Greatest American Hot Dogs truck
By Nevin Martell
Wednesday, October 24, 2012
David Trachtenberg is passionate about hot dogs. The 48-year-old Rockville resident spent nearly half a year eating more than 50 kinds of dogs trying to find the perfect one for his recently launched Montgomery County food truck, Greatest American Hot Dogs. After coast-to-coast tasting trips and dozens of hours of online research, he decided on franks from Chicago’s fabled Vienna Beef.
The snappy, skin-on hot dogs star in a number of the offerings at the chef-owner’s mobile operation, which is also manned by Emmanuel Ayissi, the former head chef of the Cameroonian embassy. Local favorite the West Virginia Slaw Dog ($4.50) gets a ladle of chili, a blanket of coleslaw and a zigzag of bright yellow mustard, making it a sloppy yet absolutely delicious proposition. The Chicago Dog ($4.50) is a solid interpretation piled high with relish, mustard, chopped onions, tomato cubes, a pair of sport peppers and a pickle spear with an afterburn — plus a shake or two of celery salt. The poppy seed bun is slightly steamed as tradition dictates, but then it’s griddled brown with a little butter. (Purists can get their buns simply steamed upon request.)
Of course there’s a half-smoke. It’s sourced from Baltimore’s Manger Packing, where Ben’s Chili Bowl gets its sausages. I enjoyed Trachtenberg’s more than the ones I’ve had at the tourist-infested U Street institution. The key to its success is the spicy chili sauce, which possesses a depth of flavor and heft that are not evident in the Bowl’s weak, watery stuff.
A turkey dog, a meatless option (presented as the Takoma Park Veggie Dog), chorizo, a chicken frank, Italian sausage, bratwurst and a juicy kielbasa that gushes when you take a bite ($3.50 to $6.50) round out the menu, which boasts about 30 regional favorites. Each takes five minutes or more to prep and comes packed in sturdy plastic foam boxes for easy transport (though I’d recommended eating them as soon as possible to enjoy them at their peak).
The Whirly Fries ($3) are a signature side dish. A single spud is cut in a spiral into an unbroken accordion, speared on a skewer, then fried in canola oil. The toppings bar features a dozen powdered seasonings including Buffalo, cheddar and barbecue as well as Sriracha sauce, malt vinegar and Old Bay.
There’s an unabashed infatuation here with foods on a stick, which include super-sweet chocolate-covered cheesecake ($4) and swordlike waffles ($3) bathed in sauces like peanut butter and chocolate. Skip such novelty items and save the stomach space for another hot dog instead.
Trachtenberg has big dreams for his traveling frankfurter emporium. “We want to be the Five Guys of hot dogs,” he says. As part of his expansion plans, he is scheduled to open a bricks-and-mortar location in Gaithersburg this week.