lining Main St. What it will soon be is a full service, casual hot dog eatery with upscale, gourmet hot dogs, a dining room and even a full service bar. Simply put, from a concept standpoint, it'll be the Blanc of Hot Dogs.

Behind the concept and, most importantly, the food, is chef Marshall Roth who has run the kitchens in several of Cordish's P&L Establishments, as well as the nearby Hotel Phillips. His reputation as a chef precedes him. Would Dog Nuvo match up?

First of all, I like - or am going to like - the space. Located on the bottom floor of ad agency Barkley's orange and glass-front office building on Main Street, it's got the right curb appeal to establish the trendy vibe. And what little is there to be viewed at this point all centers on a cohesive aesthetic of orange, blue and black. The attention to detail is quite refreshing. Even the napkins and plastic silverware exhibit the funky, fun colors.

The outdoor seats are quite nice in that there are several tables that seat four people comfortably, and there isn't too much foot traffic on the sidewalk that might cause agitation for those trying to relax and enjoy their tasty frank.

Also intelligently planned and presented is the menu which has a narrow focus on classic and original hot dog concepts with homemade condiments and sides. I'm sure the temptation was there to play it safe and offer a burger, chicken caesar salad and club sandwich as a catch-all for the non dog lovers who might stop in, but they were deftly avoided in favor of a focused restaurant with fewer barriers in growing its reputation.

Among the choices are dogs you won't find anywhere else in town, like Le Poodle, a French-themed dog topped with Boeuf Bourguignon, melted Brie, radish, chives and pinot noir mustard and The Blue Pig with blue cheese crumbles, crispy shallots, applewood smoked bacon and Maytag blue mustard. Those who would prefer to create their own can select the Dog Nuvo option and choose their own kraut and mustard, which are all house-made and thoughtfully done.

My selection on trip #1 was their Chicago Dog which I'll review as part of my upcoming Chicago Dog throwdown, but suffice it to say Dog Nuvo's Chi-Dog was a thoughtful representation of the classic with its own gourmet twist. Perfectly sufficient. Also on that trip I treated myself to a side (a large one) of cole slaw, which was creamy (maybe a little too much so) and, thankfully, not too sweet. It came with nice additions such as walnuts, sliced red grapes and thinly sliced red onion for some bite. This was a tasty slaw to be sure, the added touches giving it increased depth and textures that were appreciated.

On trip #2 I felt a moral obligation to try The KC, almost as if I'd somehow neglected, my whole life, to familiarize myself with a famous city staple, though I'm almost certain this dog was only conceived in recent history (the only other place I know of serving a hot dog with burnt ends on it is the new Arrowhead stadium). The KC did not disappoint - too much. While the "burnt ends" (written in quotation marks on the menu, even) that topped the dog were a little sparse and lacking in smoky flavor, their tender texture was better than expected. And the barbecue sauce selection - one of the only condiments on the menu Roth doesn't make in house -  is the super-tasty "The Secret Sauce" of American Royal winning fame. Adding a contrasting sweet and vinegary taste to the rich dog were bread and butter pickle slices, cut thin enough to fit the bun well, but thick enough to stand out with some pungent crunch.

And while I commend Roth for his culinarily advanced hot dog preparation method, it's a little lost on me... because the dogs themselves get lost in the buns and toppings. Touted as being "crafted using natural casings and infused sous vide before grilling in our secret Nuvo brine," the hot dogs are definitely tasty. But for this all-beef-frank fan's tastes, they're just too skinny. I imagine the smallish size is a calculated decision made so that the other toppings, when piled on, have at least some chance of nestling down into the bun enough that the whole thing can still be picked up and eaten without completely falling apart, but I couldn't help feeling as though I was left wanting more meat in my dogs.

Prices seem right-on what they should be for these dogs with a gourmet twist. The dogs themselves range from $4 to $6, sides from $3 to $5 in generous portions. Yeah, you could leave here having spent $10 on a hot dog for lunch, which seems steep, but given the quality of the food one should feel like they got what they paid for.

There's more to come from Dog Nuvo. Some menu tweaks are inevitable given the youth of the restaurant, and they've yet to reveal the dining room and full service bar, which will completely enhance the entire restaurant's experience. So consider this review a sneak peak at Dog Nuvo; and so far, I like what I see. 

Rating: one napkin (with a high level of potential for gaining another after the full rollout)

Dog Nuvo on Urbanspoon


matt newkirk said...

hot dogs are creepy... but i do understand the trend here. there are a lot of food items americans don't/won't eat. most of our reasoning comes from years of eating only the choice cuts from cows, pigs, and chickens, a luxury that goes unnoticed here in america. i think as our economy continues to show sluggish recovery, we as a populace will slowly come down off our high horses to eat among the commoners. so, with this inevetible turn toward cheaper cuts of meats(including sausages and the "dogs" in question), smarter chefs have taken up the challenge to provide great flavor from a not so great product. now...if we as culinary adventurers embrace this trend, we send a message back to chefs nationwide challenging them to step up their game and broaden their protein selection. all things considered, the difference between a t-bone and top sirloin isn't noticeable if seasoned, cooked, and cut properly. therefore, as a consumer i'm very happy with this trend and as a cook i'm delighted with the prospect of nights filled with unique prep-lists and tickets with something other than mid-rare strips and grilled chicken breasts.

JMM said...

John - if you're in search of a bigger dog, have you seen the Bar S all beef jumbo dogs available in the grocery store? I grilled up a bunch at a recent fundraising event at work, and they were universally praised by my co-workers. Definitely filled the bun. Check it out when you're cooking at home !

KCNapkins Guy said...

The double entenders there, JMM, are killing me.
Thanks for the recommendation, though. I'm glad you found them so pleasing.

JMM said...

I'm sure that your background in journalism gives you a real appreciation for the art of language. And really, it IS difficult to talk about dogs and buns without thinking, you know...

Went to Rock 'n Morrocan today for a Chicago dog on your recommendation. It was very good and even more enjoyable at the curbside tables on a sunny day.

Zeke said...

Bar S dogs?? We used to eat those in college. They were like 50 cents for a dozen. I used to joke to be that cheap they must be made with saw dust. I would go for another brand if I was you.

Anonymous said...

The KC Dog is phenomenal! Burnt Ends and The Secret Sauce... was just checking out The Secret Sauce website looks like those guys are really blowing up after their second win at the American Royal...

KCNapkins Guy said...

Anonymous - I know, it's pretty good, right? What did you think about my comments, though? Need more "smoke" on the burnt ends? And the dog - a little more substance needed, don't you think?
I'm told this place is back open today. Did you go there today or previously?
Thanks for the comment!

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