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30 Restaurants in 30 Days: HD1

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A formal restaurant review should be a good-faith attempt at applying process to evaluation. The reviewer should visit multiple times, experience service from different staffers, and make a serious dent in the menu in an effort to try all the specialties and ferret out the hidden gems. The reviewer should be asking himself if the kitchen’s execution is consistent and the floor staff knowledgeable about the menu and beverage list, not what he feels like eating. In fact, the best reviewers go with open minds and keep their own tastes and predilections on the sidelines.

Carrot dog, "South of Chi-Town" style

Carrot dog, "South of Chi-Town" style

What I’m doing here during this 30 Restaurants in 30 Days project is not formal reviewing. I visit once, eat what appeals and judge the meal solely on how well it lived up to my anticipation. This approach has its own merits, and it can get to a truth about the restaurant that I might not see when I’m wielding my reviewer’s fork.

Case in point: HD1. When I first wrote about Richard Blais’ “haute doggery” in Poncey-Highland,I gave it the review it deserved. The kitchen took creative liberties with the iconic tube steak, had fun with its punning menu and made some inventive dishes you wouldn’t try elsewhere. I didn’t love every bite, but I thought it succeeded with its stated mission to do for dogs what Blais’ Flip Burger Boutique managed to pull off with hamburgers.

One thing bothered me, though. My daughter, who eats more hot dogs than I do, wasn’t thrilled though she didn’t articulate why. As for me, I was never tempted to go back to HD1, even though I scratch the Flip itch occasionally. My gut told me something about the place never quite worked.

When I did again set foot inside HD1’s dark, starkly decorated dining room, I figured out why. With its high-top communal tables and hipster bar outfitted with craft canned beer, the restaurant feels like a destination. But a hot dog isn’t a destination meal the way a hamburger is. It’s a hunger that gets triggered — perhaps by the sight of a dirty-water Sabrett’s stand on a New York street corner, or at Turner Field, or even at a convenience store during a road trip down I-75.

Also, it’s not a gourmet food but because of that triggered hunger, you look for very specific details in the composition. You forgive the lousy bun at Turner Field because the dog hangs over the sides. New York dogs are all about the smell. I’ve only eaten a couple of Chicago-style dogs in my life, but it seems that all would be lost without the right kind of soft, eggy bun and neon green relish.

And so HD1 remains a restaurant that puts care and creativity into its cooking, and yet never manages to hit the hot dog button quite right. The kitchen now uses dense, smoky Patak franks, which is an improvement, though the once-boisterous list of sides is gone. You can get waffle fries, half-sour pickles, baked beans and a couple of salads — none of it in funky-weird Blais territory.

The kitchen still cooks a sous-vide carrot, pictured above tricked out with fried green tomatoes, chow chow, barbecue sauce and all kinds of sharp, pickley flavors vying for attention. I way preferred the red haute dog (in the center of the top picture) with beef chili and pimento cheese.

An Arnold Palmer soft serve ice cream for dessert was so sweet it made my throat itch.

As a reviewer I like this place and wish it well. As a sometimes hot dog aficionado, I might recommend the one at Manuel’s Tavern, just down the street. When the mood strikes, that’s the dog I’m looking for.

24 comments Add your comment

Cancer Breath

July 18th, 2013
11:30 am

Manuels has sticky tables (and chairs and bar), and the last time I was there they were still letting people smoke inside – but I think I heard that’s no longer true.
Anyway, I like Richard Blais and I want him to do well.
FLip is special, and I like drinking at the bar there as much as I like the burgers.
SO I want to like HD1. And you’ll never find sticky anything at a Blais restaurant.
I want HD1 to have better parking and a rooftop deck and the kind of environment where one enjoys a hot dog. Like Kessler said.
The décor and knowledgeable bartender made me think ordering a lobster roll was a good idea. I think if I had listened better to what the bartender was subtly trying to tell me – that I would probably prefer something else – I would not have ordered the lobster roll and I would not have been disappointed. And I probably would’ve been back by now. But I haven’t. And it’s not that I don’t like lobster rolls. I just took a lobster roll trip from Boston to Bar Harbor to Chatham, MA and back to Boston over the week of July 4th and I ate a dozen lobster rolls and I was not disappointed in a single one.
I expected Kessler to give it a bad review, but since he seems to like it well enough I think I’ll go back. And instead of a cocktail I’ll drink some of their hipster beer and eat a chili dog and try not to be so high maintenance for a change.

Rupricht

July 18th, 2013
12:53 pm

Agreed. Went to HD1 before the NFC Championship game and haven’t been back. The hot dogs were good, but not memorable. My daughter and I went to Barker’s on Windy Hill yesterday – “that” is a classic hot dog – doesn’t need anything but mustard.

