Feb 27, 2011

Dog Nuvo: Five Months Later

Restaurant: Dog Nuvo
Food: Gourmet Hot Dogs
Service: Walk-up counter, dining room w/ wait staff, delivery
Atmosphere: Casual chic
Price: Starters $4, Dogs $5-$7, Sides $3
Rating: two napkins

In late October, I wrote that Dog Nuvo might turn out to be the shortest-lived restaurant I’d ever reviewed. Five months later, thankfully, that has turned out not to be the case.

A legal battle over ownership of the Dog Nuvo concept ensued, then, between chefs/restaurateurs Marshall Roth and Harry Blasco and their former employer in Independence, Ken McClain, but quickly thereafter dissipated, becoming removed from public view.

With that speed bump behind it, Dog Nuvo has since moved forward expanding into the rest of its space at 1724 Main St, becoming a full service dining room with a wait staff serving the dogs and sides, as well as booze and coffee. I returned to Dog Nuvo recently to follow up on my initial review and check out the finished product.

Dog Nuvo is now basically split in two, with a walk up counter for takeout orders to the south, and the sit-down restaurant to the North. An open door connects the two, so they’re not completely independent. The servers walk between the two sides in order to pickup orders from the kitchen and deliver them to their tables.

Maintaining the quick service counter was smart, in my opinion. A hot dog place should have a speed component to it and Dog Nuvo has that covered. But the sit-down restaurant is what delivers on the “haute dog” concept that Dog Nuvo was about from the beginning, so we parked ourselves there, next to the floor-to-ceiling windows just inside the front door. It was a tastefully decorated joint, and comfortable, as well, with modern-styled chairs and tables, a west wall made of large planks of reclaimed wood, with splashes of electric blue light from two wide, upward turned fixtures. It’s vibrant and fun; a great fit for a trendy, progressive hot dog spot downtown.

The bar seems like a little bit of a stretch to me. I wouldn’t mind an ice-cold Boulevard beer with my dog, but I don’t see myself coming in for a Jack and Coke anytime soon. But maybe that’s just me.

Given the small dining room, our server had no trouble keeping up with us. She was attentive but not bothersome. The staff seemed to get it; they’re serving hot dogs, not eight course tasting menus, so the task is simply to keep folks comfortable and give them an experience that’s a clear cut above fast food.

We started our lunch with a selection from the Starters menu: the Pierogies. For $3.75 we got a little foil pouch with two potato and mozzarella pierogies, pan fried and steaming hot, with a large dollop of sweet tomato jam resting atop a pretty basil leaf on the side. Delicious cheesiness oozed out of each savory bite, which was nicely livened up by the tart tomato jam. I could’ve eaten a dozen of these things or more, but at $1.75 for each additional, I decided to hold back. Worth $3.75? Tough call. But they were, indeed, tasty so I didn’t regret having them.

Elizabeth and I wolfed down two dogs. I had the Mac ‘n Cheese Dog, which was a traditional hot dog in a pretzel bun topped with a pile of tantalizingly gooey cheese and pillowy macaroni. For texture and saltiness there were bacon crumbles on top, and an added bite came from chopped scallions. It was a beautiful looking plateful, cleanly presented and immediately inducing a strong salivary reaction.

Tasted decent, too. The smooth texture of the mac ‘n cheese on top was sinful and the garnishes were just the right touch. But both the mac and the hot dog lacked, for me, a little flavor. For some reason the cheese involved with the mac was a little muted as far as taste goes, and my initial gripe about cooking the hot dogs sous vide was reinforced with this dog. Some flattop or actual charcoal grill flavor would do the DN franks a world of good.

Moreover, this, and I think most dogs at Dog Nuvo, actually seemed like it was more about the topping than it was about the hot dog, both due its lack of grilled flavor in the context of each bite, as well as its diminutive stature. …What I’m trying to say is that the wieners are too small, okay?! Still, the Mac ‘n Cheese dog was delicious and I do recommend it despite these remaining points of contention.

Contrasting the smooth texture of each massive bite of pasta, cheese, beef and bun were crunchy bites of truffle and asiago potato chips. These slightly thick, hugely crunchy chips were dressed with just the right amount of unctuous truffle oil to give them a rich, earthy odor and taste. The asiago cheese, too, added a tangy, luxe component to the chips that made them some of the best fried spud wafers I’d ever had.

Elizabeth surprised me and went for the Blue Pig, a regular hot dog smothered in buffalo sauce and maytag blue cheese mustard with big melted crumbles of blue cheese and garnished with a sprinkle of finely sliced celery. Cute, right? Everything one likes in a basket of buffalo wings, all perched atop a hot dog. Love it. (Note, the recipe appears to have been altered since the online menu was created. Looks like, originally, it was topped with crispy fried shallots instead of celery. We both liked the green component, too, for the same reason I like knowing on one or two of the sticks of celery in a basket of wings. Palette cleanser.)

This guy suited me more than Elizabeth. I’m a blue cheese fiend but she finds it overpowering if heavily applied. And it was. The crumbles were generously large and flavorful enough themselves, but the mustard sauce, too, had that earthy blue cheese twang that doubled up the crumbles. So the cheese blew her out of the water. Would’ve been better with more buffalo sauce, less mustard. Here again, though, if someone walked up and handed me this hot dog while I was walking down Main Street, no matter the time of day or the current state of my appetite, without hesitating to think, I’d demolish the thing happily. I liked it.

Around us, the tables were all full. It was a random Saturday afternoon and the dining room was keeping busy. A good sign for Dog Nuvo.

I find myself rooting for this place to survive. It’s in a tough spot, but I think the concept makes just enough sense to pull through if costs aren’t too terribly high. Not only do they cater to leisurely diners as well as take-and-go business lunchers, they also now offer delivery in the crossroads and city market areas. While folks with whom I work are big fans of Clay’s Curbside Grill, myself included, I can see factions from the south side of I-35 getting into a Dog Nuvo habit pretty easily. So I’m happy in believing that this wiener workshop will win out.

Rating: two napkins

Dog Nuvo on Urbanspoon

1 comment:

Rick in PV said...

I need to give Dog Nuvo a second chance, too. But you put your finger on one thing I didn't like the first time -- lack of grilled flavor in the dog. Sous vide may solve some problems for the operator, but it creates others, IMHO.

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