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Honey, these hot dogs are delicious

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by Brian Clarey

There was a time here in the YES! Weekly offices at Adams Farm that discussion of the subject of lunch would cause a swarm of employees in the front room, each with opinions and suggestions for the midday meal.

Should we get take out? How about a salad? Anybody around here got good soup?

But after 16 months in this relatively isolated corner of Greensboro we’ve grown weary of the luncheon options in our immediate environs. We’re tired of Mexican. Sandwiches are starting to bore us. And the fast-food corridor down the Bridford Parkway incites not even a ripple of enthusiasm.

Some of us have even taken to brown-bagging it.

But when we discover a new food option in our neck of the woods we collectively jump on it and ride the horse until we tire of the gait.

This happened just today, when a couple of us stumbled on a new lunch place called Honey Dogs, tucked away behind the Lowe’s Foods on College Road.

We at YES! Weekly have great respect for the American institution of the hot dog and we’ve dedicated no small amount of space to documenting their existence in the Triad. At honey Dogs, proprietors Joyann and Ray Johnson share in our reverie.

As expatriate New Yorkers (both hail from the upstate enclave of Poughkeepsie) they understand the sanctity of the noble tube steak, so much so that their menu pays homage not only to the New York style of dog ‘— with deli mustard, sauerkraut and red onion sauce ‘— but also they show props to the City of Big Shoulders with a Chicago style dog ‘— mustard, onion, tomato, pickles, peppers and celery salt. And in deference to their home state (the Johnsons have lived in Greensboro for 12 years) they also serve the classic Carolina dog with chili, mustard, onion and slaw.

They offer the dogs in a compendium of sizes that includes foot-longs and the hefty quarter-pounders, but take a tip from this gourmand and stick to the original Nathan’s standard. That way you can get a couple of them and try the different incarnations.

Everybody in these parts should by now be familiar with the sublime pleasures of a Carolina dog: the spicy chili and tangy mustard tempered by the coolness of cole slaw works on the same principle that makes bleu cheese dressing an appropriate companion to hot wings. If properly constructed, the chili and slaw should seep a bit into the soft bun so that you leave fingerprints when you grab onto it. Honey Dogs does justice to the formula.

Likewise, the sauerkraut and mustard combo has spread far beyond the boundaries of Coney Island, but the Johnsons add another layer of New York authenticity with the addition of onion sauce to the party. The onion sauce, with onion bits simmered to within an inch of their lives in a tangy, tomato-based stock, was a staple at the Roosevelt Field hot dog stand on Long Island where I worked as a teenager and I haven’t tasted it since I was perhaps 17 years old. It acts as a raucous complement to the kraut and, in consort with the deli mustard, makes the Honey Dogs New York dog a noteworthy entry into the Greensboro hot dog scene.

As for the Chicago version: the colorful presentation alone, rife with the reds, yellows and greens that come from the tomatoes, pickles and peppers, makes for an interesting nosh. The light dusting of celery salt, applied directly to the dog itself and not the condiments, is a subtle yet irreplaceable part of the dish itself.

The storefront restaurant also serves an array of sandwiches and sides to accompany the main course, not the least of which is the knish. But the humble Jewish delicacy consisting of a battered and fried wad of mashed potatoes becomes something else in the hands of the Johnsons, who can be convinced to slice the patties lengthwise and fill them with toppings. There’s something very wrong, by the way, with a knish stuffed with bacon and cheese. But the incongruity makes the item no less delicious.

Honey Dogs also makes amenities for pups of the four-legged variety. Joyann, a self-proclaimed animal lover, keeps a stash of dog biscuits behind the counter and for a reasonable price will sell your pooch a Pup Sundae, consisting of a scoop of vanilla garnished with a biscuit.

And while there are no actual dogs living in the YES! Weekly offices, we appreciate the concession.

Honey Dogs has been opened for almost six months, without our notice we are ashamed to say, but in the coming weeks we will be paying them due attention come lunchtime. As to whether we will bring the dogs back to the office or eat them at the store, that’s a situation we will tackle on a day-to-day basis.

To comment on this story, e-mail Brian Clarey at editor@yesweekly.com.

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