Ned Ludd

July 18th, 2013
12:58 pm

Next time visit Manuel’s and mention HD1.

Erik

July 18th, 2013
1:30 pm

Hot Doug’s in Chicago has become a destination (like Franklin BBQ in Austin, people line up down the block on Fridays and Saturdays)…HD1 comes off as an inferior trendy version to me. Don’t get me wrong, it’s pretty good, I just rarely have an urge to go back and those I know feel similar.

http://www.hotdougs.com/specials.htm

Benwah

July 18th, 2013
5:42 pm

Ringside Franks and Shakes was much better than HD1. Its a crying shame they shut down recently. I loved that place.

Jan

July 18th, 2013
5:48 pm

John after this 30 day thing is over you’re going to need to back to that juice fast I think!

I'm Hungry

July 18th, 2013
6:13 pm

John, I’m enjoying your series. Thanks.

bongostella

July 18th, 2013
6:22 pm

So nice to be able to read this without the AJC putting it behind that stupid pay wall.

Dave

July 18th, 2013
6:31 pm

“New York dogs are all about the smell.” Really? How about bite from a natural casing, the onion sauce, the kraut, the mustard? Good to know a reviewer doesn’t know what he is talking about now and again. Though, a Patak dog is a wonderful thing.

Chris

July 18th, 2013
6:36 pm

Good series John. Went to HD1 like a year ago. My food sat cold in their little serving area while the Manager worked on his lap top in plain sight. I finally got up and asked the cook if it was my order. Wow, all of a sudden there was the Manager. I said a few words to him and he stared me down as I left the establishment. Have not been back nor will I frequent his new place The Spence.

blue

July 18th, 2013
7:02 pm

Quiktrip has some nice condiments, wish you could cook ‘em a lil’ more, the dog is salty to me, but when your on the run and don’t mind the runs it’s a decent, economical weiner.

Bob'sbigbrain

July 18th, 2013
7:11 pm

If you ever get to Reykjavik Iceland, try the hot dogs sold in a stand down near the harbor…best I ever had !!!! Plus the people there are the most beautiful you’ve ever seen.

bongostella

July 18th, 2013
7:33 pm

Anybody know how I can get a hold of some of those Far East Dogs?

Edward

July 19th, 2013
9:27 am

Just give me a Zesto’s foot-long chili-cheese dog and half fries-half onion rings. That’s a hot dog. And get a Nut Brown Crown on the way out.

Theron Sapp

July 19th, 2013
1:35 pm

Great series John. But I do not “forgive the lousy bun at Turner Field.” The cold stale buns (dogs and most burgers, not the H&F) are the single worst part of trying to eat at the ballpark.

VANN

July 19th, 2013
1:36 pm

You cannot beat the HOT DOG & DRINK FOR 1.50 AT COSTCO has deli mustard , relish, onions, ketchup as well.

Get It Right

July 19th, 2013
4:25 pm

Nu-Way Weiners in Macon beats them all.

TNT 65

July 19th, 2013
5:31 pm

This 30 day thing makes me envious!!
For a great dog go to Taste of Chicago on Powder Springs Rd. in Marietta. Karl, the owner, is from Cicero, Ill. and really knows his dogs, sausages, and appropriate condiments.

#1 Foxy Lady

July 20th, 2013
10:22 pm

some day hot dogs will become our currency.

Baltisraul....

July 21st, 2013
12:42 pm

Get It Right……If you believe Nu-Way has a good dog, you need to get out of the Macon city limits. Just the color would make you return to your car and speed away. Nothing wrong w/ ‘red hots’ but at least they must taste like food. Nu-Way is the worst dog I have ever not tasted.

Marsh

July 22nd, 2013
10:14 am

Baltisraul….professional idiot.

I knew that (sort of) ellipsis was for something!

Baltisraul....

July 22nd, 2013
10:50 am

Thanks Marsh but Nu-Way is still a bad dog. I can’t be held responsible for that, but thanks again for joining the discussion.

Karen Sturdivant

July 23rd, 2013
2:07 pm

Little This Little That in Jonesboro has the BEST slaw dogs and chili cheese dogs that come with enough fries for 2 people, plus a drink. Little This Little That is the way to go on Tara Blve in front of the Krogers- right next to a Church’s Chicken.

Baltisraul....

July 23rd, 2013
2:20 pm

Bob’sbigbrain……If you ever get to Iceland!!! LOL That’s classic! That is like saying; next time you are in Port Morsby, try the hamburgers.